Picking up the Pieces after a Miscarriage
Personal and Professional Insights to Promote Healing and Hope
Nothing is more exciting than a planned pregnancy. Bonding with a new life growing inside can happen immediately. However, when that life is unexpectedly stolen from us, it is devastating. You are left feeling both emotionally and physically empty.
Normal grief reactions include: shock, disbelief, guilt (“I must have done something to cause this.”), anger, sadness, emptiness, a sense of being betrayed by our bodies, shame (“There must be something wrong with me.”) and fear (“Will I ever get pregnant?”). In addition, miscarriages can be physically painful and require invasive procedures.
What you need to know:
It is not your fault. One-third of pregnancies end in miscarriages. Many women lose a baby before they even realize they are pregnant. Because miscarriage rates are so high, likely someone you know has gone through it. But there is very little people can do once the process has begun and little comfort that comes from knowing how common it is.
Whenever we experience one loss, we unlock a world of old wounds and losses. As we grieve for our babies, we may also be faced with unresolved or ongoing pain from the loss of a loved one or other loss or trauma in our life.
There are multiple layers of grief associated with a loss in pregnancy: loss of the child as well as all of the couple’s hopes and dreams for that child, the physical loss of no longer having life growing inside you and all the expectations that go along with being pregnant. Different circumstances will trigger different losses. If many knew about the pregnancy, there is the added shame and embarrassment of having to share with others something so personal and raw.
People grieve in different ways. Partners may not feel the loss as acutely because they lack that physical connection to the baby. It is important to let your partner know exactly what you need and validate their experience of grief without feeling like they are minimizing yours in any way if their reaction is not as intense. This too is a normal process of grief.
Women will refer to their loss in different ways: as a “fetus,” “baby,” or “child.” Each person’s loss is different, in part depending on how far along in the pregnancy they were.
You need time to heal, emotionally and physically. Do not try to get pregnant again right away. Talk to your midwife or doctor about the physical healing time that is needed for your body. Everyone heals at different rates; there is no set healing time for grief.
Reach out to others, but also honour your boundaries. Seek professional support if the grief feels overwhelming. Journal and consider writing a goodbye letter to your baby. Some women and their families plant a special tree, flower or little garden as a sign of remembrance. Look for the opportunity within this crisis. Honour your body by getting a massage and/or reiki treatment. Eat well and follow up on any possible health concerns that may affect your fertility or may aid in your healing. There are many natural and effective treatments and approaches to restoring optimum health.
- Homoeopathy is a very useful, safe and gentle way to help with loss. Ignatia 30C is commonly used for symptoms of grief and despair.
- Essential fatty acids (higher in EPA over DHA 2:1) are useful in gently guiding the hormones back to rebalance and reducing postpartum depression.
- B-Vitamins found in whole grains such as rye, barley, brown rice, millet and quinoa provide support to the central nervous system and adrenal (stress) glands. They take the edge off of stress and help ease the emotions.
- Probiotics or “healthy bacteria” help to restore good bacteria to the vaginal and intestinal tract and help to ensure you are absorbing key nutrients like folic acid, iron and other b vitamins.
Some physical aspects to consider: your hormones need to adjust, your blood supply may need replenishing and your uterus needs to return to a healthy shape and size and to heal, especially if invasive procedures occurred.
When you start your healing process, try spending time outside in nature. Some women find they are drawn to the water and others prefer to be within the safety of a forest.
Some women need to spend time alone and others crave being with their friends and family constantly. Keep a healthy balance and allow yourself to process your experience at your own pace.
People will respond to you in many different ways, especially if they have not experienced this type of loss. Check in with yourself to identify what you need from others, and verbalize it so your loved ones can help pass along what is most helpful: a visit, a warm meal, some time on your own.
Most importantly, the huge majority of women who experience miscarriages go on to have a successful pregnancy. That in itself is the most healing of all.
This article was written by Tania Heinemann in collaboration with Nicole Schiener, M.Ed. CCC.