This post contains triggers. It also focusses on women’s experience of miscarriage, with full awareness that men also suffer after loss.
Miscarriage is the most common kind of pregnancy loss, affecting one in four pregnancies. Every woman responds differently, for many it is felt deeply with sadness, numbness, confusion and jealousy. Miscarriage can also be experienced as a traumatic event. Despite these common experiences there is radio silence around miscarriage. People don’t talk about it.
This isn’t unique to miscarriage – people don’t speak about reproductive trauma in general – but it’s striking because there are so many women walking the same path.
The reasons for the silence are complex. Society views womanhood and motherhood as inextricably bound. Our value as women is often determined by where we are in relation to our role as a mother ~ This is nonsense and deserves an article in its own right (to come!).
For now I want to explain the ways our collective ‘not talking’ increases suffering by leaving women feeling ALONE and ASHAMED. And empower you to find safe spaces to speak up and find support after miscarriage.
The collective ‘not talking’ leaves you feeling ALONE
This is by far the most common experience. “I feel so alone”. The secrecy which surrounds pregnancy loss is so engrained that it’s easy to believe it’s rare. Despite the statistics. So when it happens you feel like you are the only one – when the reality is that you’re anything but.
To highlight this; when I was preparing this article I thought about all the women I know well. (About 30-40). Only four have spoken to me about their experience of miscarriage. I also spoke to a close family member. This turned into a rollercoaster of revelations: there is lots of pregnancy loss in my family that I had no idea about.
Obviously not everyone will want to talk about their experiences. But, it seems many many do and just feel silenced. For example, following my miscarriages (years ago now, but not forgotten) I did speak out to family and friends. I was met with countless responses of people sharing their own experiences. Many had sought miscarriage counselling. They had felt lonely, isolated and afraid. It’s easy to feel like the only woman who failed to do this ‘normal’ thing.
Silence is a breeding ground for SHAME
Miscarriage can happen for many reasons. Often the causes are never established. But you might still believe it reflects upon you. As if you are ‘defective’, ‘failed’ or did something to cause this. This provides the ideal conditions for shame, an intensely painful experience of feeling flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging.
“Shame needs three things to grow: secrecy, silence and judgement.”Brene Brown
As you can see, there’s no shortage of these conditions after pregnancy loss.
Shame is consistently linked to mental health problems, such as depression and anxiety. So is miscarriage, which is no coincidence. Parents who have had a miscarriage are twice as likely suffer from depression. Women also experience high levels of anxiety and post-traumatic stress after pregnancy loss (Farren, 2020). Many women are talking to me in miscarriage counselling for the first time about pregnancy losses months or years ago. That’s a long time to be suffering.
So it becomes a vicious cycle ~ there’s a culture of not talking about miscarriage ~ women feel alone and ashamed ~ they retreat from connections with others ~ feel more alone ~ and a vicious cycle is created which is harder and harder to escape from.
“Shame cannot survive being spoken.”Brene Brown
You don’t need to struggle alone after miscarriage. I want to empower you to find safe spaces to speak up and find support, if you wish.
1. Connect with yourself first
Remember, shame likes secrecy. So bring it out of the closet.
Start by being curious about your own emotions after this loss. Notice and name the different feelings you are experiencing. ‘e.g. I am noticing sadness’. Or ‘anxiety is here’. Make space for feelings, don’t push them away. This might feel counterintuitive but avoiding feelings gives them more power.
Be kind towards yourself. It is really hard to feel like this. What would you say to a friend that felt this way? Say these same words to yourself.
2. Talk with family and friends
Social support after miscarriage is a huge buffer against psychological distress. Find your village. Share your story with others: with your friends, with other women. In spaces meant for sharing, in safe spaces. And only if you feel comfortable enough. Blow the lid off this silence.
It can be hard to feel vulnerable, but you might find it leads to a deeper connection with someone. A chance to feel seen, heard and valued. And, as we know, miscarriage is a shared experiences for so many women so there’s a high chance they have had similar experiences.
When considering this it can really help to recognise our common humanity. We are connected not only by the joys in our lives, but in our struggles, heartaches, and fears (Kristin Neff).
“The rejection of common fate makes us strangers to each other. The election of that fate, in love, reveals us as one body.”Sebastian Moore
3. Speak with trusted professionals
You shouldn’t be left feeling alone and isolated after a miscarriage. Informal support is not a substitute for professional miscarriage support, such as miscarriage counselling or therapy. Think about the caring professionals you know and open up to them, perhaps your GP or a Health Visitor if you have one.
Psychological therapy is effective. With the right kind of support it is possible to process what you have been through and feel at home within yourself again.
You are not alone. I’m also here to help you. Contact me for more information about how I might support you after miscarriage.
Miriam ~ Helping you have Better Beginnings