Discussing Miscarriage, Stillbirth, and Loss
About one in four pregnancies end in a miscarriage. If you haven’t been close to someone that has gone through miscarriage, this may surprise you. As frequently as it happens, this type of loss is not often discussed in public. Misunderstanding, fear, blame, or disappointment are feelings that can surround the loss of a child. Navigating these feeling with dialogue can feel that much more difficult.
Of course, each parent has the right to choose how much they discuss their loss. However, those that wish to be more open about their experience should feel like they can. It’s not a time that a person should feel alone or fearful of being judged. We hope that by openly talking about loss we can make more room for understanding and comfort.
Heidi Greenwood, proud mother of three daughters, suffered a loss during both of her first two pregnancies. Her first daughter Jules passed at 22 weeks, and her second daughter Leni was lost at week 28. Heidi continues to remember her daughters after the healthy birth of her third daughter, Quincy.
What’s the Difference Between Stillbirth and Miscarriage?
The most important thing to remember about miscarriage and stillbirth, is that they are both losses. The crushing blow of either will change the lives of those affected. Treat yourself and others that experience these types of losses as such.
In the technical terms, a miscarriage usually refers to a loss before the twentieth week of pregnancy, and a stillborn as anything after. Both miscarriages and stillbirths can result from a plethora of situations, almost always out of our control.
Don’t Blame Yourself
It is common to look for answers after experiencing loss. Whether we are simply trying to understand or are looking for ways to avoid it in the future, we have questions. Often it is all too easy to look at ourselves as the problem.
The fact is, the mother is not to blame. Defects that results in miscarriage happen at micro-levels within DNA and chromosome structures. These are things that certain diets or activity rates of mothers don’t affect. You can feel confident that your efforts as a mother are not lost.
What Should I Say?
Heidi mentions that we often think we need to come up with elaborate things to say, when really, simple words are the best. Telling your loved one that you are thinking about them or that they are a strong woman is great. As always, take any suggestions that the mother gives, each grieving process is different.
Using the baby’s name can be a good way to show your love. Mother’s that give birth at any stage of the pregnancy and suffer loss, have developed emotions for that small life. If they have chosen to give the baby a name, it is likely appropriate and empowering for you to mention them by name.
If you can’t think of something you want to say, or feel uncomfortable doing so, kind gestures are also appropriate. Going out for a coffee, sending a note, or bringing them flowers are all things Heidi recommends.
What Shouldn’t I Say?
Good intentions can be painful, so be cautious when trying to lessen the hurt someone is experiencing. Generally, it is better to support and love rather than try to come up with logical solutions or offer up emotional problem-solving strategies. Avoid using terminology like “at least.” Heidi says that using this phrase can feel like belittling the situation.
The mother should take the time she needs to grieve. Trying to speed up the process can appear naïve or careless. Help her feel that you are a person she can lean on, and don’t be afraid of bringing thoughts of the loss back to their mind. Heidi relates that kind thoughts and gestures feel like a big hug more than anything.
Share Your Burden
If you have had a loss, lessen the load by speaking with others. Talk to loved ones you trust, doctors, therapists, or Facebook support groups. You will likely be surprised by the number of people that have experienced what you have and can lend a helping hand. You shouldn’t bear it alone, and you don’t have to. Many are ready to love you.
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Thank you to Heidi, I look forward to hearing your thoughts on the show.