There’s no “correct” way to feel when you lose a baby – and no “correct” length of time to come to terms with it. Everyone who’s experienced a miscarriage feels a different mix and intensity of emotions for differing periods of time.
“There really is no right or wrong way to feel about it,” says Ruth Bender Atik of the Miscarriage Association.
And Amina Hatia, a midwife at Tommy’s agrees: “Miscarriage can be a devastating experience in different ways,” she says. “For some women, it is a bereavement that creates great sadness and a range of emotions; for others, they may feel upset at the time but recover relatively quickly. How you feel depends on so many unique circumstances that only you can fully understand.”
But, whatever the circumstances of your miscarriage, some of the most common feelings, either immediately or over time, include:
- shock and confusion
- loneliness (as if no one else can understand)
- panic, helplessness or feeling out of control
- jealousy (of other women who are pregnant or have babies)
It’s also common to find it difficult to sleep, and difficult to focus or concentrate on anything else.
There is no set time for these feelings to fade – and they may last longer than you, or people around you, expect them to. Or they may fade fairly quickly, only to resurface later – maybe on a significant day (such as when your baby was due) or at a significant moment (such as the return of your menstrual period).
But, even if it seems impossible right now, there will come a time when your feelings change and the pain of your loss eases. And, in the meantime, it can help to focus on some of the following…
Find a special way to remember your baby
“There are lots of different ways couples choose to remember their baby,” says Sophie King, also a Tommy’s midwife. And, for many, it can be such a key step to healing.
“You may want to hold a memorial or farewell ceremony of some kind, ” says Sophie, “or plant a tree or special flower or light a candle of remembrance or buy something special in your baby’s memory. Maybe you’d prefer to write a poem or a letter and frame it or post it online – or make a donation to a favourite charity in your baby’s name. Or make a pregnancy memory box.”
Some hospitals have a book of remembrance you can write in, and many of them hold annual services of remembrance for babies who have died (the hospital chaplain should be able to help with details of both of these).
Do what you feel is right for you.
Look for the right people to talk to – when you’re ready
You may find it very hard to talk about what’s happened to you – especially if you hadn’t told people about your pregnancy yet.
And sometimes, when you do talk to friends and family, they can (inadvertently) do or say things that hurtful or insensitive or maybe expect you to behave in a different way. It can help to remember that, often, people just don’t know what to say or do, however close they are to you.
“Miscarriage is a very unique loss,” says Amina Hatia, a midwife at Tommy’s. “You are mourning not just the loss of your baby but also its future and your own future as that baby’s parent, which can be hard for others to understand and relate to.”
If you can, try to spend time with the people who do understand (maybe because they’ve been through miscarriage, too).
You may also find it easier to talk to people you don’t know, either online (the MadeForMums forum is a great place to start) or in a local bereavement support group.
The Miscarriage Association also has a forum, as well as a Facebook page, an online Live Chat and a helpline on 01924 200799 that’s open Monday to Friday, 9am to 4pm).
Don’t expect your partner’s feelings to be in step with yours
As a couple, a miscarriage may be the first traumatic experience you go through together. You may both be deeply affected but may deal with your emotions in different ways.
If your partner is withdrawn and reluctant to talk about it, for example, it doesn’t necessarily follow that he or she doesn’t care.
It helps to expect that there will be times when one of you is coping less well, while the other feels better. Or times when one of you really needs support, while the other doesn’t feel able to give it.
The experience of miscarriage often brings couples closer together. But, if it feels like the strain of your different reactions to your loss is pulling you and your partner apart, there’s no shame in looking for outside support, maybe from organisations like Relate.
Ruth Bender Atik has been National Director of the Miscarriage Association since 1993. She is a qualified social worker and has written guidance for NHS staff on Caring for Patients with Pregnancy Loss.
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