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Miscarriage - Dealing With the Emotional Impact

By Anne Wolski | Womens Health | Rating:

Miscarriage is the term given to the loss of a baby before it reaches full term. Often, people regard this as bad luck, particularly if it happens in the early weeks of pregnancy. It is difficult for many to fully comprehend the power of a woman's grief upon this loss as few can understand that the bonding process between mother and child began when she became pregnant.

For some reason, society understands the loss of a baby when stillborn but not from miscarriage. The grief associated with the latter appears to be seen as a lesser grief. However, many women suffer the most passionate sorrow they have ever experienced during this time.

Even if the miscarriage occurs early in the pregnancy, the parents feel a deep sense of loss. They have often made that emotional investment in this baby and have rearranged their lives in readiness for this new life.

Loss of Belief

Often, the mother loses her belief in herself and her basic belief of motherhood as she feels she has failed to protect this child, despite looking after herself and remaining as healthy as possible. The miscarriage forces her to realize that she can't guarantee the safety of an unborn child and that things don't always go to plan. When you set out to become pregnant, or when you find out you are pregnant, the possibility of losing the baby is not even considered. It is thoughts of a beautiful healthy baby that fill your mind and bring great joy.

Taking Time-out from the World

Women cope in different ways with the emotional impact of miscarriage and one of the common coping mechanisms is to shut everyone out of their world. This is done by taking to their bed, ignoring phone calls and visitors and generally just refusing to take an active part in anything outside of their own world.

This is a perfectly normal reaction and is the mind's way of dealing with the emotional overload of the miscarriage. Because miscarriage can occur very quickly, the impact on both mind and body can be profound and thus, the need for this personal space is a necessity. Besides, you need to come to grips with your loss and if that means a need to feel vulnerable and to snuggle up in bed for a while, then that is okay. Everyone deals with loss differently.

Mixture of Emotions

The misery following miscarriage is described by many as being more intense and consuming than any other sadness they have experienced. Sadness, however, is not the only emotion that a woman suffers following this loss.

Another major emotion is that of anger, whether directed toward yourself, your partner, or even the baby that you have lost. You may feel angry at other women who are having healthy babies and resent women who have not looked after themselves as well as you have and yet have healthy babies.

What Caused the Miscarriage?

The cause of miscarriage is not known. There may be contributing factors which may be able to be identified but not a causative factor. This may cause women to look for blame in themselves and to feel guilty as a consequence. After all, how can they be sure that it wasn't a result of what they did or did not do? No matter how much they are reassured that it is not their fault, they will often still take on some sense of responsibility for the miscarriage.

Some will become consumed in seeking answers about the cause. Was it genetic, something in the food or water, pollution or anything else? No matter how hard you search, you will never find the answer. There is no answer.

Acknowledge the Grief

The profound grief of a miscarriage can be compared to that of the grief you may feel at the loss of a parent or sibling, yet other people cannot understand this. People need to be aware that the loss is not equated to the length of time the woman was pregnant but to the extent to which she had bonded with that baby.

Her grief cannot be adequately resolved until it is acknowledged by all concerned. Because in the case of miscarriage, few women get to see the baby, there is also no closure, thereby creating another obstacle in the grieving process.

Feeling Inadequate

Having a miscarriage can lead to feelings of inadequacy. Often, the woman believes that she is incapable of successfully doing something so basic as having a child and this can cause a drop in self esteem. If you have already experienced miscarriage in the past, these feelings are multiplied, leading to a fear that you will never experience having a child. This can often lead to feelings of emotional insecurity and frustration.

Coping with the Grief How a woman copes with miscarriage is governed by her own beliefs and coping mechanisms. Some may take months to recover emotionally while others may take less. This, in part, depends on the meaning the woman had already attached to that baby and the space she had already created in her life for the baby.

In the case of an unplanned pregnancy, there may indeed be a sense of relief from miscarriage though this is not to say that all miscarriages of unplanned pregnancy are less distressing than planned pregnancies.

Most women will grieve acutely for around a month or more before it subsides. This does not mean that it is forgotten or even resolved but is simply less acute. For the first week following miscarriage, it is quite normal to cry all day and to feel that you have no control over your life.

A general rule of thumb is that it takes around six weeks to grieve after a major life event such as miscarriage. This is considered to be the time of greatest need so if you don't expect too much of yourself during that time, you should be able to move on with your life. This, of course, is only a guide to grieving time. If you need longer to recover or if you recover sooner, that is also okay. Grief is always an individual thing!





Anne Wolski

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Comments
  • Comment #1 (Posted by an unknown user)
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    How do you deal with the grief of the other siblings? Dealing with our own grief, and then helping our other children to deal with their grief seems sometimes insurmountable. Almost like we have to set our grief aside in order to help them.
     
  • Comment #2 (Posted by Stephanie)
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    Thank you for this article. Most articles on miscarriage I have found so far address the emotional loss only very briefly, and in purely clinical terms. This is the most comprehensive article I have found so far and it comforted me to know that I am grieving at a normal pace. This may help friends and family of the mother to understand a little better as well. Very well written.
     
  • Comment #3 (Posted by maggie)
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    I am glad I came across this article as it explains alot specially the bit about shutting everyone out and anger very helpful thanx!
     
  • Comment #4 (Posted by amcgivern@shaw.ca)
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    6 weeks are you kidding? Obviously whoever wrote this has NO experience with miscarriage!
     


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