For Those Who Have Had Miscarriages
A primary guide for parents who have recently
experienced the death of a child through miscarriage, stillbirth or other perinatal
C. Elizabeth Carney,
P.O. Box 829,
Great River, NY 11739
Fourteen years ago I gave birth to a baby girl. Four hours later she died because
of an internal malformation that was undetectable during my pregnancy. During
my short hospital stay, nurses and doctors seemed to avoid me and my questions.
What they did say was about the same as what my friends and family were saying.
"You're young. You'll have other babies. Try to forget."
I didn't want any other baby; I wanted that
one! Forget? How could I forget? Instead I was overwhelmed with crushing, breathtaking
grief. I remember how empty I felt the day I left the hospital...an empty womb
and empty arms. I never really knew her but I missed her and ached for her so
Soon after I returned home, everyone acted as
if they had already forgotten her, as if they expected me to also. Someone had
removed all the baby items I had acquired before coming home, hoping to spare
me the pain. Instead, it felt like a further denial of her existence. When I
tried to talk about her everyone became very quiet, or changed the subject,
or left the room. Friends were very careful not to say anything that might remind
me of my experience. Baby shower invitations didn't come in the mail. Birth
announcements didn't come in the mail. Many stayed away because they simply
did not know what to say. My husband had three days to "get over it"
before he was expected back at work. The world kept on spinning as if nothing
had happened. I remember thinking that I must have lost my mind.
I thought that if my baby had lived for a while,
if people had gotten to know and love her, maybe then I would have been given
the affirmation to grieve the way I needed to. But I was the only one with any
memory of her, the only one who had the chance to love her. I had no one to
share that with, not even my husband. Most of his grief was for me and for the
dreams we had shared for this child. I felt all alone as I began my mourning.
Over the years, after much healing, I have had
the opportunity to speak with other parents who have had experiences which were
similar to mine. As a result of that, and also as a result of my search for
answers to all those unanswered questions, I have compiled a list of several
"truths and non-truths" concerning the grieving process as it relates
to perinatal bereavement.
This is not intended to be the absolute word
on the subject, but rather a gauge for the unexpected emotions felt by parents
who have suffered this type of loss. Most of the parents I have spoken to agreed
that the uncertainty of their grief was frightening and may have been alleviated
had they known what to expect.
Friends and family may also benefit from reading
this over so they might understand the special kinds of pain and emotions involved
in this type of loss and allow them to be expressed.
"THE TRUTH IS..."
The truth ISN'T that you will feel "all
better" in a couple of days, or weeks, or even months.
The truth isn't that a new pregnancy will help
- The truth IS that the days will be filled
with an unending ache and the nights will feel one million sad years long
for a while. Healing is attained only after the slow necessary progression
through the stages of grief and mourning.
The truth isn't that pills or alcohol will dull
- The truth is that, while thoughts of a new
pregnancy soon may provide hope, a lost infant deserves to be mourned just
as you would have with anyone you loved. Grieving takes a lot of energy and
can be both emotionally and physically draining. This could have an impact
upon your health during another pregnancy. While the decision to try again
is a very individualized one, being pregnant while still actively grieving
is very difficult.
The truth isn't that once this is over your life
will be the same.
- The truth is that they will merely postpone
the reality you must eventually face in order to begin healing. However, if
Your doctor feels that medication is necessary to help maintain your health,
use it intelligently and according to his/her instructions.
The truth isn't that grieving is morbid, or a
sign of weakness or mental instability.
- The truth is that your upside-down world will
slowly settle down, hopefully leaving you a more sensitive, compassionate
person, better prepared to handle the hard times that everyone must deal with
sooner or later. When you consider that you have just experienced one of the
worst things that can happen to a family, as you heal you will become aware
of how strong you are.
The truth isn't that grief is all-consuming.
- The truth is that grieving is work that must
be done. Now is the appropriate time. Allow yourself the time. Feel it, flow
with it. Try not to fight it too often. It will get easier if you expect that
it is variable, that some days are better than others. Be patient with yourself.
There are no short cuts to healing. The active grieving will be over when
all the work is done.
The truth isn't that one person can bear this
- The truth is that in the midst of the most
agonizing time of your life, there will be laughter. Don't feel guilty. Laugh
if you want to. Just as you must allow yourself the time to grieve, you must
also allow yourself the time to laugh.Viewing laughter as part of the healing
process, just as overwhelming sadness is now, will make the pain more bearable.
The truth isn't that God must be punishing you
- The truth is that while only you can make
the choices necessary to return to the mainstream of life a healed person,
others in your life are also grieving and are feeling very helpless. As unfair
as it may seem, the burden of remaining in contact with family and friends
often falls on you. They are afraid to "butt in," or they may be
fearful of saying or doing the wrong thing. This makes them feel even more
helpless. They need to be told honestly what they can do to help. They don't
need to be told, "I'm doing fine" when you're really NOT doing fine.
By allowing others to share in your pain and assist you with your needs, you
will be comforted and they will feel less helpless.
The truth isn't that you will be unable to make
any choices or decisions during this time.
- The truth is that sometimes these things just
happen. They have happened to many people before you, and they will happen
to many people after you. This was not an act of any God; it was an act of
Nature. It isn't fair to blame God, or yourself, or anyone else. Try to understand
that it is human nature to look for a place to put the blame, especially when
there are so few answers to the question, "Why?" Sometimes there
are answers. Most times there are not. Believing that you are being punished
will only get in the way of your healing.
The truth isn't that you will be delighted to
hear that a friend or other loved one has just given birth to a healthy baby.
- The truth is that while major decisions, such
as moving or changing jobs, are better off being postponed for now, life goes
on. It will be difficult, but decisions dealing with the death of your baby
(seeing and naming the baby, arranging and/or attending a religious ritual,
taking care of the nursery items you have acquired) are all choices you can
make for yourself. Well-meaning people will try to shelter you from the pain
of this. However, many of us who have suffered similar losses agree that these
first decisions are very important. They help to make the loss real. Our brains
filter out much of the pain early on as a way to protect us. Very soon after
that, we find ourselves reliving the events over and over, trying to remember
everything. This is another way that we acknowledge the loss. Until the loss
is real, grieving cannot begin. Being involved at this early time will be
a painful experience, but it will help you deal with your grief better as
you progress by providing comforting memories of having performed loving,
caring acts for your baby.
The truth isn't that all marriages survive this
- The truth is that you may find it very difficult
to be around mothers with young babies. You may be hurt, or angry, or jealous.
You may wonder why you couldn't have had that joy. You may be resentful, or
refuse to see friends with new babies. You may even secretly wish that the
same thing would happen to someone else. You want someone to understand how
it feels. You may also feel very ashamed that you could wish such things on
people you love or care about, or think that you must be a dreadful person.
You aren't. You're human, and even the most loving people can react this way
when they are actively grieving. If the situations were reversed, your friends
would be feeling and thinking the same things you are. Forgive yourself. It's
OK. These feelings will eventually go away.
The truth isn't that eventually you will accept
the loss of your baby and forget all about this awful time.
- The truth is that sometimes you might blame
one another, resent one another, or dislike being with one another. If you
find this happening, get help. There are self-help groups available or grief
counselors who can help. Don't ignore it or tuck it away assuming it will
get better. It won't. Actively grieving people cannot help one another. It
is unrealistic, like having two people who were blinded at the same time teach
each other Braille. Talking it out with others may help. It might even save
A Mother's Prayer/ Affirmation After Miscarriage
- The truth is that acceptance is a word reserved
for the understanding you come to when you've successfully grieved the loss
of a parent, or a grandparent, or a beloved older relative. When you lose
a child, your whole future has been affected, not your past. No one can really
accept that. But there is resolution in the form of healing and learning how
to cope. You will survive. Many of us who have gone through this type of grief
are afraid we might forget about our babies once we begin to heal. This won't
happen. You will always remember your precious baby because successful grieving
carves a place in your heart where he or she will live forever.
In this time of loss I call upon my spirit
within to guide me to my strength so that I may find peace and completion.
I will use this strength to demand of myself
and others my need to grieve completely, for this will be my first step to healing.
During my time of grief I will seek guidance
not only from my inner spirit but from loving persons who may offer wisdom and
I need to understand that the soul as well
as the physical body needs healing and to pay attentio to this. I will learn
to accept that the soul may never heal completely.
I will learn to live not in fear and once again
see beauty in my world and purpose in my existence.
In spite of my new knowledge that things happen
that cannot be controlled, I must call upon the places within me that tell me
I do have control over much of my life and use this control to aid my healing.
Let me recognize the gift in my ability to
conceive and carry life however briefly.
Let me take joy in my ability to love so deeply
and desire to nurture a soul unbeknownst to me.
Let me find healing in the belief that this
oul knew my love for it and that that love helped it to pass to another place.
Let me honor this short life not only with
my love but in finding meaning in its existence.
Let me recognize this meaning in not only my
ability to survive, but in my fullest appreciation of all the moments motherhood
will bring me, along with my deeper compassion and sisterhood to other women
who've experienced loss.
Let a part of this soul be reflected in the
spirit of my future children, born or adopted, so that I may know it through
I will listen to and trust the place in my
deepest heart that tells me I will once again be reunited with this soul and
will fulfill the need to hold it in my arms.
I will help myself to feel comfort in the knowledge
that there is a star in heaven that belongs to me.
by Stacey Dinner-Levin
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