My daughter is seven days away from delivering my new grandchild, and due to distance, I am unable to be there. I have lamented over this fact trying to find a solution, but alas, there is not one on the horizon. I have worried about her health as I have watched her over her last trimester. She has endured the fatigue and pain that accompanies the final stage of pregnancy without anyone to help her. She lives in Hawaii, a recent transplant due to her husband’s occupation, and therefore, finds herself without friends or family to love or assist her. Yesterday after she got home from church, she told me something that was absolutely horrifying. While she was in her women’s class, her women’s group leader announced that she had suffered her twelfth miscarriage this past week. Wow, how could you not feel badly for this woman’s emotional pain and suffering? My daughter immediately asked me what she could do for this woman. In order to help someone who has suffered a miscarriage, one must first understand the confusion and grief that accompanies such a profound loss.
Eight Important things to know about Miscarriage and Grief
MISCARRIAGE IS NOT ACKNOWLEDGED AS LOSS
Miscarriage is classified as a non-loss within society. Unfortunately, when a mother miscarries a pregnancy, many people may not have known that she was pregnant. Sometimes the pregnancy announcement is delayed for one reason or another. Parents who have previously suffered miscarriage are less likely to share the news of pregnancy early on due to an apprehension of potential recurrence.
Human beings are experience driven. If one does not have personal experience with a certain thing, one is generally unmoved by it. The missed opportunity of holding, touching, kissing, or cooing a newborn baby leaves us without a tangible experience from which to draw. The parent couple, grandparent couples, and perhaps siblings are potentially the only human beings on the face of the earth who will mourn the loss of a premature infant. This small circle of awareness does not offer a support network of understanding or assistance for those suffering the very real experience of grief following the death of a wee loved one.
MISCARRIAGE IS THE DEATH OF A CHILD
Ask anyone, “What is the worst sort of death known to mankind?” The answer will always be, “The death of a child.”Although others may not have experienced the life of an expectant couple’s baby, the expectant couple has. These parents have planned, prepared, sacrificed, and experienced the life of their child. The death of their baby brings with it the death of their plans and hopes for their future. It brings the same chaos and fears survivors experience at the death of any other loved one. Expectant parents may experience a loss of identity, unity, and purpose. These losses may spill over into other aspects of their lives. Unfortunately, for parents grieving a miscarriage, there is little understanding, or patience found for them within society. They are expected to bounce back as though nothing has happened by people who have not experienced the devastating death of a child.
PREGNANT COUPLES ARE PARENTS
Long before the birth of a baby, parents begin preparing and taking care of their future children. As a teen matures into an adult, their choices regarding nourishment, physical fitness, and psychological balance all have value to the health of their future children. As the time of pregnancy approaches, some parents alter habits such as cigarette smoking and alcohol intake, others may alter medications. During pregnancy, parents may limit activities that might endanger the integrity of full term delivery. As pregnancy progresses, so too do homes. Most parents are busy preparing nurseries and gathering necessities in anticipation of their sweet arrival. By the time a baby is born, its parents have been preparing for his or her arrival and taking care of him or her for quite some time. All of these activities serve to create love and bonding between parents and baby.
GRIEF IS THE PRICE WE PAY FOR LOVE
A parent’s grief is based on their love for their lost child, not for the term of the pregnancy. The desire to parent may have developed as early as childhood. While little girls played with their dolls and little boys defended damsels against imaginary foes, psychological preparations for pairing and parenting were forming. The desire to parent and love our children is deeply rooted within the human experience. The unexpected loss of this natural timeline creates unparalleled grief.
HOLIDAYS WILL BE DIFFICULT
Parents who have lost pre-term babies experience renewed grief on holidays. In particular, as Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and Christmas are family orientated holidays, they tend to be the most difficult holidays to face. As with other losses, death care practitioners suggest the observance of traditions to help ease the burden of grief during a holiday. Traditions help to memorialize deceased loved ones and insure that they will never be forgotten. They bring comfort and solace through expression of familiar actions, words, and deeds. If you are aware of someone who will be suffering grief through a holiday, it is a kind gesture to accompany them through the observance of memorial traditions. It is not necessary that you do anything other than be by their side or offer a quiet ear for comfort. On the other hand, it is a kind gesture if you will be grieving through a holiday to let others know in advance so that they might be aware of your circumstances.
Many parents suffer guilt when they have lost a child. A father may feel that he inadequately protected the integrity of the pregnancy. Mothers often fear that they may have contributed to the loss by doing or by not doing something. In the US, one out of five pregnancies ends in miscarriage.
Four Most Common Causes of Miscarriage
- Abnormal chromosomes
- Medical conditions
- Environmental hazards. (Web MD)
FUTURE PREGNANCY FEARS
Parents who have previously experienced miscarriage will most likely fear future loss. This is a natural concern. As with all medical conditions, consulting with your physician to prepare your body is a good practice. Most physicians prescribe a recovery period before new pregnancies are considered. Following good medical advice and sound nutritional guidelines are essential to the well-being of both mother and child. “ Just 2% of pregnant women experience two pregnancy losses in a row, and only about 1% have three consecutive pregnancy losses. After one miscarriage, the chance of a second is about 14% – 21%.” (USC Fertility, Nov 2009)
A NEW BABY WILL NOT REPLACE A LOST BABY
Many people will advise parents to try for another baby to replace the one that was lost. There is nothing in the world that can replace the loss of a baby, not even a new one. The baby that was lost will remain lost. The grief that accompanies that loss will never disappear. Over time, a parent may be able to manage their sadness, but the grief and pain of a lost child will forever be a part of their lives.
My advice to my daughter to help the woman at her church is to be patient, to be kind, to understand that this woman’s life is painful, that her heart is broken beyond anything imaginable, to be a friend who will listen without interrupting or judging, and to help her when she needs help. Although I do not personally know this woman, I know that she is barely breathing. I wish I were in Hawaii this week to welcome my new granddaughter into the world. I also wish I were in Hawaii this week to help this dear woman through the most tragic experience a mother lives through. The loss of one baby is dreadful enough; the loss of twelve (in a row) overwhelms even a seasoned funeral director. I cannot imagine the pain she must bear daily. As I sit in my office this morning, thousands of miles away from a stranger who has lost her twelfth baby, I can barely breathe myself. As I call upon all of my strength, I cannot regain control over my broken heart for her loss, nor stop my endless flow of sorrowful tears.
My name is Tracy Renee Lee. I am the owner and Managing Funeral Director at Queen City Funeral Home in Queen City Texas. I am an author, syndicated columnist, and certified grief counselor. I write books and weekly bereavement articles related to understanding and coping with grief. I am the American Funeral Director of the Year Runner-Up and recipient of the BBB’s Integrity Award. I deliver powerful messages and motivate audiences toward positive recovery. It is my life’s work to comfort the bereaved and help them live on.
For additional encouragement, read other articles or watch video “Grief Briefs,” please go to my website at www.MourningCoffee.com.