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  • Writer's pictureNatasha Patiño

"The Silent Grief" - Grieving Miscarriage & Infant Loss



Hello everyone, Natasha here and welcome back to my blog!


This post has to do with something very important that happens to so many of us, yet we often don’t talk about…hence the title, “The Silent Grief.” Today, October 15th, is National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. Many people are not aware of this special day, and how it is designated for miscarriage, stillbirth, and infant loss. The goal with today’s blog is to understand that you are not alone if you have been through this loss, and that you do not need to be silent about it any longer. Whether it happened last month or 10 years ago, your grief is valid and important to us. And if you have not been through this, I hope this can help you support loved ones that have.


Statistics

Before we get into how to help you heal and support one another, let’s talk about statistics and facts. A “miscarriage” is defined by a pregnancy loss that occurs before the 20th week mark, whereas a pregnancy loss after the 20th week is considered a “still birth.” It is important to note that pregnancy losses are mostly due to factors that are completely out of the person’s control. Of course, there are risk factors that can contribute to it. The Mayo Clinic (Miscarriage - Symptoms and causes - Mayo Clinic) identifies seven of them: age, previous miscarriages, chronic conditions, uterine or cervical problems, smoking/alcohol/illicit drugs, weight, invasive prenatal tests (some prenatal genetic tests carry a slight risk of miscarriage). Most of the time, though, we cannot pinpoint what causes the loss, even though grieving mothers often constantly ask themselves “what went wrong?” And why wouldn’t they?! They are trying to process this major loss in their lives!


Unfortunately, throughout my research for this blog, it was very hard to find resources in Spanish to refer to, so all my references are in English. But one great resource is Tommys.org (How common is miscarriage? | Tommy's (tommys.org). There they explain that 85% of pregnancy loss occurs during the first trimester, which is weeks 1-12 of pregnancy. And 1 in 4 pregnancies will end in miscarriage which shows how common it is. So bottom line, the chances of your coworker, cousin, neighbor, mom having gone through this is very high. We just don’t talk about it…. but why? Let’s talk about that next!


Taboo subject

Unfortunately, miscarriage and infant loss is often still a very taboo subject that we do not talk about it. This is where the ‘silent grief’ term comes from, where grieving parents often keep to themselves and do not talk to others about their loss. We are going through an emotional roller coaster, where we are devastated with the loss of what could have been, anger (at God, ourselves), confusion (“why did this happen?”), shock (“what just happened!”), jealousy (“why did she have a healthy baby and I did not?”), then guilt over being jealous of other’s healthy pregnancies. This roller coaster will take a toll on our lives, where one second, we are ‘fine,’ then crying, then withdrawn, then angry, and all over again. Some may feel relief due to not wanting the baby in the first place, then having guilt with the loss.

A major feeling that grieving mothers have, though, is shame. It’s really easy to feel like we are alone, so of course we start feeling like something is wrong with us! We also question ourselves, our bodies, and ask things like ‘why me?!” I cannot say this enough, you are not alone! Below are some tips on helping you through your journey of healing.



Process of Healing:

1. Share your story with loved ones

We, humans, are meant to be connected and support one another. When we isolate ourselves, this often results in depression highlighting the need to have people to turn towards. When we are grieving, more than ever, we need someone that will listen and help us hold the emotional pain we have. This is a very personal matter so I’m not saying to tell everyone your story because it’s an intimate story. What I mean, is to reach out to loved ones that have earned the honor of hearing your story. This helps us verbalize the pain and get if off our chest, versus keep it in and bottle the pain inside. Often with grieving parents, I encourage them to talk with someone outside the marriage also, because their partner is also grieving and can have a hard time holding their partner’s pain when they are overloaded with their own.

2.) Honor your baby’s memory

If you have experienced this grief, please take time this month of October to honor your baby and their life in a way that feels special and right for you. I often tell my clients when they have a loved one pass away, to do the same thing. This can help grieving parents with their emotional healing. Some examples would be to paint some rocks with their baby’s name

on it and add it to a special garden you have in your yard. Plant a tree in your back yard in their honor. Maybe you could write them a letter of how much they were loved in their short period of life and send it up to the sky in a balloon. Your baby was already so loved, let’s make it a yearly tradition to honor their memory!


3. Express your needs

I had a client once explain how when she had to go to her OB/GYN appointment shortly after her miscarriage, she could not handle being in the waiting room with all the expectant mothers. My client still looked pregnant, so when the other mothers all smiled at her politely, and asked about her pregnancy, my client had to run to the restroom and broke down. “What just happened?” she thought. It’s an emotional roller coaster!


During this time of grieving, it’s important to try to express your needs. Don’t be shy! No one can meet your needs if you don’t tell them. So whether it’s calling your OB/GYN office and asking if you can wait in your car until they’re ready instead of waiting in the waiting room, is an example. Tell your best friend that you cannot make her son’s birthday party because you can’t handle being around kids. Telling your husband that you just don’t have the energy to cook or clean and that you need help, is another one. Asking your friends for any kind of help! Your friends, family, and especially partner want to help support you, but they may need some direction.



 

How to Support Our Loved Ones:

1. Just LISTEN!

The best thing sometimes, is just to make a safe space for your loved one to cry, vent, process what happened. There’s no need for you to fix it or tell her what to do…just listen. For the grieving fathers, asking him to go out for a coffee or beer and just sit with him, can mean a lot. He’s trying to hold it together for his partner, but he’s in just as much pain too. A good read for not just the parents but loved ones who want to support, is “Empty Arms” by Sherokee Ilse. I have never read it but heard very good things about it from clients that have read it. Definitely worth reading!


"Empty Arms" by Sherokee Ilse

2. Related to the last tip, VALIDATE!

This basically is accepting and respecting what the other one is feeling. Saying things like “that had to be so hard,” or “of course, anyone would be angry too,” or “you have a right to be upset with everything you have been through.” Even, “I can’t even imagine what you’re going through, but I’m here for you.”


3. LIGHTEN the grieving parent’s load.

Whether it’s taking their other kids to their soccer games, wash their dishes/laundry, organize a meal train for them (mealtrain.com), mow their lawn, whatever so they can focus on their loss.



What NOT to Say!!

Many of us have good intentions when we want to support loved ones that had a pregnancy loss BUT put our foot in our mouths and hurt them instead! Below are some things NOT to say, and a brief explanation of why not to say it.


  • “You’re still young. You can have another.” – NO! It’s basically insinuating that the loss was no big deal. It’s very dismissive!

  • “Well, good thing you have other children already.” – OUCH! No, that’s similar to the last one. You can also make the mom feel guilty because she does already have children, BUT it’s still a very big loss. Imagine someone saying that about your own kids or niece/nephew. How heartbreaking!

  • You should just get back to the gym or work and you’ll feel better”- The message here is to get over it. NOPE, let them grieve!

  • “I understand how you feel.” - This is a big NO, NO!!! Even if you had a miscarriage in the past, it’s not about you right now. Maybe down the road you can talk about your experience, but it’s about the grieving parents right now.

  • “At least he’s with God now” or “He’s an angel now.” Even if the mom has strong faith, she, understandably so, wants the baby with her.

  • At least you weren’t farther along.” or “At least you can get pregnant.” Just…NO!



I hope that after reading this, you are either more aware of how to support loves ones going through this loss or you have found some helpful tools to help you with your loss. Most importantly for you grieving parents, remember that this is your timeline and there is no set timeframe that you need to ‘move on.’ This is your life and your relationship, so if you choose to wait to try for another child, want to try right away, if you want to start fertility treatments. It’s your timeline!


Now, if you continue to struggle with managing everyday tasks and having a hard time managing this alone or with your support system, please consider reaching out to a therapist. Having a safe space with someone from an outside perspective to help you with your struggles can be powerful. Support groups have also been shown to be very effective.

Please feel free to reach out to me, and I can help connect you with a therapist.


For now, let’s continue to support one another during this difficult time, so we can accompany one another in our healing.


Until next time,





 


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