On grieving after miscarriage

Miscarriage is a big deal

I think it can be pretty easy for people who haven’t experienced any sort of baby loss, to think that miscarriage – especially early miscarriage – isn’t that big of a deal.

That it’s really just the body’s natural way of dealing with a pregnancy that isn’t healthy or viable.

Blah blah blah blah blah …

But the truth is that it is a big deal.

You’ve lost your unborn child, and that’s almost always going to be an emotionally and physically traumatic experience.

Don’t minimise your pain

And I know how strong the temptation can be for us as women to rationalise, minimise, to shrink down, and to explain away our pain:

I was only at 8 weeks’

‘It happens to lots of people’

‘Other women have been through far worse ‘

It’s just one of those things’.

I know, because at time I have also said all of these things.

Maybe it’s the desire to look strong, or to make other people more comfortable with your pain, or just needing to keep it together for another child you already have.

But the truth is that as soon as you see those two pink lines appear on a pregnancy test, your world is instantly changed.

And regardless of how short a time you’ve actually known that you’re pregnant for, there’s still a very real sense of sadness and disappointment in your loss, and you will absolutely need to give yourself some time to process it.

So here is a short list of some of the things I learned the hard way in the weeks and months that followed after my miscarriages, as I attempted to move through my pain, and some of they keys I have discovered about how to ‘grieve well’ – if there even is such a thing.

What does it look like to ‘grieve well’?

Give yourself some time

Be prepared to slow the pace of life down a bit, give yourself permission to free up your calendar a little and to cancel unnecessary commitments. Take some time off work or out your regular routine, and allow yourself some time and space to begin to physically and emotionally heal.

You will want to cry a lot – and you should

I cried so much over those early days after my first miscarriage, that I wondered if I would ever feel happy or be able to function properly again… And the truth is that it will feel probably like this for a while . But I promise that it will ease and get easier in time.

In the meantime, my advice is don’t resist it, or bottle it up, or try to appear stronger than you are. Its okay not to be okay.

Be prepared for grief to happen in phases

Like any form of grief, processing miscarriage can happen in phases; shock, numbness, disbelief, anger, disappointment, sadness… and just bucket loads of tears.

And I know that lots of clever experts have written all kinds of things about the grieving process, but the truth is that it’s not a clear or linear process, and there’s no one ‘right way’ to process your feelings.

Practice extra self-care

You will need to be extra kind with yourself for a while and practice lots of good self-care. Make sure you eat well, exercise, sleep enough, get plenty of fresh air, treat yourself, listen to what your body and emotions are trying to tell you, and spend plenty of time with the people you really love.

Give yourself time before you try again

I know, I know … after both of my miscarriages, this was the last thing I wanted to hear. What I wanted was to get pregnant again as fast as humanly possible, and to replace what had been lost, so that we could just draw a line and move on from this awful ordeal.

But honestly, I really wasn’t ready right away, either emotionally or physically. I needed to give my heart and my body some time and space to heal. And what’s more, not recognising this fact, just ended up putting another layer of stress onto us in an already difficult season.

Talk to others who have been there

I’d really recommend that you specifically seek out other women you might know who have had similar experiences in the past to talk with. They might be able to offer some practical advice and lend you some fresh perspective that you really need to hear.

And if you don’t have a good support network around you like this, then why not seek it out by joining an online or offline support group instead, or even consider talking to a counsellor or therapist?

You might feel angry with GodAnd the truth is that I was so raw and so overwhelmed with sadness that I didn’t really feel like talking to God about it right away. I was too angry and raw and disappointed.

Look after your partner too

Often in the aftermath of miscarriage, all of the focus and phone calls and flowers and support can tend to be just aimed at the woman, but it’s important to remember that your partner has experienced a loss too, even it’s not been with the same physicality, and they are hurting too.

So look after each other, keep talking about you both feel, and don’t allow your pain to cause you to withdraw or to isolate you from the other. You will need each other right now, more than ever.

Watch out for the curve balls

Even when you think that you are over your loss, be prepared for the fact that sometimes small, unexpected moments can send you reeling again…

Things like an unintended comment from a colleague about when you are having another child, or a friend’s unexpected 12 week baby announcement on facebook, or certain missed pregnancy milestones or anniversaries.

The truth is that all kinds of things can come up from out of nowhere, which press on your point of pain again and leave you in floods of tears – even months and months after the event.

So just be prepared that it will be like this for a while, but trust me, the sting will lessen over time…

Find some processing tools

This is really important advice that other wise people gave to me. Don’t bottle up your feelings or just let them swallow you up whole, learn how to recognise them and work through them instead.

For me, that mostly looked like writing and talking things through with friends, but for ‘giving voice’ to how you are feelings might look slightly different. So read, journal, blog, paint, write songs, talk to a counsellor, a friend … or whatever you need to do to help you work your way through the sea of emotions.

Get honest before God

All of the above advice has been invaluable to me, but if you only take one thing from reading this article, then I hope it will be this: If you’re a christian, you’ll need to get real and have it out about what is happening with God.

Because all the questions that swamp the mind after going through something like a miscarriage are a heavy burden for anyone to carry; questions laced with shame and blame and doubt.

What did I do to deserve this happening to me?

Did I do miss something or did I do something wrong that caused the miscarriage to happen?

Was I not careful enough? Or were my prayers not faith-filled enough?

Does God not care, did He not notice, or did He actually intend this to happen to me? Maybe God is punishing me …

Incidentally, the answer to all of these questions are: ‘nothing’ and ‘no’. Just in case you were wondering.

But in the face of pain, all of our secret silent unvoiced questions about ourselves, and about God, and how he feels about us, can no longer just be swept under the proverbial carpet. Suddenly they demand to be listen to and answered; and not just with vague, spiritual cliches ‘Like everything happens for a reason’ or ‘It’s all a part of God’s plan’ either.

So the very best recommendation that I can give is creating some intentional space and time to honestly express your raw feelings before God. Don’t rush into this, wait until you really feel able and ready…

But when you do, take all of your rawness and pain and anger and questions and fears right into His presence. He won’t be shocked or surprised or offended by this. After all, as Psalm 139 says, He already knows all of your thoughts from afar.

How grief can become transforming

Psalm 34: 18 says that ‘’The LORD is close to the broken-hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit’.

And in Matthew 5: 4, Jesus himself even said that, ‘Blessed are those who mourn or grieve, for they will be comforted’.

But the truth is that I never really understood these verses at all, until miscarriage entered into my story. I mean, what could possibly be ‘blessed’ about going through heartbreaking loss?

Perhaps there’s some small comfort to be found by the kindness of a stranger in a moment of tragedy, or some fresh hope to be found in the unconditional and unwaivering love and support of your closest family and friends. But is there ever really enough kindness or goodness in the aftermath of the tragedy of loss, that it can actually turn someone’s suffering into a blessing?

For what it’s worth, I really don’t think so…

But after walking through this experience firsthand, not just once but twice now, I think that perhaps the blessing comes not from the grieving process itself, but from the opportunity that this kind of suffering invites into our lives.

Because as we invite God to draw near to us in our brokenness, and allow Him to meet us right in the centre of our sadness, something kind of miraculous and unexplainable happens…

What I have been discovering is that for those who are willing to open themselves up to it, there is great healing to be discovered through draw close to ‘the God of all comfort’, and discovering that the God of all comfort is drawing near to you too.

So maybe the ‘blessing’ is being able to experience ‘the God of all comfort’ in a much deeper, fuller, and richer way in your life – in a way that only those who have walked the path of grief with Him can ever really know.

What’s more, it’s a blessing that gets multiplied in time, because often a new empathy for others who walk that path often enters into your life, that for many of us can only be forged in the crucible of personal pain and loss.

I mean, for example, I know that there’s just no way that I would ever have considered writing such a personal blog to help others through their pain, if I hadn’t lived through all of this heartbreak myself first.

Miscarriage is not a part of God’s will

I absolutely believe all that I have said above about how our pain can become transforming if we allow God to work through it, however I also just want to qualify the above by saying this; I really don’t believe that this means that miscarriage – or any other form of baby loss – is ever a part of God’s will.

Of course, I know that God is sovereign over everything, and that He can bring out of anything that happens at all in our lives. After all, it repeatedly says so in His word:

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8: 28)

But trusting God to bring good from even the most terrible circumstances in our lives and to make our pain transformative, is simply not the same as believing that He willed or intended it to happen.

I know that a lot of christians can make these kinds of comments, but honestly, I think its just really lazy theology, because how could this ever possibly be so?

Could a God of perfect love also be the source of our horrific pain and suffering? Could the author of a life, also be the destroyer of that same life? And could a good God give you the gift of a brand new life, just to snatch it away from you again a few weeks later?

That simply doesn’t match what the Bible says about who God is. And it doesn’t even make any sense either…

The truth is that miscarriage is often unexplained and we simply don’t know what causes it to happen.

But what we do know for sure is that God is not the source of pain or sickness or suffering or death in this world; it is the enemy of our souls, who comes to kill, steal and destroy.

A saviour who draws nears

I would never have chosen miscarriage to be a part of my story, but I also know that if I had never walked through this sadness, disappointment and loss, there would be parts of God’s character that I would never have experienced either.

He is not a God who only sympathises with our pain – He is a God who relates, who understands, and who choose to draw near.

And in times of grief don’t we each need to know and be connected to the One who has walked the path of pain before us, and intimately knows each and every wound?

The truth is that we follow a saviour who knows the path of suffering far better than we do, and He is simply holding out His hand asking each of us to follow Him through it.

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