A Misunderstood Grief

by Clara Hinton

Miscarriage is just recently beginning to be recognized as a valid grief issue. For many years, women were told not to talk about it and to move on as though nothing happened. The most used cliché was that "this happens, and there's nothing you can do about it." The problem, though, has been that the grief of this type of early pregnancy loss has remained a silent, but constant, pain carried deep within the hearts of millions of women.

What makes miscarriage such a difficult grief? Probably the most outstanding thing about miscarriage is that this type of loss is very easy for others to dismiss because there is often no physical evidence of the loss. A person can't grieve something that never came into being is the thinking of many people concerning miscarriage.

To the pregnant woman, a miscarriage was a very real loss. Almost from the day of conception her body began feeling new and strangely different. She experienced full, tender breasts. There was cessation of her monthly period. Her bladder felt full, and there was a constant feeling of needing to empty the bladder. By about week five, she probably began bouts of nausea, sometimes feeling extremely sick. Fatigue overtakes the body, and the pregnant woman wants nothing more than to crawl under a blanket and sleep the day away. While all of this is happening to a woman's body, nobody else is aware of any of these significant changes.

Along with the physical changes, there are strong emotional responses to a pregnancy, especially when the child was longed for and planned. A woman's emotions usually run wild for a while immediately after finding out she is pregnant. She daydreams for hours every day. What will it be like to feel the baby kicking inside of me? When will the baby be born? Is this a little girl or a little boy? What color hair will the baby have? Will she love ballet and baby dolls? Will he play football? A woman forms an almost immediate bond with the baby developing inside of her. She has now been blessed enough to experience one of life's miracles, and her emotions are wild with joyful anticipation for the days ahead.

When a miscarriage takes place, a woman's world is immediately turned upside down. She is now thrown into a fast reversal of thinking, and the impact of the sudden loss is devastating. So much happiness is snatched away so quickly making it difficult to keep balanced in daily living.

A woman's body changes back to a non-pregnant state abruptly. She might experience heavy bleeding and the passing of large clots with a miscarriage. She might need a surgical procedure, a D&C, to empty the contents of her womb. This can be frightening, as well as emotionally draining. Her breasts no longer feel tender and full -- a sad reminder of the loss. Nausea leaves as quickly as it began. And, there is no longer a feeling of fullness in the bladder. Another reminder that her body is no longer preparing to accommodate a precious baby.

Daydreams turn into bad dreams, sleepless nights, and endless tears. Often depression enters the heart where there once was joy. The future now seems bleak and the days seem to stand still. During this time of adjustment over loss, it is extremely important to have others acknowledge the loss as real. Because the pregnancy was not real to others yet, grief validation becomes an added grief issue. Only when family members and friends view the miscarriage as real can a mother begin the long and difficult journey of healing from such a lonely, misunderstood loss.

Clara HintonClara Hinton is a Certified Grief Facilitator, founder of The Silent Grief Website, and the author of four books, including Silent Grief. She is the author of a weekly newletter and has contributed to Christian Woman and Church and Family magazines. Clara speaks on college campuses on grief and is a keynote speaker at women's retreats. She has been interviewed on radio stations across the nation and appeared on various TV programs. Clara is a stay-at-home mother of eleven children and wife of 31 years.

Copyright © Clara Hinton. Permission to republish granted to Pregnancy.org, LLC.