Since I had a miscarriage, it seems like my husband and I are strangers to each other. I feel like he doesn't want to be around me right now. I don't know what to do anymore. Is there is any hope for us being like we used to before the miscarriage?
Answer: All couples go through a period of adjustment before, during and after a pregnancy loss. Partners may never seem to be on the same page, and ordinary irritations can escalate quickly. You may feel like your marriage is destined to dissolve at times. As if you don't have enough going on in your mind after a miscarriage!
If you've gone to any support groups, read any other miscarriage stories online, or started hearing the personal stories from all the women in your life you never knew had gone through a pregnancy loss, you've already realized that everyone's experience is unique. While there are certain common reactions to grief, not everyone will experience them in the same way, or the same order.
The Five Stages of Grief
You've probably already heard about the Five Stages of Grief and no doubt felt just about every possible emotion since your pregnancy loss -- swinging from stage to stage enough to make yourself dizzy. Anger, sadness, guilt, moments of joy and even a few moments where your first thought wasn't about your lost baby. Likewise, you'll probably recognize a lot of these emotions in your spouse. The trouble tends to come in when you're feeling different things at different times.
Men and women grieve and show emotions differently. A pregnancy loss is one of those rare times when you and your spouse are experiencing grief for the same reason. It can be confusing for you as you try to support each other when you are in different places emotionally.
For example, a man may keep his grief more private and may not be as prone to crying as a woman. That doesn't necessarily mean he isn't sad, but his wife, who is already emotionally raw, may perceive it that way. To make matters worse, both partners may feel their own emotions are "wrong" and feel bad about not having the same grieving reaction as their spouse. On top of that, there is often a tremendous amount of guilt for both partners during a pregnancy loss, and they may believe their partners blame them in some way. Which leads to more anger, sadness and withdrawal, ultimately making the situation worse.
So what can you do?
1. Talk. It may sound simplistic, but it's the No. 1 thing you can do to cope with the strain in your relationship. Too often, people hide their feelings from each other, even unintentionally because of guilt, resentment or just the simple assumption that their partners know how they feel without needing to speak up. Talk to each other, talk to other people who know what you're going through. Just don't expect anyone to know what's inside if you don't share.
2. Don't rush it. Grieving takes time, and there are no deadlines, despite what you may hear or the pressure you may feel. Keep talking, and remember that there will be good days and bad days, and there is nothing wrong with having a bad day even after you thought you were "over it."
3. Recognize each other's personal grieving style. Even if you can't understand why your partner feels differently than you, or if you think your partner is "taking too long" or "rushing it," it can make all the different just to realize there are all kinds of ways to grieve and there is no "right way." Give each other the freedom to deal with this in your own unique ways, but don't be afraid to be honest about your own feelings, even if your partner seems to be on a different wavelength.
4. Honor the memory of your pregnancy. We tend to avoid talking about miscarriage and pregnancy loss because it makes people uncomfortable. You may feel that you're expected to forget what happened or hide the memory away. But grief work includes remembering. Some things you might do are: give your baby a name, keep mementos provided to you by the hospital, light a birthday candle on your due date or the anniversary of your miscarriage, give to a charity in your baby's honor, plant a tree, or even write "We love you" on a helium balloon and release it to the sky.
5. Consider a medical evaluation. If the reason for your miscarriage is unknown, you may have difficulty not blaming yourself or each other. Your obstetrician may be able to offer reassurance or even testing to assure you and your partner you did everything you could, and help you have realistic expectations for the future.
6. Seek professional help. What you're going through is HARD. Don't get down on yourself or your partner if you can't do it alone. A support group, counselor or therapist may help you, your partner or both of you as a couple to work through your grief and come out stronger as a team.
Loss and grief. Accessed: May 7, 2011. http://www.marchofdimes.com/baby/loss.html
Nelson, T. A Guide For Fathers When a Baby Dies. Self-published, 2007.
Swanson, K. Psychosomatic Medicine, October 2003; vol 54.