The Grief of Miscarriage

Miscarriage isn't going anywhere -- it can be a normative outcome en route to creating a family. The sooner we embrace this fact, the faster we can help women feel emotionally held and part of a larger community.
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Cape Town, South Africa
Cape Town, South Africa

Miscarriage is so common you would think we would be adept at talking about it and supporting one another during the dark days that follow. Approximately 10-25 percent of clinically recognized pregnancies result in loss and yet our society struggles with sufficiently acknowledging the expectable grieving process. What gives? Overcome by a range of emotions, women wade through their grief without a cultural compass.

When it comes to navigating the aftermath of miscarriage, we can do better, and we will.

Grief Knows No Timeline.

Miscarriage is unlike other types of losses because it is an out-of-order loss; a loss of a wish, a dream, a potential. No one actually knew this developing baby, which makes it all the more complicated to sift through the intense feelings, to create rituals honoring this loss, and to have a sense of how to actually mourn both privately and publicly.

Here's the thing: There is no time frame when it comes to grieving. Period. We can try as hard as we can to stave it off, push it down, or even ignore it, but typically grief has a way of making itself known regardless of these efforts. We benefit greatly when we are gentle with ourselves during difficult periods -- embracing heartache and the meandering experience of mourning.

Take All the Time You Need.

It can be tempting to try to rush through negative feelings. I mean, no one actually enjoys feeling like an altered version of themselves, especially when there is no definable endpoint. However, the more we resist, the more it sticks. Though this might seem counterintuitive, the more we lean into grief, the sooner we swim through it. We can't really predict how long our emotional pain will last or what it will look or feel like until we actually get to know it and delve into the difficult crevices of heartache.

Judging Grief Doesn't Make it Go Away.

"I should be further along in my grief by now! What is wrong with me?" is a common sentiment expressed by women who have experienced miscarriage. Criticizing our emotional states rarely speeds things along, so it is wise to simply be where you are in the process. No judgment. No timeframe. No expectations. It can be helpful to question where these notions of timelines for mourning are rooted.

Why do we expect ourselves to be in a certain place within a specific amount of time when it comes to miscarriage? Women tend to judge or minimize their grief evidenced by statements like "it wasn't really a baby anyway" and "I should just move on and focus on the fact that at least I can get pregnant." These lines of thinking are emblematic of struggling to come to terms of out-of-order loss.

Shore Up Self-Compassion.

Perhaps easier said than done, this point is a vital one when it comes to wading through the aftermath of pregnancy loss. Research has found that a majority of women experience feelings of shame, guilt, and self-blame following a miscarriage. Having compassion for yourself during this trying time allows for a more manageable grieving process, especially if you somehow think you did something wrong. You did nothing to deserve this loss. If you find you are blaming yourself, aim to replace self-blame with self-love.

Dare Yourself to Change Culture.

If we collectively resist the silence that surrounds miscarriage, we might have the opportunity to witness a sea change with regard to how culture handles it. This would be revolutionary. Let's attempt to turn things around so that women feel supported as we work to normalize the conversation surrounding loss. In so doing, the proverbial silence and resulting stigma can be turned on its ear. Miscarriage isn't going anywhere -- it can be a normative outcome en route to creating a family. The sooner we embrace this fact, the faster we can help women feel emotionally held and part of a larger community.

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