Miscarriage is a subject rarely discussed outside of the doctor’s office, even though approximately 10% of known pregnancies end in miscarriage according to The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). News outlets rarely cover the subject and it doesn’t feature much in social media feeds. For something that affects a large portion of women and their families, miscarriage and the resulting grief is often shrouded in secrecy and poorly understood by society at large.
The Secrecy behind Miscarriage
The Mayo Clinic defines miscarriage as the spontaneous loss of a pregnancy before the 20th week. It’s a common medical occurrence that often cannot be prevented, still some women and men often feel guilty and blame themselves when it happens. Losing an unborn child is tragic enough, but when the mother and father think it’s their “fault,” the feelings of guilt and shame can push grief underneath the surface where it’s ultimately ignored to the emotional detriment of the family.
Miscarriage grief is sometimes called “unspoken grief” due to the tendency of people to overlook it due to misplaced blame. The distress stays under the radar, which extends the grieving period as some couples are unable to accept the loss and grieve naturally. In fact some never even get to the point where they openly discuss the miscarriage or share their pain with family members or close friends. The loss is cloaked in a veil of silence and the pain lingers on unrecognized and unprocessed.
One reason miscarriage grief is relatively unknown is because women usually hold off announcing they are pregnant until approx. three or four months into it. And if a miscarriage happens before the 20th week, the mothers stay silent because if nobody knows a baby was expected there’s no need to explain the miscarriage, and the cycle of silence continues.
How does one grieve a lost child if nobody knows the child was lost? It is indeed a tragic conundrum.
Break the Silence
Losing a child through miscarriage is heartbreaking and the grief is a traumatic and intensely personal affair. However, it’s important to raise awareness about miscarriages and the sorrow that accompanies the loss of an unborn child so that others can understand the issue and learn how to provide comfort to those who are suffering.
If you have lost a child to miscarriage and are overwhelmed with sorrow, here are some ideas that might help with the healing process:
Take Pictures – documenting the experience can help ease the pain. It may seem strange to have a photo session with your deceased baby, but the pictures act as a living memorial that will last forever. Consult with a professional trained in bereavement photography and search online for inspirational ideas for photo shoots. Then create a special album you can share with family and friends when you feel ready.
Name your baby – giving a name to your miscarried baby acknowledges that the pregnancy, the lost baby, and the grief are all very real. The naming ceremony is a significant part of the healing process and can help families grieve together and come to terms with the loss.
Join a support group – break the silence by sharing your miscarriage experience with others in a support group. Physical recovery from a pregnancy loss can happen quickly but the emotional aftermath always remains. A supportive community (online or in person) can offer comfort and understanding in your time of grief.