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How to help parents after miscarriage

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How to help parents after miscarriage

A miscarriage is a horrific loss for a mother, their partner, and their family. The cultural norm, in many societies, is for the mother to keep the loss a secret. Either just to herself or between her and her partner, allowing them to privately mourn. This was the situation in my country, Ireland, with my family.


My mother, in hushed tones, recently described how many years ago a close relative – my aunt – had experienced the loss of her unborn child. She described how the emotional pain of that loss had given rise to depression and loneliness.

Before that conversation I had never thought about entering that alien, yet natural, state of motherhood. Nor had I ever thought about miscarriage. And before writing this article, I was borderline ignorant of everything that miscarriage entails.

After reading about miscarriages on March of Dimes I struggled first to grasp that 1 in 5 pregnancies will end this way. Then, trawling through the online forums, where women seek advice and support through their pregnancies, it was astonishing for me to read so much happiness and anguish on the internet about pregnancy. There were two online conversations, one about the joys of pregnancy and childbirth, and another about miscarriages.

I learned that women can miscarry without realizing it at the time, or for some, a miscarriage can brings as much physical pain as that of labor. Why is none of this ever discussed? Why were we never taught this at school? I used to believe that the suffering from miscarriage was entirely psychological, that the embryo dissipates into thin air. Grief is the bundle that women receive from this experience in replace of a child.

I kept thinking as I delved deeper and deeper into the web: how to help parents grieve after miscarriage? How can we help parents grieve after miscarriage if that they don’t talk about it?

Miscarriage is mostly unpreventable

Miscarriage is scary. It’s mostly unpreventable and it’s this lack of control that causes us to retreat to tired mysticisms of the past. Similar to when medieval people whipped themselves in repentance to God so to be spared from the plague; presently silence attempts to ward off the unpreventable.

Women who experience ‘products of conception,’ as the medical terms so compassionately define, are left to the torrent of shock, guilt, numbness, and grief. It is cruel to be forced to remain silent. It is an utterly traumatic event, and I am angry for every woman, every couple who has to deal with the events through a muted wall.

I can only imagine that their world, for a time, splits into two dimensions. The one where they must cork their heartache and return to the office. Days before, your bundle of joy was hidden from the world to stave off the “just in case” fears that society has broadly classed unspeakable. Now, you carry something altogether different, confidential and solitary anguish.

Doubtless, loved ones of those that are coping, or not, with depression and anxiety, are not dutifully ignoring their suffering. I think what they are striving for is ‘tactful.’ That she will pull herself together in her own time. Or that she is ‘managing fine’ as if her emotions are subordinates in a firm. All she must do is threaten them with a lack of a Christmas bonus to get them back in line.

How have we come here?

That a woman should have to succumb to other’s squeamishness, which is apparently far more critical to avoid than to heal the anguish and offer support for someone who is mourning. Yes, better that than perhaps facing an uncomfortable conversation. Hang on a minute, what are we, Victorians?

But if women were to open up, they may find unity, acceptance and a lifebuoy to help them survive the psychological effects. And if they are to open up we better know how to help parents after miscarriage.

Why can a mother of such a frail fetus not attend a funeral service, or be held by the solemn, ancient gathering of pain and loss? This human connections tenderly cradles suffering; a soft blanket of compassion, the fibers absorbing the floods of tears and the whimpers of sorrow. In normal circumstances, the grief heals, we find the gap that blew apart our life heals over. That is not the case in miscarriages.

I can’t help but wonder, if women and their partner were encouraged to grieve more openly, would it be healthier. Hmmm, maybe healthy isn’t the word. Sane and instinctive seem to fit better.

As mentioned at the start of this article my only experience with miscarriage came in hushed tones from my mother, years after a close relative had experienced the loss. I would nod, remain calm but inside wonder how my aunt had gotten through it without family support.

My clan is woven snugly and, secrets are easily uncleaved. Not through probing but trust. Trust that we will understand and support each other. However, the miscarriages were never unveiled, never spoken about, though I firmly believe, not forgotten.

9 Ways to help parents after miscarriage

  1. Try and talk openly about the miscarriage. Ask questions about the miscarriage and how the parents are feeling. If in doubt, let them know if you are unsure what to say or do.
  2. Whether they are in the hospital or at home, pay a visit. It is essential to acknowledge the family’s experience and express your own feelings of sadness, disbelief, and helplessness.
  3. Invite them to go out with you. Whether it is for a coffee or simply a walk in the park.
  4. If parents had given the baby a name, deliberately mention their name and talk about the hopes and dreams you had for the family as the parents of this baby.
  5. Take the time to do your own research to learn about miscarriage and bereavement.
  6. Be practical when offering to help parents after miscarriage. Offer help with housework, cooking, or childcare, etc.
  7. Be available to listen to the parents. They will often want to go want to repeatedly go the details. Even if you have heard it before, listen.
  8. Bereaved parents can sometimes have unpredictable behavior, and that’s okay (as long as no one is at risk of harm).
  9. After a miscarriage, parents will also want to be alone. Respect that space.
Source: Red Nose Australia

What do we do now about miscarriages?

And now I struggle. What do we do now? How can I help my aunt? How do we help these women, and of course, their partners, if we are left unaware? What if they want to cover their personal loss; what if opening up is too distressing. But if it’s too painful to share, then surely it must feel toxic internally.

I hope more dialogue opens up about miscarriage. And that by writing and discussing miscarriages I will help heave open the heavy door that holds the secrets of loss. I hope I never have a miscarriage, but if I do, I hope I will have the strength to speak about my baby and lean on those I love.

I hope women talk about their experiences with miscarriage. Not only to heal themselves but to allow others to mourn. It’s hard to believe that we’ve managed to sweep such a volume of pain under a societal carpet. But we have. It’s time to pull it all out know. To be brave. To help others. And yourself.

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Article by
Roseanne Murphy

Getting to grips with gripping my readers. Rallying troops for the Uncomfortable Revolution.

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If women were encouraged to grieve more openly, would it be healthier?

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