Losing a baby through miscarriage or stillbirth can be very trying physically and emotionally. Society has started to become more sensitive to this loss, but often, people do not feel they have a license to grieve.People may say, “Oh you will have another baby.” “At least it was not your child.” “At least it was not older.” “Maybe your body just was not ready.” “Maybe it just was not God’s timing.” “Be thankful. At least you can get pregnant.” “At least you have other children.”
Though these statements can be well-meaning, they are ultimately insensitive and do not give a person license to grieve this loss. These statements can even lead the person to isolate themselves in their grief, which can lead to mental health problems.
If you have or are currently walking through the loss of your baby due to miscarriage or stillbirth, it is important to understand that it is okay to grieve. You can allow yourself to feel what you feel and think what you think. It is okay.
“There are no words to explain the depth of despair that a parent goes through when attempting to understand the shift that occurs when all hopes and expectations suddenly drop out from underneath anything stable. It is an experience that many will never need to make sense of and also one that many others will swim through unexpectedly. It is tragic and drastic and totally and completely unfair, and yet thousands upon thousands of families find themselves in this position each year.” – Kate Kripke, LCSW
What to Expect After Losing a Baby
The goal of this article is to help you feel a little less alone, to help you know that what you are experiencing is normal, and to help you know how to heal from such a loss. The emotional turmoil you can go through usually lasts longer than the physical symptoms. If the physical symptoms are severe or prolonged, see medical treatment immediately. A professional counselor can walk you through the emotional pain you are feeling if you are having difficulty moving through it.
Some emotional symptoms you might experience:
Confusion: What went wrong? Is there something wrong with my body? Was there something wrong with my baby?
Fear/Anxiety: Will I ever be able to carry a baby full-term? What if I cannot? How will I get through this? I can’t. What if I lose one of my other children? I would not survive.
Numbness: No feeling at all, almost as if you are “walking dead.” However, some walk through this loss freely, without a lot of emotion because they feel strong and grounded through it. That is OK to, too. There is no right way to feel.
Anger: This is not fair! How could this have happened to me? This could be anger toward self, God, or someone else.
Guilt: Did I do something wrong? Was this my fault? This is one of the most common emotions experienced.
Avoidance: Busying oneself in order not to feel. The feelings are too uncomfortable, so some just avoid them.
Relief: If the pregnancy was not wanted in the first place. When a person was not trying to conceive, this could be what they experience. Sometimes, they feel guilt over this emotion.
Depression: When grief turns into a deep sadness that greatly affects daily functioning (not taking care of self, isolation, excessive crying, constant fatigue, sleep problems, etc.). You may feel like your heart is shattered, like a piece of you is missing that you can never get back.
Hormonal shifts still can affect the chemistry in the brain, so postpartum depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders are possible. Healthy grief continues to move forward. If you are not after a significant period of time, you may be depressed.
Suicidal Ideation: Please seek professional counseling if you are feeling depressed or suicidal in any way.
Identity crisis: The feeling that you are a mom but unable to be included with other moms. For example, a church asks mothers to stand and get a rose on Mother’s Day. You are unsure, and so you do not stand.
Relational crises: Often, close relationships suffer after a loss. If you do not feel like you are getting the support you need from close friends or family, please do not hesitate to seek out counseling for your miscarriage.
Some physical symptoms you might experience:
- Prolonged, excessive bleeding
- Pain (Like severe menstrual cramping)
- Difficulty concentrating
- Lack of Appetite
- Trouble Sleeping
- Frequent crying
Expected Grief Experiences
You may have heard that there are five stages of grief. However, the grieving process looks differently for every person walking through a miscarriage. It will be different for you and your partner.
That is normal and should be expected. Women often are more expressive in their grief, but due to the growing bond between mother and child in the womb, men often don’t have as much of an emotional reaction to the loss.
Some do, but many try to problem-solve about it, to know what happened, and to know the facts. It is important to support one another in your grief. Accept the differences and share honestly with each other about how you are doing.You will probably move fluidly through shock and denial, wondering if the doctors have it wrong and that there is still a chance the pregnancy will be fine. Miscarriage is a very difficult thing to accept. It is so hard to accept someone is gone that you have not ever met. All you know about your baby is what the ultrasound machine tells you, and you may wonder if it got this wrong.
If you are really struggling with acceptance of the loss, you can ask your doctor to make sure once more. At some point, the loss will be final, and it is very important to realize that. However, that is a process, and it takes time to be able to accept it. That is normal. You may feel the various emotions listed above in that process, and you may not feel much of anything. There is no right way to grieve.
Surviving the Emotional Turmoil of Miscarriage
- Reach out to close friends and family and share what you are walking through. The loss is very difficult to grieve if you do not have the support of people around you.
- Allow others to serve you. When they offer to pray or bring meals or clean your house, allow them to help you.
- Take off work. Your body needs time to recover, and you probably won’t be emotionally ready to be in your work setting for a few days.
- Talk with someone who has gone through a similar loss. This can help you not feel alone, and it can help you understand your physical and emotional experiences a bit better. Often doctors do not prepare someone for what to fully expect. Another person who understands can.
- Seek professional counseling for you (and your partner if needed).
- Allow yourself the time you need to grieve. It may be helpful to walk through a book or join a local support group.
Some helpful resources:
Empty Arms, by Pam Vredevelt
Miscarriage: Women sharing from the Heart, by Shelly Marks, Marie Allen
Surviving Pregnancy Loss, by Rochelle Friedman and Bonnie Gradstein
- Consider naming your baby. This practice may seem odd to some, but naming the baby helps with closure, allows you to feel more connected to your baby, and honors his or her personhood.
- Do something to remember and honor the baby.
- Ignore the people whose comments are not helpful. Hold onto those that are helpful.
- Expect to have triggers that remind you of the loss. This is normal. It does not mean that you have not moved through it.
- Study the women of the Bible who suffered barrenness or loss.
Though losing a baby can be shattering in so many ways, know that you don’t have to move through it alone. It is possible to grieve and move forward and find joy again in your life. Your loss and your grief matters. May you know that you are loved and cared for.
“Memorial Stone”, Courtesy of DisappearingDiamonds, Pixabay.com, CC0 License; “Meditating”, Courtesy of Ben Blennerhassett, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Heart Balloon”, Courtesy of Karim MANJRA, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “White Flowers”, Courtesy of Claire Kelly, Unsplash.com, CC0 License
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The information, including but not limited to, text, graphics, images and other material contained on this article are for informational purposes only. No material on this site is intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please contact one of our counselors for further information.