Coming to Terms with Pregnancy Loss

Laura Markham's picture

QUESTION

My fiancé and I found out that we were just under five weeks pregnant just over a month ago, it was unexpected, and unplanned, but we accepted it and wanted it. Both his parents and my parents do not have grand children yet, so therefore they were more than excited to hear the news.

Just over a week later, we had a miscarriage. I had to tell so many people that we lost our baby, along with that loss I have lost my faith and I want to blame someone. I cannot seem to be ok. I show everyone around me that I am coping really well with it, yet inside I do not want to try again because I cannot stand the pain.

Everyone keeps telling me that everything happens for a reason, and then I blame myself thinking that I was the reason it did happen. I ask myself if I had wanted him more, if we would still be pregnant? I keep asking myself what I could have done? I want the hurt to stop, I want everyone to stop telling me it happened for a reason.

When will I be able to come to terms that we are no longer expecting our bundle of joy for Christmas?

ANSWER

I am so very sorry to hear about your loss.

You ask how long it will take you to come to terms with this tragedy. Everyone is different. I suspect you will always grieve losing this baby, but that over time it will no longer dominate your moods and your life. Every year, you will notice this date, and maybe light a candle and have a short conversation with this baby you never saw. But if you think of your life as a pie, your grief will become one slice of that pie, rather than the whole pie.

Letting yourself cry and mourn, both with your husband and without him, will help you to heal. You are mourning a very real loss. The challenge with grieving a miscarriage is that women often feel they have to "show everyone around me that I am coping really well with it." With any other loss, you probably wouldn't feel the need to show the world that you aren't suffering.

With any other loss, you would also have had the "support" of a funeral and a community to help you through. Many couples who have suffered miscarriages say that a private “funeral” ritual helped them come to terms with the loss. Planting a tree, blessing a special pendant you will always wear, or finding a statue of an angel to keep in a special place in your house or yard can all be healing memorials to your baby, and can help make the pain more bearable.

You and your husband both suffered a tragedy. You're in mourning. It's important to talk about your loss, and support each other, and be careful not to blame each other. As with any other major loss, you will both feel a range of feelings, from sadness to anger to hopelessness. Anger, and wanting to blame someone, is one of the stages of grieving. So is bargaining, and asking what you could have done to prevent the miscarriage. You will probably also find yourself depressed at times, which is a more hopeless, bitter place than sadness.

All of these are normal stages in processing grief. You can expect to cycle through them -- not necessarily in any particular order -- returning to each more than once. Honor all your feelings, and don't feel like you have to put on a brave face for the world. If well-meaning people tell you to "buck up and try again" just say "I need some space to grieve first. Everyone has their own timetable for grieving." Then change the subject or excuse yourself. You don't owe anyone an apology for your grief.

As you no doubt know, most miscarriages don't happen for any reason that doctors can explain. Losing your baby was not your fault, and nothing could have prevented the miscarriage. Loving and wanting a child does not prevent a miscarriage. When people tell you that everything "happens for a reason" they are trying to make you feel better. The truth is that losing a pregnancy, like losing a five year old, is a tragedy, and telling parents the loss must have happened for a reason is rarely consoling. Finding meaning in the tragedies of our lives is a very personal process, intertwined with the equally personal ebbs and flows of faith. You would be an unusual person not to question your faith at this time.

In closing, I want to recommend a terrific book that you might find helpful: A Silent Love: Personal Stories of Coming to Terms with Miscarriage, by Adrienne Ryan.

I wish you and your husband the solace of healing in your own space and time.
Dr. Laura Markham