Losing a pregnancy can be heartbreaking. Unfortunately, miscarriages are fairly common. On average, about 1 in 4 pregnancies will end in a miscarriage usually in the first trimester, according to the American Pregnancy Association.
In the majority of cases, a miscarriage cannot be prevented because it is the result of a chromosomal abnormality or problem with the development of the fetus. Still, certain factors — such as age, smoking, drinking and a history of miscarriage — put a woman at a higher risk for losing a pregnancy.
If you’ve had a miscarriage, it’s important to take time to grieve. The loss of a baby during pregnancy is like the loss of any loved one. Give yourself time to heal emotionally and physically.
“Oftentimes I see people who want to ignore their grief,” said Nancy Carst, bereavement specialist at Akron Children’s Hospital. “But the capacity to love requires the necessity to mourn. There’s no quick fix for the pain. But if you actively participate in your healing, you will again have a sense of meaning and purpose in your life.”
The grief after a miscarriage can be difficult to process. Sometimes your loved ones don’t understand your sadness because you never actually met the baby. While that may be true, you did get to know the baby growing inside of you, and dreamt and visualized it from the moment you found out you were pregnant.
In addition, there may be varying degrees of grief. If the miscarriage happened early in your pregnancy, you may not have had as many connections with the baby as a mom who miscarried at 19 weeks. Many women are surprised by the intensity of their grief, while others may have feelings of guilt that they should be more upset.
And because miscarriages usually occur in the first 3 months of pregnancy, many times it’s a private loss.
“Sometimes people didn’t even know you were pregnant,” said Carst. “So after your loss, you don’t know how to talk about it or broach the subject.”
If you’re struggling with the loss of a pregnancy, Carst offers ways you and your partner can process your grief and get through this difficult time.
Talk with others who’ve experienced miscarriage.
It can be comforting to talk to someone that understands what you’ve gone through and to know you’re not alone.
One place to start is Akron Children’s Parent Mentor Program. It connects parents with other parents who have experienced similar medical situations for emotional support and information.
Seek counseling or join support groups, locally or online.
A sympathetic ear can make all the difference. People have different styles for grieving, and sometimes talking to someone outside the family can be beneficial.
“It can be a tough time for couples because they tend to grieve differently because the relationship they had with the baby was different,” said Carst. “Counseling for couples can be beneficial. A father can go to a support group and hear the exact same thing his wife has been saying, and it’ll finally click.”
Hold a private funeral service.
There may be ultrasound pictures, precious gifts and other remembrances to hold on to.
“That’s perfectly fine to do,” said Carst. “Many of the calls I receive are moms struggling because they did have a strong connection with their baby and they want to express themselves.”
Another commemorative event that’s helpful to some families is to plant a tree in their yard and watch it grow and blossom each year.
Find success stories.
Other women who have had successful pregnancies after a miscarriage can be a great source of encouragement to you. When a woman gets pregnant again after a miscarriage, there’s usually a lot of fear and heightened awareness as to whether this one will work out.
Remember that you can and will survive this loss. You will find ways to honor this special connection you had throughout your life.