Brooke experienced pregnancy loss more than once. For those who have had this experience, we know the pain. We also know that those who haven’t experienced pregnancy loss, while sympathetic, won’t truly understand the pain. This conversation with Brooke may be helpful:
DENALEE: Why do you think – with miscarriage being so common (20% of known pregnancies end in miscarriage) – that it is SO emotionally painful?
BROOKE: The fact that miscarriage is statistically common doesn’t impact the weight that it carries in the lives of those affected by it. That’s like asking why divorce, even though it’s so prevalent, is painful. It just is. Even if a woman goes into her pregnancy knowing that there is a twenty percent chance that she will not carry the baby to term, I don’t think anyone expects her pregnancy to end.
Miscarriage is painful because a life is lost. Dreams end, usually abruptly. Plans change, plans that would have affected the grieving parents’ whole lives: without meaning to, an expecting couple will often map out their new baby’s life: preschool or not? I bet this baby will be great at math. Middle school years might be tough — let’s pray this one doesn’t have my family’s acne gene. College. How in the world will we pay for it?! — And then the pregnancy ends, and with all of the other emotional pain that comes with death, you also have to confront the fact that none of your plans, at least for this child, who you already love very much, will ever happen.
DENALEE: What do you think of the way the medical community handles miscarriage? What about friends? Family? Is there anything anyone can say or do that is really ok?
BROOKE: In my experience, the medical community handles miscarriage in a way that is pragmatic, but not sympathetic. While there are many caring professionals out there, I’ve often wondered if the training of medical professionals is adequate in regard to treating miscarriage/pregnancy loss patients with empathy and compassion. I think that it is absolutely possible to handle a woman in an emergency room who is experiencing possible miscarriage symptoms with tact and concern while informing her that there may not be anything that can be done. I think it is not only possible but essential that medical professionals be trained from the get-go to treat couples that are experiencing miscarriage with the same compassion they treat anyone who is confronting grief.
I believe that friends and family generally have good intentions in what they say and do to help a grieving family. Unfortunately, our society is plagued with this desire to fix everything, and that desire can often be mistaken for compassion. A friend might offer tips on how to “stay pregnant” next time, or an uncle or aunt might “diagnose” the cause of the miscarriage by blaming a bumpy car ride or the mother for traveling while in the early stages of pregnancy. Though these comments are meant to help the grieving parents have a successful pregnancy in the future, the grieving family usually just feels blame and added guilt.
I think that there are lots of things that others can say and do that are more than okay – they are helpful! Bringing a meal, sending a thoughtful card, offering to watch the mother’s other children while she takes some time for herself. Often just a text message or note saying something like, “I am so sorry for your loss” can bring immense comfort.
DENALEE: The fact that someone else has experienced miscarriage – does that give one any solace, to be with that person? Or is it so personal that no one can understand?
BROOKE: I think that this differs from person to person. For me, it was comforting to know others and to talk with them about losing children. I spent a lot of time talking with my sister-in-law who, though she had never experienced pregnancy or pregnancy loss, had endured a failed placement. Our feelings were very similar and I found comfort in seeing how at peace she was with the whole experience – it brought hope to me that I would start feeling happier soon.
DENALEE: Can you describe the emotions you felt when you knew you were miscarrying?
BROOKE: In the moment, I first felt complete shock and numbness. As the miscarriage progressed, I believe I went through the grieving process rapidly. Denial, anger, bargaining, all of it. I felt frustrated and broken hearted that the plans that I had formed for this child were just gone, out into a void with nowhere to go. It was a deep sadness that I’d never felt before.
DENALEE: How did you work through those emotions? Was time the most important factor? What helped you to heal?
BROOKE: I worked through these emotions by feeling them thoroughly. In the beginning I tried to stifle some of the more intense feelings I had, but as time went on and I realized that I simply wasn’t healing, I decided to truly feel each emotion that came my way. By doing this, I feel like I was able to adequately work through each thought and fear and emotion and then move on to the next. Eventually, acceptance was the last stage that I was confronted with and while it was messy – guilt for accepting the loss, guilt for feeling guilt, guilt for feeling guilt for feeling guilt (I felt a lot of guilt), it was absolutely necessary. The pain began to diminish and I was able to see the beauty in the experience. I was able to see my own growth and it brought comfort to me.
Time was a very important factor, but I wouldn’t say it was the most important. Confronting my feelings and deciding to accept them was the most important factor for me.
Healing was slow but steady once I decided that it was okay to feel. It was therapeutic for me to talk to others who had experienced miscarriage and infant loss. It was healing for me to seek out truth and to do activities that brought peace to my soul. Meditation, study, prayer and quiet service were wings that kind of carried me through the experience.
DENALEE: What about your husband? He was in pain too – did your desire to comfort him help you?
BROOKE: My husband was in a lot of pain. I think that we often forget that the child is as much theirs as the mother’s. I think that my desire to comfort him helped me heal because it brought me outside of myself.
DENALEE: Did having more children help lessen the sting? Has the pain gone completely away?
BROOKE: Having more children has helped me to heal, definitely. I have been able to count miscarriage as a blessing rather than a curse, as I learned so many lessons about motherhood from it. I can honestly say that I don’t let a day go by without expressing to my kids, many times over, how much I love and appreciate them.
There are moments now and then where I feel a little sad when I think about my experiences with miscarriage, but that sadness is quickly replaced with gratitude for the blessings I do have, when I allow myself to step outside of the grief and remember that life is good.