Caring for Each Other After a Miscarriage

The loss of a child before it is born naturally stirs intense and conflicting emotions. Women might feel an intense physical bonding and grief for a being with whom they have already grown attached. Whereas men might feel more ephemerally connected and cheated from the opportunity to begin their bond. When miscarriage affects couples, it may stimulate growth or, conversely, unearth an inability to support each other through troubling times. The confusion surrounding one’s own feelings as well as how to be of real support to one’s partner after the loss tends to disrupt the balance of our relationships. This is especially true if some of that balance lay in the shared anticipation of parenthood. The inability to share and understand each other’s grief can be an isolating experience.

One week after the loss, most women report feeling closer interpersonally with their partner while feeling more distant sexually. As time progresses and different coping strategies for grief kick in, the feelings of closeness fade even when their sexual relationship recovers. Partners with significantly different grieving patterns may be at particularly high risk for subsequent marital conflict or emotional withdrawal.

A recent study on women’s perceptions on their relationship after a miscarriage (1) shows a dramatic decrease in interpersonal and sexual intimacy for most couples up to one year after a miscarriage. At that point only about half of women interviewed report a return to normalcy in their relationship (there is no data available on men’s perceptions).

Percentage of Women Claiming Their Interpersonal and Sexual Relationships Were Closer, As It Was, or More Distant

 

 

 

 

Results of the study showed that women who perceived their partners engaged in mutual sharing of feelings and experiences claimed to grow closer interpersonally and sexually. When partners failed to do things that showed they cared, women felt abandoned. These results combined with the findings of others (2) that men tend to keep to themselves after miscarriage deny their own loss, engage in avoidance, distract themselves through work and, if highly self-critical, experience greater despair and difficulty suggest that couples may need coaching in how best to care for each other after miscarriage.

Should you find that your partner experiences feelings of grief at the same intensity and duration as you, count yourself fortunate. Grief, by definition an extremely uncomfortable emotion, when shared and reflected accurately by another, tends to wane and can actually strengthen us over time. Creating supportive rituals to acknowledge and soothe one another’s pain are tremendously helpful for those who have experienced a miscarriage. Funerals, wakes, and birthday and anniversary routines all serve to give parents healing time; honoring the role that the “child to be” continues to play in their family and restoring a sense of meaning to the loss.

It is important to normalize the fact, however, that men and women tend to experience the impact of miscarriage differently. Coping with loss is a unique experience for each of us and there is no “right way” to go about it. Women, in general, do not need to learn to toughen up and let go. Nor do men need to soften up and express themselves more deeply. Often we choose our partners precisely because of these differences. The health of our long term commitment to one another depends on remaining curious and respectful of how those differences evolve over time.

Should weeks of estrangement from your partner’s grief become months (or years), it would be a good practice to explore new pathways for connection. The topic of miscarriage may seem still terribly hurtful to one, and all but forgotten to the other. Remember that getting outside help is appropriate at any stage of grief. Couples counseling provides neutral territory for safely acknowledging the new terrain of your marriage and what new shared coping strategies might still be available.

References:
(1) Miscarriage Effects on Couples’ Interpersonal and Sexual Relationships During the First Year After Loss: Women’s Perceptions
(2) Kristen M. Swanson, RN, PhD, FAAN, Zahra A. Karmali, BA, Suzanne H. Powell, BS, BA and Faina Pulvermakher, BS, MT (ASCP)
Psychosomatic Medicine 65:902-910 (2003)
© 2003 American Psychosomatic Society

© Copyright 2011 by By Jonathan Bartlett, MA, MFT. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Andy

    October 24th, 2011 at 11:54 AM

    Any problem that a couple faces needs to be resolved together with care and concern for each other.While there is a lot of room for the problems to actually create a space between a couple,a little work in its direction can ensure that the gap is not created and that they stand by each other and provide support to each other.

  • trever

    October 24th, 2011 at 4:41 PM

    My wife and I lost a baby to miscarriage a few months ago and it does not feel like life is going to be the same again. I am ready to start trying again but she acts like she might never wabt to try for a baby again at all. I am sad too at what we lost but hopeful for the future. I think that she has lost that.

  • BRENDA

    October 25th, 2011 at 5:52 AM

    A miscarriage is a very tough time for any woman.It is sad for both the partners but for a woman it is far more important.And it means that her partner should be concerned and do all that he can to make her feel better while the relationship recovers too.

    Emotional support at such a time can do wonders for both the partners and they are the best source of emotional support for each other.This can heal them and the relationship quickly.

  • Donette

    October 25th, 2011 at 1:32 PM

    Thankfully I have never had to experience having a miscarriage so I don’t know how I would feel to lose a life like that. It must be terribly painful for both the husband and the wife. I wish that this was something that could be handled a little differently though because a lot of times couples will not even reveal to close friends that they have gone through this and they could use that support if only they felt like they could open up and talk about it. We have somehow made this into something that people do not necessarily feel all that comfortable talking about and it should not be that way. This could be a time when you need your friends and family the most yet for many couples they feel like they only have each other to cling to during this time of loss.

  • Rosa Hernandez

    October 28th, 2011 at 12:23 AM

    Miscarriage is a fact of life that everyone has been affected by, directly or indirectly, at least once in their lives. 25% of all pregnancies will end this way, either early or late. When it happens you just have to accept that your pregnancy was one of the 25% and move on with your life. It can be heartbreaking but there was quite literally nothing you could do.

  • Brianna Colt

    October 28th, 2011 at 12:54 AM

    It is traumatic but pregnancy has a lot of things that nobody will tell you about until the last minute. If you look up “Things they don’t tell you about childbirth and pregnancy” on Google, you’ll learn things only your mother could have told you and didn’t. Miscarriage rates are one of them and how to properly cope with it is another.

  • Cleo T.

    October 28th, 2011 at 3:12 PM

    @Rosa- There isn’t a maximum limit to how many times you can try for a child unless the miscarriage was caused by something wrong with the uterus. Couples can always try again and hope for the best. My grandmother has four children and she told me she also had two miscarriages.

  • JennaHorne

    October 28th, 2011 at 3:25 PM

    In my experience working as a midwife, I find that deeply religious people are affected the most by miscarriage, blaming themselves for some minor thing they did that upset God or the time they didn’t go to Church years ago instead of realizing that these things happen. It harms them both mentally and spiritually. I myself am Jewish and I know that He would not dare kill your child for a wrong you did years ago. The Bible is clear that His Judgment is swift and final.

  • Sally Garland

    October 28th, 2011 at 7:36 PM

    A woman’s attachment to her child can appear before the child is even conceived almost–it’s instinct, and losing a child is a very stressful event.

    When it happens, everyone should help her become stronger, while giving her space to catch her breath and get back on the rails with her life at her own pace. Then she can decide without pressure alongside her husband if they should try a second time or give up.

  • Peter Strong

    October 30th, 2011 at 6:24 AM

    There are two parts to the grieving process for loss. The first is grieving externally. This is where we need the support of our partner, family and friends. We need to talk, to find words that resonate with our inner feelings and then express them to another. This is an essential part of the resolution process.
    The second part of the process is inner grieving. This is where we “sit” with our inner emotions, in the same way that a good friend sat with us while we struggled to find the words to express ourself.
    We need to care for the inner hurt by listening to it and giving it the inner space in which to express itself and change, which it will if given the freedom to change.
    Both inner and outer grieving are required for full healing and resolution that brings closure.

  • lost child

    June 23rd, 2012 at 2:12 AM

    I just had a miscarriage this week, and I literally cry myself to sleep at night, I try to be strong but I feel empty, like life came in me and quickly disappeared, Im not giving up but at the moment the thought of sex scares me and when I see a new born I find myself holding back tears, I know this is hard for my partner as well but His feelings are different from mine, I just want my baby back but I guess it just wasnt meant to be for US

  • April :)

    July 1st, 2015 at 11:02 AM

    Dear Lost child,

    It has been three months since God called my baby boy home. Like your child, s/heis not lost, rather s/he is with God. I have a memory box for my son. It has all the things from my pregnancy that I experienced. The memory box really helped me with my grief at the beginning. My family and I put sonogram pictures, the pregnancy journal my partner and I filled out each week, and some other adorable baby things that he would have enjoyed had he entered this world full-term. The memory box helps me so much now. Every day, it warms my heart to know my little boy will not be forgotten.
    Your post brought me comfort when I read that you wanted your baby back. I still say that today. I do not think I will ever stop wanting him back. But at the very least, I am still so happy I had him in my life for the short time I did, because it was truly the happiest time of my life. I would not trade it for anything. Take your time and do you in your grieving process, and pray. I will be praying for you and your family too.
    From one Mommy to another, I fully understand. God bless! ~ April :)

  • Mrs Davis

    January 13th, 2017 at 7:16 PM

    I really needed to see this post. My heart is so heavy right now. I just found out yesterday that I was pregnant and today that I am having a miscarriage. It hurts so bad that I had life one day and the very next day it is gone. Please pray for me and my family that God blesses us the way he has for you and your family.

  • Anonymous

    April 26th, 2017 at 12:50 PM

    We are going through another miscarriage, number 3. My lover suffers greatly. Her speach is singular, lonley. I am doing everything I can to support her, to show I am here for her. when I am not actually at work, my day, my time is devoted to her and bringing comfort .I read through the other responses they show little support or understanding for the male. Why is it we are expected to be the pillars at all times? When do I get to crawl into bed and not get up? When do I get to grieve? The pregnancy involved two and so does the miscarriage. The pain I’m feeling is great, but set aside in support of her. I can not understand all that she is feeling. I do know what she is missing though. I’m a father too young men. Baby waking us up at night to be fed and the coo that fallows in recognition of comfort from a full belly. Your child looking back into your eyes. The over whelming love that stretches the seams of your heart. Babies laugh that pushes away the clouds for the sun to shine on you all. When they first speak and call you “daaaaaDDa”. When they cry out and calm when they hear your voice. The first time they are sick. When you hold them and feel love resting in your arms. All these things I want for her so badly. All these things we haven’t and as it looks will not experience together. She is such an amazing , incredible woman, human being. Miscarriage happend to both of us, to you both. Hold one another. Hold one another as the roots of a tree do in storms. The trunk does not claim victory over the branch and root. It is one. You will sway together, branches will bend and crack but heal. The storm will pass and have fead you for remaining up right. The grief is both of yours, the healing and success are yours as well. The idea and perpetuation to grant and support the woman more only isolates you both. Never is it true that One is less, one is more. The life created came from both of you. The life lost and pain born is both of yours. Be the tree.

  • Mahadev

    June 26th, 2017 at 9:34 PM

    Hello, I feel very sad becaue my wife had miscarriage in her 6th week of pregnancy..it’s was normal when we gone through sonography test..just after a day she started heavy bleeding and extreme abdomen pain
    We rush to the hospital..resulting in miscarry..my family is so disturbed and sad. I would like to tell..that I am feeling more attached to my wife now..God Bless Us

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