I have long called miscarriage the “silent grief.” It’s the loss of a child few recognize and often aren’t even aware of. It’s the burying of a dream into the reality of a nightmare that you journey through alone. If you’re lucky, you have a supportive spouse or significant other. You may even find yourself chastising yourself for being jealous of the mother who loses a child and can actually place them in a coffin, have a funeral, pray over their gravesite. The cold and brutal truth about miscarriage is many don’t even have a child to hold, a grave to visit, or family to gather. One day it’s in existence and the next, it’s simply not. Some are calloused enough to give you a hefty pat on the back and say “well, try again!” as if it was a lost tennis match or football game. Others recognize your grief, but because there was never anything tangible, they avoid acknowledging it. You may be blessed enough to get a hug, but rarely much more.
Miscarriage was my life for two years. Now, twelve years later, it’s difficult to believe I actually have five children and not just two. But while it’s difficult to imagine who those three little ones would have become, it’s also difficult to revisit the pain and the trauma of a miscarriage. Still, I have moved on, in a healthy way, and now the grief is bittersweet instead of knifing pain.
How do we heal after a miscarraige? Oh, that there were five simple easy steps to healing. But there isn’t. I only have words that I pray can help someone find a bit of healing, a bit of peace, and a bit of hope.
Because the world around us so often dismisses miscarriages as a medical condition, it is critical that you give yourself permission to acknowledge it as a death. There was a child. Tears and mourning are acceptable and even needed. I remember after my first miscarriage, that my husband and I drove to the golf driving range and he spent the afternoon driving golf balls while I sat on the grass, in the sun, and just stared into the beautiful distance. He needed to work out his angst. I needed to be near him. To be silent. To find hope in Creation. Many probably wondered at the sight of a man golfing while his wife sat in the grass weeping for over an hour. But the tears finally came when I acknowledged that my baby was dead. The cold, harsh, bitter word brought it into reality for me. A reality that was needed to process the situation. I had experienced a death in my family. My first child. It needed to be acknowledged.
In none of my three miscarriages was there a casket. There was no baby to hold, even in death. No blanket that had once snuggled it. Not even a clear sex or identity for the child. No name. How does one name a baby whose gender isn’t known? To heal, I needed to assign something tangible to my child. For my first miscarriage, the tangible came quite by accident. One mother, who knew my pain, sent me a carved wooden angel. I’ve never been one for angels, and I don’t believe my children turn into angels. But it was a tangible item that brought hope into my heart. An eternal hope. That my child was experiencing the comfort of God and was, in truth, not dead, but very much alive! They just weren’t where I craved them to be. In my arms. After my second miscarriage, another angel was given to me, and frankly, after my third miscarriage, I pursued acquiring a third angel. I needed something tangible to remember them by. I needed something of significance that I could rest my eyes on and remember them by. These angels are never far from me in my home. They’re within sight and often, I find my eyes straying to them. When once there were tears, now I smile softly. Oh sweet little ones, forever in my heart.
One of the demons of miscarriage is a lack of honesty with ourselves. We compare our loss to that of another’s and diminish its importance. We try to convince ourselves that it was barely, if even, a child—specifically if we lose it in the first few weeks of conception. We assume that we should bounce back quickly, in hours or days, because our bodies have, and again, we have nothing tangible to show for our grief. We also avoid words like “dead,” “grave,” “bury,” “grief,” “infant loss,” “baby,” because they hurt. Frankly, the words hurt. Sometimes, in avoiding them, we can also avoid the reality of what we’ve experienced and instead, chalk it up to a bad day at the office, so to speak.
NO! This is so not healing, and it cheats you of the need to grieve, to remember, and to recognize what has happened. As a mother, we need to pursue the honest brutal truths that coincide with miscarriage.
Yes, your baby has died.
Yes, there is no grave.
No, you have nothing to bury.
Yes, you are filled with grief.
Yes, you’ve experienced infant loss.
Yes, you had a baby and no, you do not want to hold someone else’s right now!
Give yourself the permission to pursue these bold, honest statements. Give yourself the permission to feel the pain, to avoid babies for awhile, to not volunteer in the church nursery, to not go to that baby shower for a coworker, etc. Be honest with yourself. It may be the biggest gift you can give yourself.
Give yourself time. If you work outside of the home, take some time off. If your work has bereavement leave, ask them if they apply it to miscarriage as well. (You may be surprised!) Be cautious of expecting to jump back into life. But moving too quickly back into “normal,” instead of healing, you very likely are suppressing. Which means your grief will evolve into other ailments, whether physical, mental, or emotional. You cannot run and hide from grief. It will find you.
If you’re stationed at home, this may be remarkably difficult for you, as you may find yourself with a lot of time alone. Either that, or you’re running after your other children. It’s important to seek comfort from others when you’re alone if you’re finding yourself going to dark places. It’s important to recognize that maybe you do need to call that person from church who offered to take the kids. Or, if you don’t have the luxury of gifted childcare, maybe you give yourself a break and let the kiddos watch copious amounts of cartoons in exchange for time for you to heal.
In the end, miscarriage is unique to each of us. We all have various elements that affect how we grieve, when we grieve, and who we grieve. Some of us are far less likely to be impacted emotionally by a miscarriage, while others will find a miscarriage almost disabling. Do not fall prey to comparison! There is no single right way to grieve. You may find you’re more angry than hurt, or more stoic than weepy, or more incapacitated than capable. That is okay!
If you don’t have support at home, reach out for support. Your local church, a friend, a pastor, a family member. This isn’t a journey meant to be traversed alone and it isn’t a journey you can avoid if you have experienced a miscarriage.
You have lost a precious, little life. Your mother’s heart will break, and it is right that it does. Embrace grief as something expected and needed. There is not much greater of a relationship than that between mother and child. It is an unbreakable bond, even in death. Diminishing it into a simple event in life will not help the healing process. This is trauma. This is dramatic. This is horrific. This is a nightmare.
I was amazed at how much healing came to me just because I acknowledged those aspects of miscarriage. When I sat back and breathed in the essence of a child I would never know. When I stood in the room that was supposed to be theirs and ran my fingers along the empty crib. When I held the teddy bear I was going to give to them. When I curled up on the floor and fell asleep after a long trail of tears. When I blew kisses to heaven and begged God to deliver them for me.
Repeat after me: I have lost my baby.
It’s okay to say. It is good to say. For in saying it, you acknowledge their life, and in return, you acknowledge your need to grieve. To process. To heal. To lift an aching heart to the Lord and receive in its place the comfort that exceeds all understanding.
Jaime Jo Wright