If women were encouraged to grieve more openly, would it be healthier?
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I have never been pregnant. I have never stared at the prophetic sticks that elicit feelings of responsibility, doubt, elation and overwhelming joy as you find yourself entering an alien, yet natural, state of motherhood. Leading on from that, I haven’t experienced a miscarriage. And before writing this article, I was borderline ignorant of everything that it entails. I struggled first to grasp that 1 in 5 pregnancies will end this way.
Trawling through the online forums, where women seek advice and support through their pregnancies, it’s astonishing that so much anguish exists on the internet, as problems neatly stored in the cloud. A pressing silence also endures around “the delivery.” Women can miscarry without realizing at the time or they may suffer pain akin to that of labor. Why is none of this ever discussed? My prior belief was that the suffering 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.
Miscarriage is mostly unpreventable
Miscarriage is scary. It’s mostly unpreventable, and it’s this lack of control 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 the 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.
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 were encouraged to grieve more openly, would it be healthier. Hmmm, maybe healthy isn’t the word. Sane and instinctive seem to fit better.
My only experience with miscarriage came in hushed tones from my mother, years after a 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.
What do we do now about miscarriages?
And now I struggle. What do we do now? 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. 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. 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.