Now that we’ve discussed some of the facts about miscarriage and why it occurs, I wanted to devote some time to exploring common emotional reactions to miscarriage.
There is no one way you are supposed to feel (or not feel) following a miscarriage. I’ve seen women in my private practice express a range of emotions from numbness and disbelief, to despair, to anger, to those that experience their feelings somatically. Over the years of working with women who have lost pregnancies, I have been humbled to learn from their journeys of grief and loss. Below are reflections from my work with them that I hope will support those who are grieving and healing.
- There is no normal, there is no supposed to, there is no right way to feel. Grief is very personal in this way. Some women experience significant distress following a loss, while some are less affected. Some experience despair right away and some women come to me for help years after a miscarriage finding that some new experience such as a subsequent pregnancy or a new loss has triggered them.
- Grieving takes time. There is no roadmap for how long you “should” be grieving, and the feelings you experience may shift and change from day to day. This is expected and part of the process. How long you grieve for and what that grief feels like is not dependent on how far along you were in your pregnancy.
- Many women experience significant guilt. Sometimes this is experienced as blaming oneself for the loss. Some women feel guilt for grieving at all. Some women feel guilt for having moments during the day where they are happy or are not focused on their loss.
- Many women express a sense of anger or betrayal at their own bodies following a loss. I’ve had many clients describe feeling disconnected or dissociated from their bodies after a miscarriage.
- Some women find themselves going into a “solving” or “doing mode,” where they fixate on some specific task or responsibility that feels very separate from the loss. I’ve had some clients throw themselves into work and some who become obsessed with physical fitness. These are normal attempts to distract and distance from the pain of loss, and to try and gain a sense of control following an experience that has felt very out of control.
- Many women experience difficulties in their relationships with their spouse/partner following loss. Losing a pregnancy can be a very different experience for the mom then for the partner/spouse who did not share the physical connection to the pregnancy. The grief is often experienced and expressed differently.
- It is normal to be triggered in both expected and unexpected ways. Many women feel triggered seeing pregnant women or babies, or looking at baby items. Some get triggered going back to their doctor’s office.
- There are significant hormonal changes that occur after a pregnancy loss which can impact you physically and emotionally.
- You may feel distant from friends and family, especially if you had not disclosed your pregnancy. You may find that some people find it difficult to offer appropriate support due to their own discomfort and unease. You may find that those you care about say profoundly hurtful and unhelpful things in attempts to be helpful.
- While grief is a normal and expected process, some women find that they are unable to move through it, and that their grief morphs into intense feelings of depression and anxiety. This is especially true for those who have experienced multiple losses or who have a history of mental health concerns.
Stay tuned next week for thoughts and recommendations on ways to cope following a miscarriage.