For relationships with friends – I was surprised by some of the reactions of people in my life after my loss – both in positive and difficult ways. I wrote an essay about it for The Washington Post – I Had A Miscarriage: Talk To Me. It is about the idea that miscarriage is not contagious, and in talking about our broken places, we don’t infect other people with our traumas. Of course we all know this, but there is a way in which our culture is so afraid to talk about grief and loss, especially this type of loss, and sometimes it feels like you’re being temporarily quarantined. We need people during this time in our lives. We need to know that community remains available to us and that we can turn to loved ones to share our stories.
Grief can bring closeness as well. Personally, I felt profoundly supported by my father throughout my grieving process. He checked in consistently. He was able to hold my feelings without attempting to change them. He listened empathically. He understands that grief is anything but linear and honored my process. He didn’t try to focus on the “bright” side, find a silver lining, or instill false hope. On the first anniversary of my miscarriage, I wept on the phone with my dad, recalling all the details of that horribly day, as my belly shook with new life, pregnant again. I spoke with him about my anxiety in my pregnancy following my pregnancy loss and the newfound sense of vulnerability I felt. He didn’t try to “fix” or change; instead he supported me with love and attentiveness. I was and still am deeply appreciative of his presence in my grief. This made an indelible impact.
In my work, I hear a lot about relational disappointment. It can be very difficult for friends, family, colleagues, and partners to know what to do/say, especially because culture doesn’t help us understand how to navigate this particular type of loss/grief.
For romantic relationships, I wrote a piece for Refinery 29 called Marriage After Miscarriage, about how my marriage was impacted by my miscarriage. Yet another part of loss that is under-talked about in our society. The thing is, our partners can’t always understand exactly what we are going through when it comes to pregnancy loss. They might not be able to understand the complexity of hormones, the body changes, the body image issues, the feelings about sex after loss, the bleeding, the D & C, etc. They might not be able to grasp all of the physical or emotional things that only the pregnant person experiences, from a corporeal perspective.
However, the strain of loss can yield incredible connection as well. In other words, though this hardship is something that we wish didn’t happen, there is a way in which it can provide an opportunity for deepening the marriage/partnership. To carve out dedicated time each day to check in with one another, to communicate openly about grief and loss and fear and the unknown. To talk about shame, self-blame or guilt, if this arises. All of the feelings that are difficult may also become a birthplace of emotional intimacy.
The key is to try to remain connected throughout the grieving process so that both people feel understood, cared for, and acknowledged.
Communication is the cornerstone of relationships. If things have gone awry after loss, it might be an apt time to evaluate the dynamics and what may have been stirred up in the aftermath of pregnancy loss. If there are people who you feel more connected to, expressing gratitude for their empathy can go a long way. And in relationships that may feel tense or disappointing, you might want to try sensitively discussing this too. You’ll know when you’re ready to do so.