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Why miscarriage can be a sorrow for children, too

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Edifa - published on 10/26/20

Losing a child can also be difficult for little ones.

All loss can have consequences for the lives of the children who have been touched by it. Older siblings who have lost a baby brother or sister before it was born do not escape this grief. Corrine Charroy, a clinical psychologist, has studied the consequences of miscarriage for children who were born before the miscarriage happened and also for those who were born later.

Have you ever come across children who are distraught after a miscarriage?

I find it depends on the child’s position within the siblings and, above all, if their mother was able to mourn the deceased child or not. Sometimes a child born after a miscarriage suffers from behavioral disruptions such as agitation, temper tantrums, bed wetting, sleep problems, etc.

What should parents watch for?

There is no reason to worry if a child does not show any particular problem. Beware of the guilt that an older sibling may develop if he or she was not happy about having a new brother or sister. Perhaps they were feeling abandoned by the mother and were experiencing the anguish of separation, and feeling resentful of the new one coming in. Thus, when the unborn baby passes, they may feel responsible, especially if they are close to the age of magical thinking. It is up to the parents to recognize this emotional reaction and help their child verbalize it: “You may have felt jealous and that is normal, don’t blame yourself for that, it is not your fault that the baby has died, nor is it mom’s fault.”

Another baby can come very quickly after a miscarriage. What might be the consequences?

There’s the question of the ‘replacement’ child. After a miscarriage, it’s not uncommon for a new pregnancy to happen quickly. However, later on the mother may suddenly feel guilty, thinking that she has betrayed her previous baby. Conversely, it sometimes happens that the next child comes in with apparently no emotional baggage surrounding it, as if it got in during a break from the pain, but that with the next child after that the mother comes out of her mental shock and begins the process of mourning the child she has lost.

How should we react then?

It is essential that the dead child regains its place. Sometimes it is enough to speak simply of this little brother or sister that you have not known for the uneasiness to subside. Each one must have his or her place. Each one is unique; no one can replace or take the place of anyone else.

Is it traumatic for a child to think that a baby has died in its mother’s womb?

Nightmares can reveal a feeling of anguish linked to the maternal womb and death. It is useful to explain to children, in words they can understand, that it is not in the same womb or uterus that carries all the mother’s children that the baby has died, butwithin the placenta or membrane inside the womb that is renewed with each pregnancy.

What if a child shows signs of distress?

In case of eating, somatic or sleep disorders, therapeutic work can help the child get the event in perspective. The key is to let them talk about it. The child might not be able to answer with a yes or a no, maybe the parents might not handle it just right, but the child will have had the experience of being listened to, accompanied and being able to put into words what they feel, without feeling judged or guilty. Therapy can also help a child to process their feelings and work through their grief.

Stéphanie Combe


CATHOLIC SAINTS

Read more:
Saints who lost a child to miscarriage

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