Although it is not widely known, about one in four confirmed pregnancies end in miscarriage. Pregnancy loss is a difficult but necessary topic to discuss. If you, or someone you know, experienced pregnancy loss, you know it is one of the hardest things that can happen. It is normal to feel shock, grief, depression, guilt, anger, and a sense of failure and vulnerability when you lose a pregnancy.
The days following your pregnancy loss are incredibly painful and sad. It does not matter whether this is the first, second, or tenth pregnancy. It is always difficult.
Many women who went through a recent pregnancy loss find it extremely difficult to communicate it to family and friends. Often it is a feeling of guilt, of failure, that paralyzes and increases the fear.
While I do not intend to tell you what to do, and every person is different, I have a few suggestions that have helped other women and family members:
- Some mothers who lose their pregnancy are able to move through this loss freely, while others feel deep despair at this loss. There are no “shoulds” in this. There is no right way to feel. If you feel strong and grounded and ready to move forward after a miscarriage that is totally valid. If you feel deep loss and grief then that, too, is appropriate. No one can tell you how you should feel, except you.
- What happened is not your fault! It can happen to anybody. Most likely it was not the food you ate, the medication you took, or whatever you did. Most pregnancy losses have no known cause and even the world’s top medical experts would not be able to tell you why it happened.
- You need time to heal. Grieving is normal and you have the right to be sad. Even if it feels like your sadness will never heal, it will. Many women who lose their babies become suddenly afraid of losing everything else, be it their sanity, other relationships important to them, their faith in the world, or any hope for the future. Many, many women who go through this loss feel a deep need to grab onto other things in their life for fear of losing those, too. If this is happening to you, let those close to you know.
- Some moms find it useful to keep a journal. Writing down your thoughts and feelings might be an effective outlet for your pain. You might also write letters, notes or poems to the baby or about the baby.
- Take time off from work, even if you feel physically fine. Taking a break from your regular routine will help you emotionally.
- Men and women react to loss differently. Most men do not express pain and sadness openly, even when they feel it. Try to be understanding and do not blame the other for the loss. If you are unable to get the support that you need from loved ones, reach out to a therapist who can help.
- Don’t close yourself off from others. It is difficult to talk about the pain of the loss. But many people want to help you just by listening. Most will be understanding and supportive. You may be surprised to learn that some of them went through the same experience.
- Some people will make awkward and even inappropriate comments. Usually, this is because they do not know what to say and were afraid to keep quiet. Try not to take it personally if they say the wrong thing or nothing at all.
- You may already have baby things, like clothes, blankets and furniture. Leave them where they are until you feel ready to put them away.
- Try not to make big changes in your life (like moving to a new place or taking a new job) right after the loss. Wait a few months before you make changes like these. Give yourself time to grieve the loss of your baby.
- Join a support group. Sharing with others who’ve experienced pregnancy loss — either in person or online — can be comforting. A clergy member or spiritual advisor may be another good source of advice or counseling. The baby’s grandparents or other loved ones might benefit from similar support.
How to communicate the news
Whenever you feel ready, talk to at least one close friend and relative. The first time you talk will probably be the most difficult. It gets a little easier afterwards. Nowadays, it is common to post on social media (Facebook, Twitter) an image of a black ribbon or of a lit candle and a simple message. Most of your friends and relatives will see it and understand the pain you are going through.
Explaining the pregnancy loss to your other children will be painful and very difficult. While there is often a natural temptation to protect children by avoiding discussion of the loss, this can have the opposite effect. Children know (or sense) that something very significant has happened in their family. They need to have their feelings validated by the important adults in their lives. When parents allow children to talk about the loss and answer their questions with age-appropriate honesty, children can process their difficult and confusing feelings.
AMEND: Located in Tampa Florida, this site offers a free counseling service to parents who have experienced the loss of an infant through miscarriage, stillbirth, or neonatal death. They also have a 24/7 phone line.
The AngelPics Project: Project has been created to donate photo retouching resources to the parents and families of a stillborn baby. Photographs of stillborns and newborns who don’t make it home from the hospital are usually very difficult to look at, and are usually the only image that the parents have of their child. Through this free service, our skilled digital artists work with a digital copy of your original, eliminating medical equipment, removing marks and bruising, even replacing the background if desired.
Bereaved Parents of the USA: A national non-profit self-help group that offers support, understanding, compassion and hope especially to the newly bereaved, be they bereaved parents, grandparents or siblings struggling to rebuild their lives after the death of their children, grandchildren or siblings.
Carly Marie, Project Heal: The woman who runs this site creates beautiful artwork, provides resources, and has really created a community for bereaved people.
CLIMB– center for loss in multiple birth: A non-profit organization based in Anchorage, Alaska, serving families and others throughout the United States, Canada and beyond. Their mission is, and always has been, to provide parent-to-parent support for all who have experienced the death of one or more of twins or higher multiple birth children at any time from conception through birth, infancy and early childhood.
The Compassionate Friends: The Compassionate Friends provides highly personal comfort, hope, and support to every family experiencing the death of a child at any age; son or a daughter, a brother or a sister, or a grandchild, and helps others better assist the grieving family.
The COPE Foundation: Connecting Our Paths Eternally: A non-profit grief and healing organization dedicated to helping parents and families living with the loss of a child. In addition to assisting local families on Long Island, the COPEline (grief hotline) and COPE website provided grieving individuals outside of Long Island with immediate support and resources and referrals.
Faces of Loss, Faces of Hope: Faces of Hope brings awareness to the issue of pregnancy/infant loss
First Candle: First Candle is a leading national nonprofit organization dedicated to safe pregnancies and the survival of babies through the first years of life. Current priorities are to eliminate Stillbirth, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and other Sudden Unexpected Infant Deaths (SUID) with programs of research, education and advocacy. They also provide compassionate grief support to all those affected by the death of a baby through a dedicated crisis hotline at 800.221.7437
Glow in the Woods: An online support and blog for parents of lost babies and potential of all kinds.
Grieve Out Loud: Grieve Out Loud was started in January 2010 by a group of parents who understand the pain of losing a baby and are passionate about helping others in their own grieving process. An online community and an opportunity to find a “pen-pal.”
Grieving Dads Project: This project is designed to reach out to all bereaved dads and to provide a conduit to share their stories. The goals are to bring awareness to the impacts that child loss has on fathers and to let society know that it’s okay for a father to grieve the loss of a child. A father shouldn’t have to hide his pain or feel ashamed to show his emotions.
HAND of the Peninsula: Helping After Neonatal Death: HAND has supported families in the San Francisco Bay Area for over 30 years. It a volunteer group of parents who have experienced the loss of a baby before, during or after birth. Their experience has established a desire to offer support to parents, their relatives and friends during the normal mourning following miscarriage, interruption of a wanted pregnancy, stillbirth or newborn death of their babies. HAND volunteers are not professional psychotherapists, however they may make referrals to professional counselors.
Heartstrings Pregnancy & Infant Loss Support: Out of Greensboro North Carolina, but will mail information to you. Heartstrings provides compassionate validation, bereavement education and hope to families who have suffered pregnancy and infant loss through distinctive peer-based support programs guided by bereaved parents in partnership with professional facilitators.
International Stillbirth Alliance: The International Stillbirth Alliance (ISA), is a non-profit coalition of organizations dedicated to understanding the causes and prevention of stillbirth.
The Macie Grace Foundation: Bill and Wendy McCloskey communicate with parents who anticipate the birth of a critically ill baby or those who have a critically ill infant in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). They run a support group out of Hartford, CT.
March of Dimes: Helps moms take charge of their health, and supports families when something goes wrong. The March of Dimes also acts globally: sharing best practices in perinatal health and helping improve birth outcomes where the needs are the most urgent.
MEND (Mommies Enduring Neonatal Death): A Christian, non-profit organization that reaches out to families who have suffered the loss of a baby through miscarriage, stillbirth, or early infant death.
MISS Foundation: An organization providing C.A.R.E. [counseling, advocacy, research, and education] services to families experiencing the death of a child.
Missing GRACE Foundation: Provides support, education and resources for families experiencing: pregnancy loss, infant loss, infertility, and adoption challenges.
Pregnancy After Loss Support: Pregnancy After Loss Support is a community support resource for women experiencing the confusing and conflicting emotions of grief mixed with joy during the journey through pregnancy after loss. They seek to help expectant mamas celebrate their current pregnancy by choosing hope over fear while still nurturing and honoring the grief over the loss of their deceased child.
Pregnancy Loss Support Program of the National Council of Jewish Women- New York: Professionally trained PLSP volunteers offer nationwide telephone counseling and New York metropolitan area support groups for parents who have experienced miscarriage, stillbirth or newborn death, as well as to women who are pregnant following a loss. PLSP services are free of charge, open to the community, and non-sectarian. The program is guided by a licensed social worker with extensive expertise in pregnancy loss.
Return to Zero: This is a movie about stillbirth and a site with resources, retreat info, and statistics.
Share: Share Pregnancy & Infant Loss Support is a community for anyone who experiences the tragic death of a baby. They often serve parents, grandparents, siblings, and others in the family unit, as well as the professionals who care for grieving families.
The Star Legacy Foundation: A non-profit organization dedicated to stillbirth research and education.
Still Standing Magazine: This online magazine empowers bereaved people to embrace life after loss.