The Five Stages of Grief After a Miscarriage
Certainly, it is very difficult to deal with the emotional impact of having a miscarriage. Pregnancy is full of hope and expectations, and most people feel the loss of this future excitement a great deal. While messy and confusing, grief actually has a very normal pattern that researchers, psychologists and psychiatrists have discovered. By knowing these stages, and identifying where you are on the path, you can often feel better about the process. You will also be able to validate your feelings and to realize that you are not alone with your grief. While there is a set of stages, don't expect to go through them in a linear way. You may be at stage two one day, and then feel lost again back in stage one. Each person will go through the process in her, or his, own way and on your own timeline. Give yourself the time that you need to move on.
The stages of grief, in a nutshell, are denial, anger, guilt, depression and then acceptance. When you first discover that you've had a miscarriage, you will probably be in a state of denial. Women often think that maybe it's not really true and maybe they can still save the baby. They may go for a second opinion, or want to make sure that it's really over. Even after experiencing the miscarriage and knowing that they are no longer pregnant, some women will still be in denial for quite awhile.
After this stage, there is anger. This anger may be turned towards a religion, towards God, towards the partner, towards life in general, and more. Each person will deal with and experience this anger in a different way. It is important, if the anger does seem to be projected onto your partner, to identify your anger and to try to deal with it. Your partner is probably experiencing these grieving stages as well, and he/she certainly needs your love now; not your anger. You may be angry with yourself as well and blame yourself for having too much caffeine, for being stressed, for being inadequate to carry the baby and many other irrational and harmful thoughts. Again, it is very important to identify your feelings and to seek help from others as necessary. This may mean talking to a friend or to your partner, joining a support group, meeting with a therapist, and more.
Guilt and anger are closely related. Usually, anger is directed at someone else, while guilt is directed at yourself. Guilt tends to eat away at your self esteem and confidence, and can be very detrimental to your healing process. You might have guilt that you didn't act as quickly as you believe you should have, or that you could have prevented this in some way. It is important to understand that the majority of miscarriages can't be avoided, and that chances are you couldn't have done anything to avoid being in the situation you are in.
Once you've moved beyond your denial, anger and guilt, there is often depression. Depression shows that you have an understanding and acceptance of your situation. Your mind is coming to grips with your loss and realizing that it is your reality. You can't change what has happened, and no amount of guilt or anger will help you to change it. This realization often creates depression and a feeling of helplessness. While some depression is completely normal, and even healthy for the healing process, a great deal of depression is not. If you are unable to go about your responsibilities, if you find yourself withdrawing from others, or if you see yourself gaining or losing significant amounts of weight, these may be some of the warning signs that you need help.
While you may not believe that you'll ever get to a point of acceptance, you undoubtedly will. It may take you a long time dealing with these other emotions first, and it may require professional help, but you will eventually reach acceptance. Perhaps you'll get there after getting pregnant and having a successful birth, or perhaps you'll get there when you mark the first anniversary of your miscarriage. For some people this process will certainly take longer than for others.
Understanding these stages and noticing where you are along the process can help you to cope with pregnancy loss. Keep your communication channels open and try to be as open and honest with your feelings as possible. Hopefully, this will help you to grow and to move on with your life.