Let’s Be Honest About Miscarriage

Let’s Be Honest About Miscarriage

Let’s Be Honest About Miscarriage

Many of us have seen the heart-wrenching photos of Chrissy Teigen and John Legend grieving the loss of their baby, Jack, due to pregnancy loss. Their raw grief is unmistakable. And their openness in sharing this intimate moment with the world is deeply courageous. The fact that they were immediately both praised and criticized for posting something so personal speaks to the power of the images and the complex feelings behind them. In one breath we are told that pregnancy loss is excruciating and that it should be kept private.   

Miscarriage is, in fact, one of the more personal experiences a person or couple can have.  There are often painful feelings of deep grief, shame, and loss that come with miscarrying. For many, there is an almost unbearable sense of regret and self-blame. Thoughts of “What if I had just…”  tear through the mind relentlessly. It is an isolating time, full of some of the most anguish I’ve ever witnessed in my 20+ years as a health care provider.  

The belief that these feelings should be kept private has done a huge disservice to families for generations. This must stop.  

There are few other losses where the grief-stricken are so shunned and silenced. There are support groups and resources for almost every other type of loss or tragedy. All losses are difficult, and all deserve deep care and compassionate support. Most people would not deny someone their right to publicly share about the loss of their spouse. Or their cancer journey. Or even their struggle with childhood trauma. 

So why would we not give people suffering from the pain of miscarriage this same grace?  Why does a woman crying over her lost baby make people want to turn away? Why do we insist on making women suffer the loss of a baby in silence, afraid to confide in others for fear of being judged?

We need to look at these questions carefully. I envision a world where it is safe for everyone who has a miscarriage to be open about it and receive kind, non-judgmental support. Whether you are seeking to be a friend to a person miscarrying or having the experience yourself, please consider this:

1. Miscarriage is often a trauma.

Trauma specialist Pat Ogden states that “Any experience that is stressful enough to leave us feeling helpless, frightened, overwhelmed, or profoundly unsafe is considered a trauma.”  Miscarriage often involves all of these elements, especially the more medically complicated it is.

The feelings can be overwhelming and frightening, and leave people feeling helpless and alone. Research shows that creating a safe space for people to get the support they need after trauma is one of the best ways for healing to occur.  

2. The best thing you can do is lean in.

Whether you are the supportive friend or the person miscarrying, not pushing it away will serve you best in the long run.  

If you have miscarried, try to find 1-3 people you can trust to lean on for support. This is a real loss, and you need real support. Even though it can be hard to share something so personal, please try. Be gentle with yourself, and take small steps, but keep leaning in to find support. There are resources online if no one close to you feels safe enough to share with. Here is one.

If you are seeking to support someone else, lean in as well, but do it gently. Don’t overwhelm them, but let them know you are there. Call or text and simply say “I’m thinking of you” or “How are you today?”  Don’t expect them to want to talk about it, but LISTEN quietly if they do. Don’t give advice or reassurance, just be there.

Keep your comments simple, such as “I’m so sorry.” Or “I’m here for you.” In the weeks and months after a loss, what people describe most is that their friends and family members stop asking about it. Don’t be overbearing, but do keep asking. They haven’t stopped thinking about it, even if everyone else has.

3. Don’t minimize it.

It’s so easy to want to say to yourself “Why am I so upset, this wasn’t even a real baby?” Or to say to your friend “Don’t worry, you’ll get pregnant again, just relax.” Please don’t. It’s not helpful to diminish it. Picture yourself saying to a friend whose spouse has just died of cancer: “Don’t worry, you’ll find another mate soon. Just relax.” You wouldn’t dare. Let this loss be as big as it is. It hurts like hell. Let it, for now. Be kind, get support, and it will slowly hurt less. Be kinder than you knew you could be. Judge nothing. Keep reaching out.

4. Be honest in the face of life’s tragedies.

It has been said that once you’ve reached a certain age, you have probably been hurt by something at least once. Our society often wants to pretend that we’re always as rosy and bright as our Instagram photos suggest. What is so powerful about Chrissy and John’s courageous act is that they decided to let you see it all. They were honest about their tragedy. Be that for yourself. Be that for another person.

Let’s all be brave enough to start making it ok to talk about pregnancy loss. Let’s help our friends out of the dark, lonely place of isolation by saying “It’s ok to talk about.”  “It happened to me too.”  “I’m there for you.”  Let’s stop making this pain taboo. Let’s help our sisters grieve and heal and, in time, thrive. By telling the truth about our experience we become whole again, and stronger for knowing that we were supported along the way more than we imagined possible. 

Pregnancy loss is a tragedy. My heart goes out to Chrissy Teigen, John Legend, and all families who have lost babies. Join me in making this loss safe to talk about, and making families stronger as a result. Join me in bringing honesty and kindness to even this most intimate of losses. Join me in making sure that in the depths of grief, those who are miscarrying know that love is still here, and hope will return. 

Established patients can schedule online, patients who haven’t seen us at Kwan Yin Healing Center call (503) 701-8766, or email us to schedule your appointment.

About Lisa Tongel

We are practitioners of Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine specializing in fertility, IVF support, pregnancy care, reproductive health, and pelvic pain.