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Guilt and Shame, You’re Not Invited: Dealing with Miscarriage Grief

The best part about pregnancy is the dreaming.

My husband and I had been trying to get pregnant for about two and a half years before we finally felt the joy of a positive pregnancy test. And that’s when the dreaming began. I dreamt about the future. Will my child be a girl or a boy? Will they be kind or smart or busy or fearless, or maybe all of the above? How will our life look different over the next nine months? Over the next 18 years?

I dreamt about all of the firsts we would have. First tooth, first steps, first birthday, first day of kindergarten, first school dance, first heartbreak. It is almost like my mind allowed me to finally think all the way through what having a baby would look like for us.

And then, at eleven weeks and three days, as I lay in my doctor’s office, we heard the words, “I am sorry, I can’t find a heartbeat.” And suddenly, all of that dreaming was gone. Our tiny baby, the one with the future we were already picturing, was gone. Gone before we even had a chance to know him or her. 

This is what miscarriage, or early pregnancy loss, does. It not only takes your child from you, but it makes you experience the loss of potential life as well. Miscarriage occurs in about 15-20% of all women with a verified pregnancy. That is about 1 in 5 pregnancies. I knew these statistics before I ever started trying to get pregnant, but when it happened to me, I was in disbelief.

The feelings of guilt and shame that are often associated with miscarriage should have no place at the table.

miscarriage grief

I have always been a believer that women should not have to hide their miscarriages from the world; that the feelings of guilt and shame that are often associated with miscarriage should have no place at the table when dealing with your loss. Yet, I felt them anyway.

I hid my miscarriage from almost everyone in my life and felt immense guilt and shame when I told the few friends and family who knew about our pregnancy about our recent loss. 

I felt that because I had not yet announced to the world that I was pregnant, it would be selfish to announce that I had a miscarriage. That somehow doing so would be asking for people to feel sorry for me or that I was seeking attention. But what I found was that as I slowly told others around me, instead of shame, I felt encouraged.

I was encouraged to grieve and to talk about my loss. It wasn’t easy, but I made a decision that I would no longer hide my miscarriage. If the topic came up in conversation, I would share my experience. The process of sharing not only helped me work through my grief, but it helped other women around me. It gave them the opportunity to be heard as well. 

The more I opened up to others, the more I realized how common this was for women – both the loss and the guilt. I found community where I least expected, and I also realized that a lot of what I was going through was more common than I thought. 

Being encouraged to grieve and talk about my loss helped my grief to change.

There are a lot of things that go unsaid when you are in the middle of grief; things are that true, things that are rational, but also things that you know to be untrue or irrational that you feel anyway. 

For me, the irrational and untrue things were the hardest to talk about. It was difficult for me to admit the guilt that I was feeling, to say the words out loud. 

miscarriage support

I can remember the day that I felt my grief begin to change. I was having a conversation with my husband about our recent loss and I remember telling him that I was sorry.

I was sorry for taking away his opportunity to be a parent, as well as my own. I was sorry that my body not only failed our baby, but also failed him. 

Now, I knew that there was nothing I could have done to prevent my miscarriage. And my husband had never done or said anything that made me feel this way. 

These feelings came from a place of guilt, and had I not been encouraged to grieve and to talk about my loss, I never would have been able to express the feelings that were preventing me from moving forward. 

When my grief began to change, it didn’t change quickly, nor did it disappear entirely, but it  eventually lost its grip on me. I was finally allowing myself to enjoy my life, as well as noting the difficult feelings that still arose and moving forward rather than standing still. 

I find that there are still days where I feel uncertain. On these days I try to allow myself space to feel what I am feeling. I think it is important to acknowledge the emotion, sometimes sadness, sometimes anger, sometime guilt; but to also remind myself to continue to look ahead. 

[Editor’s Note: October 15th was Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. In conjunction with this day, NCMB created a place to honor and recognize those precious lives lost. We encourage you to visit our Forever Loved Memory Board in remembrance of your child and to support the many families in our community who have suffered loss.]

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