A miscarriage is a devastating experience of loss. A woman’s deep sense of grief is compounded exponentially when loved ones feel unable to help her cope. Feelings of emptiness, longing, sadness, loneliness, and confusion following a miscarriage are much more difficult to navigate when a woman feels alone in her suffering. As with many painful experiences in life, perhaps the best we can take from our sorrows is what we learn by moving through them. You will never forget the pregnancy or your baby, nor should you. When your wife is ready to start recovering, here’s what you can do to move on from the miscarriage.
Acknowledge the loss
If your wife is having a difficult time coping with a recent miscarriage, understand that it is an equivalent, if not more difficult, sorrow to grieve than any other death of a loved one. When we lose a family member or close friend, we have established rituals, appropriate language and expectations of how to communicate our sympathies. When a woman loses her chance at motherhood, there is no universally understood etiquette for how to respond.
On the contrary, miscarriage is typically shrouded in silence. Expressing your sympathy and your grief about a miscarriage can go a long way to helping your wife feel comforted and less alone. Show you care by picking up small gifts, writing her letters, let her know she’s a good wife and try to protect her from hurtful comments. Some people can be unintentionally cruel and some are just darn right unconcerned about other people’s feelings.
Ask if she wants to talk about the miscarriage, and be ready to listen quietly and attentively as she shares what has happened and her feelings. This takes courage, and courage is exactly what a grieving mother needs from you. For the first few weeks after a pregnancy loss, she may feel, in addition to many other feelings, a sense of disbelief. On the other hand, remind her that if she doesn’t wish to talk, that is OK, too. You will be there whenever she is ready, and for however long she needs you to listen.
Tell her it’s not her fault
A woman who has suffered a miscarriage will ask herself over and over again what she may have done to cause the loss of her baby. Miscarriages are very common; estimates of how often a pregnancy ends in loss are in the 1 to 3 or 1 to 4 range. Some women endure multiple miscarriages.
The truth is that pregnancies can end suddenly for a number of reasons, and while it may not bring comfort to a woman to never know exactly what caused a miscarriage, it will help her immensely to be able to let go of any feelings of guilt. Tell her as many times as she needs to hear it that the loss wasn’t because of something she did or didn’t do.
Do not come up with reasons why she lost the baby
No woman who wants to be a mother, who has already fallen in love with her baby, and who has hopes and dreams for her beloved child wants to think there is any obvious reason she lost the baby. Don’t make an attempt to explain what happened to make her feel better because it can only send her over the edge. This is also not the time to suggest she can always have another baby. Another pregnancy or future baby is not a comfort to a woman grieving her current loss. Having a baby after a miscarriage does not “replace” the one who was lost.
Let her rest
Encourage her to sleep and take care of herself. Do more around the house so she can recover from her grief. Make her load lighter in any way you can. Cook healthy meals. Anyone who is grieving after losing a baby could use extra help getting through the day. Bring home items that will promote relaxation such as scented candles, a CD of soft music and some lavender/chamomile tea.
Make an appointment for your wife at a spa or with a registered massage therapist when she feels she is ready Being treated gently by someone’s warm, healing hands can do wonders to release the sadness, grief and tension that she holds in her body.
Offer to attend counseling with her
Not only can counselling help a woman move through the stages of grief, a good counsellor can offer helpful suggestions about how to deal specifically with grief after a miscarriage like suggesting books and websites that might help. Here’s another suggestion, rituals including building a strength totem, naming the baby, writing the baby a letter, and memorializing the baby in a way that feels right to you.
Offer to participate in a memorial
There are many websites that offer suggestions of how you and your wife might do this. There are jewelers who make personalized pendants, necklaces and key chains for women who have miscarried, with their baby’s name and due date. There are online virtual memorials devoted to “angels” who are dearly loved and missed by their families.
There are organizations devoted to supporting women who have suffered a miscarriage, which take donations in the name of a lost baby. Encourage her to take the time to think about what might feel right to her, and to talk to you about whether she would like to include you in a memorial. Respect her wishes if she would prefer to do this alone, or not at all.
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