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Mourning a Miscarriage

Many women miscarry before they are even aware they are pregnant. Miscarriages occur in at least 20 percent of pregnancies, many in the first twelve weeks. While the physical needs of many women who miscarry are addressed, their emotional needs are often neglected.

How do you mourn an unborn child? And how do you cope when well-meaning friends (and even family members) who attempt to offer support and solace, but unintentionally inflict greater pain by minimizing the loss?

Because of the lack of understanding, miscarriage has been called “the silent loss,” often disenfranchised—that is, unrecognized by others, sometimes even by ourselves. It is important to acknowledge such a loss. Guilt is a normal grief reaction.  You are still searching for the source of this heartbreak. You might have believed that you were ineffectual in bringing the fetus to term. Since you likely felt responsible for the unborn's health, you might blame yourself for the miscarriage. You should know that there is little medical evidence that a woman’s activity will increase the likelihood of miscarriage; there isn’t always any discernible cause.

Suggestions to effectively mourn a miscarriage include:
  • Gathering  with family members to share your individual expressions of loss. (Perhaps this will provide other family members an opportunity to share emotions that they have bottled up for fear of looking weak, or in an attempt to shield you from more pain.)   
  • Joining a self-help group with parents who have endured this similar anguish.
  • Working with a therapist to at last explore your unsettled expressions of bereavement.  
  • Finding healing in writing a letter or a poem, or by keeping a journal,  to articulate your buried distress and sadness. 
  • Lighting a candle on the date of the miscarriage or give a donation to a charity in loving memory.
  • Sharing your feelings with friends who will truly listen and understand.

Developed from Journeys with Grief: A Collection of Articles about Love, Life and Loss, edited by Kenneth J. Doka, Ph.D., MDiv., copyright Hospice Foundation of America, 2012.