I recently shared my experience with miscarriage on this blog. I was blown away with the response that I received. I knew it was a painful subject, but had no idea how many people had been personally effected.
Most people contacted me privately to share their heart breaking stories. As I’ve communicated with people over the last couple of days I noticed a couple of themes that I wanted to share.
Based on my own reading I knew that many women blamed themselves for their miscarriage. I went through the same thought process, but was able to push it to the side pretty quickly.
I’ve come to realize I’m one of the lucky ones.
Multiple women shared their feeling of guilt based on the fact that their body wasn’t able to sustain life for a child. One friend in particular spoke of feeling like a lesser women because of her inability to bring a baby to term. She was on her fourth miscarriage and was beginning to give up hope.
I felt so helpless in my response to her. What could I say that she had not already heard, what could I share that would get through those feelings of inadequacy and pain. This woman was a complete stranger to me, so I didn’t have a religious base or friendship base to draw on.
Here is a portion of my response to her,
“I wish I had some great piece of advice that would help you deal with your pain and grief. I don’t, only you can work through your feelings. What I can tell you is this.
Your body is perfectly made, yes it has its flaws and imprecation, but that is part of what makes you who you are. I don’t know why your body can’t bring a baby to full term and have a feeling the doctors can’t tell you either. I don’t know why you have received such a horrible heart-wrenching trial to deal with.
It is your decisions now that will set you apart.
When I was 23 my first husband and I divorced. I was devastated and thought my life was over. As I was going through the divorce process I meet a bitter women who hated men, life and pretty much everything.
The scary thing to me was that I saw a piece of myself in her. I swore then, at what I considered the lowest point in my life, to never be like her. I promised myself that I would always choose to be happy.
I know it sounds hard right now, but choosing to be happy is the greatest gift you can give yourself and your family.
I don’t know why your body has miscarried so many times, but I do know that you are doing everything you can to prevent it from happening again. I know that the doctors are doing everything that they can. I don’t know if you will ever have a child, but I know that you can’t blame yourself or your body for this failure.
That path truly does lead to the dark side (sorry couldn’t resist a Star Wars reference).
Please don’t blame yourself for something you can’t control. Please choose to be happy and live your life.”
I haven’t heard back from this particular woman and hope my letter didn’t hurt her more deeply.
It is amazing to me how easily we fall into the blame trap. How quickly we allow guilt and even shame to color our perception of events. Miscarriage is a horrible thing, but how we choose to respond to the unexpected is what sets us apart.
Please if you are struggling with feelings of guilt or body shame talk to your doctor, visit a councilor, talk to your friends, please don’t suffer in silence.
I was also shocked to hear from many men who had struggled with their wives miscarriage.
These emails were broken into two areas. Most where from men seeking advice on how to help their wives. The heartbreaking ones to me where the men who talked about how heart broken they where over the loss of their child and how their pain was largely ignored.
I don’t have all the answers for these men, but can say that for me I just wanted Aaron to listen to me. I’m sure he got tired of my constant chatter, but I just needed to talk about things – even stuff that wasn’t related to the miscarriage. I just needed him to listen and not try to solve my problem. It wasn’t a problem that could be solved.
In all honestly this isn’t Aaron’s strong point. He wants a problem to solve, he listened to me as best he could and was so supportive. He is smart enough to know his limits though and encouraged me to talk to some of my girl friends. He literally pushed me out of the house and made me take a break. This was something I didn’t even know I needed until he pushed me to reconnect with other women in my life.
Last week was very physically draining for me. The medicine they gave me caused cramping and loosened my cervix. My heating pad was by best friend. One night in particular was very painful. I had lost a lot of blood and was light headed enough to necessitate a call to my boss (who is a doctor). That night he just grabbed his phone and played stupid videos to keep me distracted while he cuddled with me until I feel asleep. It sounds so stupid as I write this, but that night meant the world to me.
He was just there.
The other thing he did was give me permission to cry. He just sat and held me and didn’t belittle me for my feelings. He gave me full permission to grieve at my own pace.
I know that my needs may be different from some other women. I think more then anything keeping the lines of communication open is the most helpful thing a couple can do during such a difficult time in their lives. Based on my conversations with Aaron I know how helpless he felt. He didn’t know how to comfort me and make everything better. He couldn’t sweep in and be my night in shining armor. All he could do was reach out and give me unconditional love.
On the other hand, I can easily see how the husband’s grief is forgotten in the craziness of a miscarriage. I know it wasn’t something I thought much about in the first week or so.
I was too focused on my pain.
It was until I got a few emails from men talking about the heartbreaking grief they experienced that I even thought to question Aaron and see how he was holding up.
He had been my rock through the whole experience and I never took the time to really make sure he was doing okay – major marriage fail.
When a miscarriage occurs our focus is naturally on the women, she is the one that is typically more emotionally connected with the child and has to deal with the physical side. As soon as my friends heard what had happened I was getting flowers, texts, food, emails, calls and lots and lots of love and support. It was like I received instant entrance into a fraternity no one talks about.
The same thing doesn’t happen to the men.
Some of the men who emailed me talked about how alone and helpless they felt. They poured all their energy into helping their wives and keeping the home running and didn’t take time to acknowledge their own grief and pain.
They didn’t receive the wonderful cards and flowers. I had one husband who told me he didn’t receive a single condolence outside of his family. I can’t imagine how hard this must have been for this husband.
By necessity Aaron just stepped in and took care of our lives while I dealt with the physical side of what was happen. I’m not saying he didn’t receive condolences and support from friends, but it wasn’t at the same level.
He was my rock and yet was dealing with his own grief and pain.
I’m so incredibly thankful to the husbands who shared their feelings on this matter with me. I want to challenge my readers to take the time to acknowledge the husband next time they comfort a women after a miscarriage. It is definitely a shared loss.
I know I’m just touching the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the pain and grief associated with miscarriage. I didn’t expect to get pregnant and only had a few days to get excited. I can’t even imagine the pain felt by families with stories that go so far beyond the scope of what I have experienced.
I was talking to a friend recently about our shared experience and she told me that prior to her experience she had compassion for people, but it wasn’t until she went through the loss herself that she truly became empathetic.
To those who can empathize, I’m so sorry for your loss. Please reach out and ask for the help and support you need and when the time is right reach out to your friends and neighbors who may be struggling with the same issues.
To those who have been so amazingly compassionate thank you for your love and support. Your amazing compassionate service has helped me through this time more then you will ever know.
Editors Note: I got this amazing note from my friend Liz who gave me permission to share:
“One thing we discussed in the pregnancy loss support group I attend is how men tend to begin their (emotional) grief journey 7-10 years after a loss occurs. They put themselves and their needs on the back burner until they are sure their wives are okay. They also tend to be “instrumental” versus “intuitive” grievers. Where intuitive grievers need to talk and cry and express their emotions, instrumental grievers need to DO something.
After we lost Mason, Kendall spent every waking moment for a full week in the garage building him a casket. This was his way of expressing his grief. However, several times throughout our journey he mentioned that he felt something was “wrong” with him because he wasn’t grieving the same way I was. His grief wasn’t “wrong” it was just different.
As partners in a marriage, we need to recognize and accept the different ways we grieve and support each other. Just some additional thoughts to add to an already great post.”
PS. If you are interested in a great book on the subject of grieving for a lost child I’m currently reading “For They Shall Be Comforted” by Camille Call Whiting. It is amazing how friends can give you just the book you need.