Coping with a Miscarriage | Counseling | Therapy

Coping with a Miscarriage

Alex Robboy , CAS, MSW, ACSW, LCSW — Founder & executive director


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Grief Therapy in Philadelphia: Speak to a counselor in Center City today 267 324 9564

Coping with a Miscarriage: Miscarriage is more common than most people realize, with about 1/3 of all pregnancies ending in miscarriage. Women and their partner’s experiences with a miscarriage vary greatly depending on personal histories, meanings giving to the pregnancy, experiences with medical professionals at the time of the loss, etc. Very often the loss of a pregnancy can be a difficult and trying event. The following are some tips to assist you and your partner in coping with a miscarriage:

Disappointment with the medical community—Medical professionals focus on the physical management of the miscarriage rather than on the personal experience of the miscarriage to the patient. Medical terminology used can seem frightening and confusing. Some terms doctors use can be hurtful. For instance, a doctor may refer to your baby as a “fetus” or “passed tissue.” Medical terminology may make you and/or your partner feel undermined, disappointed or alone. If you are unclear about what a medical professional is telling you, make sure to ask for clarification. Communicate with your partner or a supportive family member or friend about how you are feeling when interacting with the medical professionals. They may be able to provide support or ask for further clarification from a medical professional.

  • After talking with your doctor in Philadelphia did you feel confused? Sad? Angry? Uncomfortable? Relieved? Alone? …?
  • If you’re having a negative reaction to your doctor, what do you believe you’re reacting to? Your doctor’s word choice? Tone? Other body language?
  • On a scale of 1 to 10, how comfortable are you asking your doctor questions about your miscarriage?
  • What influenced your rating of your comfort level with asking your doctor questions about your miscarriage?
  • How can you ensure the questions you have about your miscarriage are answered?
  • If you do not feel comfortable asking your doctor questions, who can come to your appointment to provide support and encouragement in asking the questions you may have about your miscarriage? Identify at least 2 people. (in addition to a grief counselor).

“Physical Loss and Technological Loss” versus Personal Loss—The medical community differentiates pregnancy loss into two categories. Some women have a “physical loss” and will experience symptoms like bleeding, cramping or pain. A “technological loss” is accompanied with few physical symptoms and often goes unnoticed until a blood test or ultra sound discovers the pregnancy loss. The medical community typically views a “technological loss” as a lesser loss than a “physical loss.” The reality is that “technological losses” can be confusing and may be equally or more emotionally painful for some women than a “physical loss.” You may feel that these terms marginalize your experience. It is important to think about what the loss means to you personally, regardless of medical terminology that may be attached to your experience.

  • What physical symptoms did you experience during your pregnancy loss?
  • What did these physical symptoms mean to you?
  • What emotions did you experience while having physical symptoms of a miscarriage?
  • When the miscarriage was confirmed how did you feel? How did these feelings change over time?
  • If you did not experience physical symptoms of a miscarriage, how did you feel when you had discovered the miscarriage? How did these feelings change over time?
  • What did the pregnancy loss mean to you?

The Role of Technology—Today’s advanced technology, such as ultrasound, facilitates intense early bonding experiences. This technology may complicate a woman and her partner’s grief over the loss of a pregnancy. It is important to note the role that technology may be playing in your grieving process. Remember, given how early ultrasound can detect a pregnancy, it is normal to have felt bonded to your baby.

  • When did you first feel bonded with your baby?
  • What other important experiences made you feel bonded to your baby (a particular ultrasound? Feeling movement?)?
  • If you received ultrasounds, how did you react to seeing your baby?
  • What did the ultrasound photos mean to you?
  • How did your feelings of closeness to your baby change over time? Why did they change?

The Myth About the Length of Pregnancy and Grief—The medical community usually believes the longer the duration of the pregnancy, the greater the grief. However, research has found that women’s grief has little to do with the stage of the pregnancy. Rather women’s individual histories and meaning they give to their pregnancies greatly impact their experience of pregnancy loss. Think about what the loss means to you and/or your partner. It may be helpful when you are ready, share these thoughts and feelings with a supportive partner, family member, friend or counselor. Keep in mind that the grieving process is never linear. You may take a few steps forward, and a then a few steps back. Be patient with yourself.

Self-Blame and Guilt—The role of formal and informal education has increased and has provided benefits to women and their partners. However, very often the discourse of this information places women’s behavior during pregnancy under intense personal and political scrutiny. After a miscarriage, many women will experience tremendous guilt and shame over sexual activity, exercise or other habits or behaviors they engaged in while pregnant. However the facts are that it is healthy to have sex and exercise during your pregnancy! It is important to get the facts to reduce self-blame and guilt. If you do not know where to get reliable information, try talking with your OB/GYN or a mental health professional.
Coping—There is no one correct or best way to cope with a pregnancy loss. What might be most effective for one person to cope may not be the most effective way for you to cope. It is also important to note that what the medical community may define as “avoidant” or “dysfunctional” coping may actually be experienced by you and your partner as an effective and helpful way of coping. It is common to experience depression, anxiety and anger after a pregnancy loss. However, know when and how to reach out for professional help if you are concerned about yourself or your partner. Even if what you are experiencing is a “normal” reaction to a miscarriage, it might be helpful to talk about your pregnancy loss to a mental health professional. Mental health professionals may also be able to assist you in the grieving process, offer additional support, and provide you referrals to helpful community resources.

  • What did your pregnancy mean to you?
  • How did your reproductive health history influenced the meaning of the pregnancy?
  • How did your cultural beliefs about pregnancy and motherhood influence the meaning of your pregnancy?
  • How did your religious beliefs influence the meaning of your pregnancy?
  • How did other personal factors or beliefs influence the meaning of your pregnancy?
  • What beliefs do you have about how you SHOULD be grieving over the miscarriage? Compare these to how you are actually grieving.
  • Where do these beliefs about how one SHOULD grieve about a pregnancy loss come from?
  • What, if any, behaviors or habits are you feeling ashamed of or guilty for after the pregnancy loss?
  • What messages did you receive about behaviors to be avoided during pregnancy?
  • Who did you receive these messages from?
  • Who do these messages help?
  • Who do these messages hurt?
  • How can you obtain reliable information about what role particular habits or behaviors played in the pregnancy loss?
  • How are you coping with your pregnancy loss? Consider both “positive” and “negative” ways you may be coping.
  • In what ways do you believe you are coping successfully?
  • In what ways are you concerned about how you are coping?
  • How do you cope with anger? Compare this to how you cope with sadness or other emotions you may be feeling?
  • How do you imagine your friends in Center City Philadelphia would be coping? Are your guesses realistic?
  • Do you feel as if you’re getting enough support? Why?
  • Do you feel as if you cannot talk about your pregnancy loss experience with certain individuals? Why do you think you are feeling this way?
  • How do you feel most supported?
  • Who do you feel most supported by?
  • How can you increase your social support?

Increasing Your Social Supports in Center City Philadlephia—Some women’s partners, friends and family are uncomfortable talking about the pregnancy loss and may not be able to offer support. This can make you feel stigmatized, alone and silenced. If your partner, family and friends cannot provide the support you need, consider joining a Center City Philadelphia support group. Even if you have supportive people in your life, you may want to join a support group for additional social support.

If you are struggling, you do not have to be alone. Help is available. Call today The Center for Growth / Grief Therapy in Philadelphia today and make an appointment with one of our counselors. 267-324-9564

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