The grief of miscarriage

Q My husband and I have been trying to have our second child for a few years now and I have just had my third miscarriage. Although my husband has been supportive, we are both struggling to cope with our grief over losing these babies. I feel so alone, as counselling has never been suggested by my GP and medical professionals have referred to our lost dreams for a family as “early pregnancy loss”. But for us, they were our future babies and with each miscarriage, I struggle more and more. How do I get support and open up to someone who understands the loss of more than just a “pregnancy”?

A I’m so sorry about the loss of your babies. You are dealing with something that has been, and is still, so difficult to get through as a mother; and you have been challenged with professionals who are often not sure how to deal with such a sad loss. In fact, in writing my response, it was challenging to ensure that I give my response the respect that you so deserve within such a limited forum. Miscarriage grief is absolutely real and if you seek information in relation to miscarriage you will often see phrases such as “the loneliest grief of all” and “carrying grief alone”. Unfortunately, when you do open up, people with the best intentions may try to make you feel better by saying things like “at least it was only very early”; “you can try again”, “you’ve at least got one child” and “miscarriages are so common”.

Sadly, miscarriages are common but discussions around miscarriage and the impact on those experiencing this loss is still kept quiet. Individual perspectives and coping strategies are different for everyone but to not offer you support when you are suffering can feel very invalidating. Additionally, partners can be forgotten about and often partners try to put their grief aside to be strong for the family.

This has the potential to add to the already challenging time of trying to get through each day as a couple. This is a time for couples to go through this grief together, even if there are differences in coping strategies. There’s also no timeframe to put on any kind of grief – it just is what it is. At some stage, when families welcome a healthy, living baby, it’s still OK to grieve over lost children and dreams as these lost babies still existed as individual hopes and dreams, despite the happiness a healthy new life brings.

Talking to a counsellor who is experienced in supporting families after miscarriage could be a positive next step for you. Opening up to a stranger can be daunting for anyone but because you haven’t had the support you were seeking, do some research and ask questions of whoever you contact in relation to counselling.

Consider the type of counsellor you are hoping to connect with; would you prefer a female of a certain age or life experience? Would it matter to you if this counsellor has had children, or is your preference for a counsellor who has not had children? Even if you are not sure about post-natal depression, perhaps you could ask if the counsellor is experienced in this, as this is unique to women and partners who have gone through pregnancy regardless of whether their pregnancies result in parenting a baby later.

And importantly, when you meet with your counsellor, you have to feel that you can work together regardless of the counsellor’s experience. You may decide that you and your husband attend counselling together for grief counselling and/or one or both of you may choose to access individual counselling if losing a baby has opened up old wounds, or new wounds. You can discuss this further with your counsellor. But whatever steps you take now, please don’t put pressure on yourself to just be ok – it’s ok to not be ok and time and the right support will get you through this.

CatholicCare can offer counselling support for you.

Please call us on 02 4979 1120 to be matched with a counsellor who may be right for you.

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Tanya Russell

Tanya Russell is CatholicCare's Assistant Director and a registered psychologist.

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