A miscarriage is the natural death of an unborn human life while it is still an embryo inside the mother’s womb. Although such a death often takes place in the early stages of the pregnancy, miscarriages can occur in all three trimesters. The danger of a miscarriage is the most common threat to embryonic life. Recent statistics indicate that one in five pregnancies end in a miscarriage. Some experts believe that every sexually active woman will miscarry sometime during her reproductive years.
Reasons for a miscarriage are numerous. Usually one takes place because of biological abnormalities which would make it impossible for the embryo to survive outside the womb. Once the miscarriage begins, very little can be done to stop the process. Drugs are sometimes the cause of the abnormalities – whether taken to aid in fertility, or taken by the mother to combat illness or for recreational purposes.
People who grieve a miscarriage suffer the loss of a baby they do not know. The loss of a child – no matter how early in pregnancy – is very real. Understanding the unique nature of this loss can help you offer strength and support during this difficult time.
Pregnancy Loss Carries Special Characteristics
There may be a feeling of emptiness. Normally a person remembers the loved one with precious memories – the voice, the smile, the personality, shared experiences, inspiring dreams. With the grief of miscarriage instead there is silence, darkness, an empty slate, and a fist-load of “what might have beens.” For many parents, even the still photo from an ultrasound can be a way of making the baby concrete and real.
One’s self-esteem may suffer. For many, the miscarriage feels like the ultimate failure. Finding avenues to lessen the diminished personal value can be a tremendous help for the bereaved.
The loss can trigger memories of other tragedies. Although it certainly happens in other situations, studies have shown that those who suffer a miscarriage have more frequent incidents flashing back to other tragedies. This increases the intensity and longevity of the grieving.
Dreams for the family can be broken. The anticipation of a child often brings hopes and dreams of future experiences. The miscarriage can shatter those dreams. If conception was not easy, the thoughts that the only chance has passed becomes overwhelming.
It can feel as if no one can understand the feelings. Because miscarriages are not remembered in the way that other deaths are, it is difficult to know how many others have felt the same kind of loss. Many parents feel that they are the only ones who are experiencing this – and therefore do not have anyone to turn to who can empathize and understand.
The mother often blames the loss on herself. It can easily feel as if her body has failed in one of its most basic tasks. The mother can question if she did something to cause the miscarriage or at least put the baby at greater risk. The truth is that rarely does the mother do anything that causes the process to start.
Showing Support for the Bereaved
When attempting to comfort the person grieving the loss of a baby through a miscarriage, one needs to remember the unique circumstances involved in this type of tragedy.
Encourage the bereaved to find a support group. There is comfort and healing found through sharing emotions and uncertainties with someone else who has experienced a similar loss. Together, groups of people may be able to find a quicker path to wholeness than could be found alone.
Assure the bereaved that there is no right way or right time to grieve and heal. Grief has a way of lasting longer than it should. Encourage the bereaved to find a path that will work alongside their personality. Healing may include doing some specific actions – like planting a tree or volunteering for a charity – or it may include some time alone.
If a miscarriage is a personal experience, share struggles and insights gained by the traumatic event. Because of the personal and private nature of this loss, miscarriages are often unknown to other people. By sharing lessons from this common tragedy, the bereaved will be encouraged to know that someone else understands the sorrow and pain of a miscarriage. It will strengthen her to know that others have made it through the loss.