Miscarriage: The Lonely Goodbye

candle1Scheduled events drive our lives. Weddings, baby showers, and funerals mark major transitions, while soccer practice, choir rehearsal, and book club meetings fill the hours, knitting themselves into the backdrop of our day-to-day routine. But what do you do when something terrible happens that completely alters your universe, but there’s no tradition or template for how to recognize your loss, grieve, and receive support from others? Here are six reasons why I think of miscarriage as the lonely goodbye. At the end of this post is a poem to help observe this loss.

  1. There’s no formal ceremony. When someone dies, there’s usually a funeral, memorial, wake, or graveside service. In many cases, these ceremonies are infused with traditions, religious observances, and reflections on the person’s life. But when a woman has a miscarriage, there’s no widely practiced ceremony to name and grieve this loss. The fact that my miscarriage didn’t warrant any observance hurt my heart, though I was too sad to think of any way to put together my own private observance.
  2. Few people know when it happens. When only a select group of friends and family know about a pregnancy loss, the potential support network is small. For a variety of reasons, women may choose to tell only a very few people about her loss. This means she carries much of the burden of her grief by herself.
  3. Friends and family often don’t know what to say. “You can just try again” and “At least you know you can get pregnant” are not comforting words to a woman who has experienced a miscarriage.
  4. Medical staff may not know how to respond to you with sensitivity. I’ll never forget getting a form letter from the clinic that did my in vitro fertilization cycle. It arrived a couple of weeks after my miscarriage. It basically said, “We’re sorry. But if you just try again, we feel confident it will work out better the second time.” I threw away the letter. My regular OB/GYN was much better in his response: he said he’d support whatever we wanted to do as our next step, assuring us we still had options for achieving a successful pregnancy, if that’s what we wanted to pursue. But he never pressured me to keep trying or to rush to a decision after the miscarriage.
  5. sad womanYour own emotions betray you. This is an issue I explore a bit in INCONCEIVABLE. My miscarriage came after our one and only IVF cycle, which was the culmination of five years of trying to conceive. After I found out I was pregnant, I barely let myself believe it was finally happening, though I savored the joy and hope quietly building in my heart. When the miscarriage happened, I cried gut-wrenching tears and felt such intense anger and sadness for a couple of days. Then, I went numb. I spoke with a therapist because I was worried that I wasn’t crying more. With gentle and kind words, she assured me my feelings were a normal part of the grieving process. She encouraged me to give myself time and space to experience healing, and not to judge my heart for how it mended itself.
  6. Life goes on. This is both a blessing and a curse. Because not many people know what you’ve experienced, it’s easy to pick up again with the rhythms of your routine. But I found myself wanting to say randomly, “Hey. I’ve experienced a major tragedy that likely means the end of our journey to getting pregnant. Mind if we stop a minute and just think about the seriousness of that? Because I’m thinking about it a lot.” Yeah, it would’ve been completely awkward to do that, but I had the weird urge to say it, to rage against the fact that no one noticed my loss and my pain.

I’m interested in hearing from anyone who has found ways to mark and observe their pregnancy loss. I look forward to reading your comments. In closing, here’s a poem I wrote, the kinds of words I wanted and needed to hear after my miscarriage.

The Lonely Goodbye

We tried again to love you into being,
But away you went, leaving me sitting quietly
In an emergency room where doctors mumbled,
“There’s nothing we can do.”
You left behind a box of “somedays.”
(I keep it in my closet on a high shelf.)
Someday, you’ll sit beside me on the piano bench.
We’ll scoop up shells together on the beach.
I’ll laugh when you play dress up in my clothes…
But they will keep. High on that shelf. They must.
For now, it’s time to steel and heal my heart,
And say goodbye to you, my almost-child.

Top image via Flickr by seyed mostafa zamani

Image of sad woman via Flickr by Mitya Ku

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23 thoughts on “Miscarriage: The Lonely Goodbye

  1. I’ve not been there, although there’s about I one in four chance I will. I thought your idea of a lonely goodbye resonated though with what I’d imagine it to be like (to the extent that such losses are imaginable from outside). I’m sorry about that awful letter – must have felt rubbish to receive something so insensitive x

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I think your post summed up the difficulties of pregnancy loss perfectly. It’s a major life event, with lasting effects, yet there’s nothing to mark it’s happening, and not many people feel comfortable talking about it.

    I think one of the key things people need to move forwards is being able to talk about it, and it not be taboo.

    I recently had a conversation with my mum about pregnancy loss, as we both has miscarriages in our late twenties. It was comforting to know we both dealt with it in similar ways – assigning a name and gender to our unborn babies, and remembering them on the date that would have been their birthdays. Knowing my mum went through the same emotions I did, and dealt with them in a similar way made me feel less alone.

    Statistically, 1 in 4 parents lose their pregnancy, so with that many you’re likely to have a relative, friend of neighbour who has experienced some of what you have. If there was less of a taboo surrounding pregnancy loss, women and men who’d experienced it could get together and share their thoughts and feelings, instead of feeling isolated.

    I really like how Japanese culture deals with pregnancy loss, with rituals and grave site for “Mizuko” which translates as “water children”. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mizuko_kuy%C5%8D
    http://www.wnd.com/2015/05/the-tragedy-of-japanese-water-babies/

    I’m sure having somewhere to remember their lost child, and a place where other parents experiencing the same, is a great comfort to those who have miscarriages.

    Thank you for sharing your experiences, and for the beautiful poem.

    I’m sorry for you loss. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve been there four times and I’m sorry to say that it doesn’t get easier and I grieve as much for my first baby as my last. I have been very lucky in that I was able to create two daughters halfway through the miscarriages and they have kept me going. I drew a mandala to remember my babies – though my most recent miscarriage was almost a year ago I haven’t yet felt able to draw one to say goodbye to him (I’ve felt that they were all boys that I lost) it’s been a bad week for me this week because I realised that the last baby would have been six weeks old and both my daughters slept through the night at that age. But all my babies that I lost are now sleeping forever, I really wish it was more ‘normal ‘ to have some way to say goodbye – I believe that in Australia you have to register the baby after a certain amount of weeks of pregnancy if it dies. We should have that everywhere. You wrote a beautiful poem that sums up exactly what all mothers feel when they lose a baby (and you are definitely a mother even if it was only for a few weeks or months) thank you for being our voice ♥♥♥

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kate: I’m so sorry to hear about your losses, but I’m happy to know you have two daughters to full your arms and your heart. Still, I know the pain lingers, and we all muddle through the pain and grief the best we can. I wish you much comfort and peace as you continue to move forward in the wake of such heart break…((hugs))

      By the way…our post-IVF miscarriage was the final straw for us, and we ended up adopting three AMAZING children. Becoming a mother through adoption has helped my heart heal, but there’s always a scar from the loss I endured so early in my pregnancy.

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      • Thank you 🙂 I want to try for another baby after Christmas, I feel it’s my last chance to have a third child, I turned 40 this year and whilst my mum was 43 when she had my youngest sister I am aware that my biological clock is ticking. My mum had several miscarriages too and one she haemorrhaged so badly it’s a miracle she went on to have more children (I’m the eldest of nine 🙂 ) But even though she has experienced it, I still can’t talk to her about exactly how I feel – she understands the heartbreak, but not necessarily the spiritual connection I have had with all the babies I have lost, and my husband – well he won’t talk about it, he could barely comfort me last year when I was told I had miscarried, and if I try to talk to him about it he just says ‘why haven’t you let go of that already?’ So if I’m having a bad day/week I don’t talk to him about it anymore. He’s not that keen on me having another baby – but I feel if I don’t try then I will always be left wondering if next time it would work out ok.

        I’m so glad you were able to adopt your babies! 😀 That is so beautiful! If I hadn’t had my girls then I would have done that too 🙂 Blessings to you and your beautiful family 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • Kate: I understand about your desire to try once more time. Regardless of where you path takes you, I wish you all the best and many blessings. Thank you for the kind words about how our family came together. It’s really been the happiest of endings (beginnings!) for us.

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  4. I’m so sorry you’ve experienced this pain. I’ve never felt such despair as when we miscarried after infertility treatments. We commemorated our little boy with the purchase and planting of a rose tree. We found a statue of a baby wrapped in angels wings that sits under the tree. My tears have since stopped every time I see it, but I struggle when I am asked how many children I have. I don’t know how to answer that question. I want to claim my child, but it brings up the pain if I have to explain.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The image you paint of the rose tree and baby statue wrapped in angel’s wings is peaceful and lovely. What a beautiful way to honor and remember your little boy. You’re right…it’s quite challenging to know what to say and how much to say. I hope my book helps people who haven’t experienced miscarriage to feel more comfortable with the topic, and understand that, for many of us, it’s a part of our family’s story…and that the child we lost matters. ((hugs))

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  5. 5. Your own emotions betray you.
    Betray you they really do. I didn’t realise until the other day that I was still grieving, still am grieving. The things you’d normally do, that would normally make you happy, don’t, but you don’t necessarily feel sad. You still smile and laugh and run jokes, you still go out and have fun the way you know how, and you think that you’re ok now. But the truth is, you would have been so much happier if . . .

    I haven’t cried about my miscarriage in months and here I am tearing up. And I feel like I should have gotten over it by now because that’s what everyone else expects. Everyone went on with their lives while we’re here trying hard to not feel that hole in our chest, but it’s there and it is huuuuge, and heavy, and sometimes really unbearable.

    Sometimes, even though we know women who have had miscarriages, you still feel like you can’t talk to them. Most of them have gone on to have children afterwards and so they are good. Their miscarriage is in the past, while for some of us, it is too recent to move on, too recent to shrug it off. It gave me some measure of relief it know my grandmother went through it, and she reached out to me to reassure me that yeah these things happen, but can I talk to her about how I’m feeling? Not really. I’ve tried and gotten nowhere. Sometimes, just knowing it happens and that people around you have experienced it is not enough. Sometimes the judgemental stares, the pitiful looks, the fake (cause it feels fake) sympathy does not help, does not make me want to talk about it, does not make it any better.

    I’m sorry for hijacking your comments, you did a lovely post that I had to share and I had to comment on. I am truly sorry for your loss. And I’m grateful that you shared your poem. I wish I could do poems, I instead wrote a letter to my little one.

    I wish you all the best :’)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Char: Please don’t apologize for your comment. Thank you for opening up and sharing your experiences. It IS a lonely, long, and surprising journey to peace and healing after a miscarriage. We knew we were likely done with trying to pursue pregnancy after our miscarriage. For us, adopting our three children did help us move forward, but we never truly took the time to grieve and recover from the miscarriage. I think each person goes through stages of grief, and just needs to be kind and gentle with themselves. I’m glad you’ve tried to connect with your grandmother who also had a miscarriage. I think it does help to know you aren’t the only one in your family to experience this kind of loss. I’m sending you hugs and wishes of peace and comfort on your journey. And thank you for your kind wishes for me. ((hugs))

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    • I don’t think it’s something anyone gets over. I have two biological children age 3 and 10 months and when I accidentally got pregnant in June, I say accidentally because who in their right mind would intentionally get pregnant after giving birth 6 months prior. After I lost my baby I honestly feel like he/she took a piece of me and I will never be whole again no matter how many kids I go on to have. I had so many plans for that baby and now they are just gone. All I have left is a slip from the health department saying it was positive, a tshirt I made for my son announcing the pregnancy, and a bottle of prenatal vitamins, oh and lastly a pregnancy test that I just can’t bring myself to throw away. It’s barely even positive anymore. Miscarriage has a way of changing you, Alienating you.

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  6. This really pulled at me. I lost a baby at 6 weeks back in June and I think about him/her all the time. I only knew about my baby for a little less than a week but in that one week my whole life changed. I imagined what my new addition would look like. Would she have blue eyes her brother, would he have curls like his sister? Can I fit 3 carseats across my back seat? What will our sleeping situation look like? My son would have only been 1 and a half when the new baby was due, would I have 2 cribs in my room? Pink or blue? Then it was over, just like that. Poof, all my hopes and dreams for my youngest child. GONE! Just like that. Life went on like nothing ever happened. A piece of me died with my baby and I really don’t think I will ever be the same.

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    • I’m so sorry to hear about your loss. It DOES change you and challenge you. I also had built up all these images of decorating my child’s nursery, picking out names, etc. I finally let myself “go there” when I got pregnant after our IVF cycle. Then, yes–POOF! It’s gone in an instant. I’m sending you big hugs for healing and peace as you move forward. Thank you for having the courage to share your experience.

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  7. I’m intrigued by the idea of microchimerism: DNA from a woman’s babies, even lost in a miscarriage, continues to exist in their bodies for the rest of your life, and appears to provide health benefits. Although the emotional effect is undoubtedly stronger, this is a biological way they really do change us and stay with us.d

    I also hope that everyone who needs it can reach out to an organization that supports pregnancy and infant loss. In Colorado, I’ve been attending Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep walks and balloon releases; it is hard and it is sad but it helps so much for everyone to come together to acknowledge the loss of these babies. Any partner who says “you should be over it by now” can see the crowd of people disproving this judgement.

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