It’s estimated about 10 to 20 percent of known pregnancies end in miscarriage. Mine did. While we may not talk about it often, pregnancy loss is common. That’s why I’m here to discuss the grief, the shame, and the silence surrounding miscarriages and how we can seek support.
There is no “normal” way to feel after experiencing a pregnancy loss. You may be hit with waves of deep sadness, disbelief, anger, or even total numbness. Having a miscarriage can be so difficult to process and it certainly doesn’t help that so many people cope with this type of grief alone.
Pregnancy and loss can be difficult to talk about, so I’m hoping that by sharing my story, it will help others feel more comfortable discussing their own experiences and seeking help if they need extra support.
I struggled with how to talk about my miscarriages
I’ve experienced two miscarriages in my life, about 20 years apart. I also have a lot of gratitude that I’ve been fortunate enough to have two successful pregnancies. My first miscarriage occurred when I was 11 weeks pregnant. I woke up in the middle of the night with an intense throbbing pain that I’d never experienced before. I was alone downstairs and vividly remember muffling my cries.
Afterwards, I didn’t know how to tell everyone around me what had happened. I knew that I didn’t want pity and I didn’t want to burden anyone with my pain (which, in retrospect, was unfair to myself because the people who care about me truly wanted to show up). Plus, I was struggling to understand exactly why this had happened.
When I had my second miscarriage, I was almost 20 years older and my symptoms were much different than the first. I knew something was wrong when I began experiencing heavy bleeding when I was only three weeks pregnant. This time, I felt helpless because I knew what was happening. Again, I found it difficult to speak about it, especially because many people didn’t even know I was pregnant this time.
Like many others, I grappled with the “what if’s” and the feelings of guilt, shame, and failure. When I did decide to reach out and talk to those around me about what I’d gone through, I was met with a great deal of support and compassion. Eventually I was able to see that there is life after a miscarriage, and though it’s so hard, healing and resilience are possible.
Shame and stigma surrounding pregnancy loss
As a society, we still don’t know how to talk about pregnancy loss. Our mothers and grandmothers weren’t encouraged to have an open dialogue surrounding this topic. We simply don’t have a blueprint on how to have these deeply vulnerable conversations.
Many people feel a sense of guilt, embarrassment, disappointment, loss of identity, hopelessness, or heartbreak after a loss… and those are hard emotions to share. We also don’t hear about miscarriages often because some choose to not disclose their pregnancy until they’re past the first trimester, so their loved ones are unaware that they were expecting.
Since society has conditioned us to only talk about the joyous parts of pregnancy, you may feel that you can only talk about your loss in hushed tones or not at all. Remember that the only way we will eliminate the stigma is by connecting with one another and making space for everyone to share their personal experiences.
How to talk about your miscarriage
When it comes to communicating about your loss, you can share as much or as little information as you’d like with those around you. You may find it initially feels best to keep things simple by saying something like, “I’ve had a miscarriage, but I’m not up to talking about it right now.” If an in-person update isn’t something you’re feeling up to, consider communicating via email or text. You can also ask a trusted loved one to update others on your behalf.
After sharing your experience, you may be met with unwelcome follow-up questions like, “Why do you think this happened?” or “When do you think you’ll start trying again?” These can be painful to answer, so know that you can always end the conversation whenever you choose. People often do not know what to say to comfort someone in these moments, but it isn’t your job to educate them or indulge their requests for more information.
For those who do want to show up for you, consider sharing a specific need. For example, you could ask your boss for time off of work or for a friend to bring you lunch.
When you are ready to open up to a friend, family member, partner, members of a support group, or a mental health professional, sharing your experience can be deeply healing, eliminating the feelings of shame and isolation. Remember that there is no wrong or right way to do this and it may look messy at times. That’s okay.
How to cope after a pregnancy loss
Part of the grieving process is understanding that this loss can take a huge emotional toll, and that is normal and expected. How you choose to care for yourself after a miscarriage or stillbirth, and if you decide to seek outside support, is a highly personal decision. For me and many of my clients, it has been helpful to talk to others who have experienced the same type of loss. Working with a mental health professional can also help us process and move through complicated feelings.
It can be healing to prioritize caring for your body, as well as setting healthy boundaries that put your self-care first. This may look like taking time off work, requesting space from those around you, or if you have a partner, asking them to show up for you in specific ways. It can be tempting to push the feelings down and soldier on, but you and your body deserve time and space to process all you’ve been through.
Remember that moving towards healing does not mean that your pregnancy or baby are forgotten. Your experience will always be a part of you, so you may find it cathartic to hold a special ritual or event to honor the pregnancy that you had.
Know that support is always there for you if you need it. Here are organizations that can connect you with support groups, online chat groups, local resources, and helpful information.
- Share Pregnancy & Infant Loss Support
- Center for Loss in Multiple Births
- The Compassionate Friends
- Miscarriage Hurts
There is support available for partners too
If you are the partner of someone who has had a pregnancy loss, you’re likely experiencing your own grief and deserve support too. It may be helpful to understand that you and your partner may be processing the loss very differently, and that is okay.
Some couples find that going through a miscarriage can bring them close together and others feel a strain on their relationship. It’s understandable that many are reluctant to share their feelings with their partner who is already going through so much, but communication is key. Try opening up and listening to one another and seek out a mental health professional if you would like for someone to facilitate these conversations.
I found it so difficult to discuss my miscarriages openly, so I understand why people struggle to share freely with others. Remember to be gentle with yourself, seek out support when you need it, and know that you are far from alone.
By Giselle Alexander, LCSW, Clinical Supervisor
Giselle works with each of her clients to unearth their untapped potential, helping them truly understand their inherent self-worth. She is a licensed clinical social worker with over 15 years of providing culturally appropriate psychotherapy and social services to individuals and families. Her training and experience come from a varied background of working in community mental health, social services, and private practice with individuals and families grappling with severe and persistent mental illness, anxiety, depression, grave disability, and end of life transitions. She is also able to offer services in Spanish.
When she’s not connecting with her clients, Giselle enjoys the outdoors, dancing, cooking, and spending time with her family and rescue dog, Maggie.