Mourning parents often need help to work through the four stages of grief after losing a child in the womb.
Much has been said and written about abortion, and about the death of a child who has already been born. But recently, there has also been a greater focus on the pain and feelings of loss stemming from miscarriage.
In the clinic where I work, I’ve had many opportunities to meet women who’ve survived a miscarriage. They suffer a huge loss. At the moment they lose their baby, all their dreams and plans for parenting their child in the future end.
They experience shock, because they already felt their motherhood, despite the fact that the baby was under their heart and not in their arms. Many times they had already shared their big news and received congratulations from friends and family. The shock stemming from the loss is extremely painful for women.
How a person experiences death and loss of a loved one is very individual and personal, although the stages of grief are usually experienced with similar emotions. It’s important not to hide them deep inside, nor to underestimate the situation. It’s vital to get help, and to go through all four stages of mourning. Getting help is important because women often can’t deal well with these feelings by themselves. Of course, the first person they should be able to turn to is their husband, who will also be experiencing his own grief, and then other family and friends. However, often times it’s wise to seek the help of a therapist.
Passing through the four stages of grief is necessary in order to return to emotional balance. It gives a guarantee that these emotions will not return many years after the loss. Here is a brief description of this process.
The stages of grief
1. Denial. “It’s not true. It can’t be true. It’s got to be a mistake. It couldn’t happen to me.” These are all common thoughts women have. They can’t believe it’s really happening to them. It’s a shock. Often, they don’t accept the information at first, and act as if nothing has happened.
2. Anger. “Why me? What did I do to deserve this? God is unjust. Fate is too cruel.” At this stage, the enormity of emotions associated with loss is revealed. The bereaved mother suffers tremendously. She cries and despairs.
This stage can last a long time. Some women get stuck in it without progressing since they are not good at dealing with the rush of emotions. It’s best to talk to a therapist if community support is not sufficient.
3. Depression. “Nothing is worth doing. Everything is hopeless. Nothing makes sense. Why try to do anything, it won’t work out anyway.” At this stage, the suffering women don’t see any future. They lock themselves in. They don’t take any action and often withdraw from family and social life.
These depressive states are very difficult for the loved ones. A grieving mother often isolates herself, which means that if she has other children, often she doesn’t hug them or show her affection in other ways. The entire family suffers with her. At this stage, if it doesn’t change, it’s important that someone around her initiate contact with a doctor/therapist, since most of the time she will not initiate it herself.
4. Acceptance. “I must keep going. I still have a family and they need me. I can’t change what happened; I have to accept my fate.” Women reach this stage with great difficulty. It takes a lot of time and work on their part. They have to work through all their feelings from the previous three stages in order to find peace. It is very important to achieve internal balance and to be able to go on living.
There’s no easy way to recover from the loss of a loved one, and a miscarriage is particularly difficult, because the mother has had a much more intimate relationship with the unborn baby than anyone else, and her grief isn’t always understood by those around her. It can be very helpful for her, and for those around her, to know that what she’s feeling is normal and expected. With the support of her husband, family, friends, and therapist, she can learn to continue her life and assimilate this loss.