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When You Are Grieving After a Miscarriage

Listening to your needs in a society that tells you to "move on"

By Christiane Manzella, Ph.D.

Source: Milosz_G /Shutterstock

A miscarriage is a real loss that can affect you physically, emotionally, and spiritually. But those who haven't experienced a miscarriage may not understand how deeply it is affecting you because people rarely talk openly about pregnancy loss.

Often people don't view pregnancy loss as significant because the pregnancy was short. But the duration of a pregnancy does not determine the bond that you can feel with a baby you have lost. And research shows there is no relationship between the length of time a woman was pregnant and how long she will grieve the loss of that child.

What is known is that grieving is a very normal and healthy response to pregnancy loss. For some women, physical and emotional healing happens fairly quickly. For others, it can take longer – months or even a year. And for many women, although their grief will become less acute over time, miscarriage is a loss they always carry with them.

The people in your life may not understand that. And most doctors have little or no training in providing grief support or counseling. Their training is in finding a cure or "fixing" the pain, which may mean suggesting a timeline they feel is appropriate for you to try again. Friends and family may feel a similar urge to help you move past this pain (either because it makes them uncomfortable or they don't like to see you hurting). They may also suggest that trying to conceive could be the best balm to heal you.

But healing does not come from simply moving on. Healing comes from facing the feelings and questions you have at this difficult time and moving through them at a pace that feels right to you – not because people you trust or love are telling you it's time. Trying to short circuit the pain and anger or "move on" without processing your emotions can let them fester and last longer.

Whether you want to try for a subsequent pregnancy or feel you need a break from that, only you can decide when you are ready to move into the next steps of your life. You choose when you are ready.

In the meantime, it may help to come up with a simple answer for people who ask what happened and a response that feels right to you for those times when someone suggests you should move past where you are or try for another pregnancy. It can be as simple as "thank you" or something more involved, such as "I'm not ready now, but I look forward to the day I do feel ready." Or, if you'd like someone to listen, "What I really need is some time to experience and talk about all the emotions I am having."

Then follow that advice. Give yourself time to heal physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Eat well. Get good rest. Take walks. Confide in friends who will listen without trying to fix you. You are not broken; you are grieving. And one day it will feel easier than it does today.

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