Expanding the Conversation of Miscarriage
I was so emotional and devastated after our first miscarriage that I did not even consider my husband’s own way of grieving. It wasn’t until later, when working with couples, that I began to understand and appreciate that while different, my husband was also deeply affected by the loss of our pregnancy.
Opening Up The Conversation
Miscarriage wasn’t openly discussed until recently. As a result, there was often discomfort in seeking support and many suffered alone. In the article “Miscarriage: It’s Not Just a Women’s Issue,” Sunita Osborn Psy.D. explains that “while it is beneficial to promote a dialogue around this painfully common issue, there seems to be one very essential character that is often left out of the narrative: the partners. The woman who miscarried is often portrayed as the main character in the narrative, while her partner, if she has one, barely makes it as a supporting actor. Yet they too have experienced loss—not only the loss of their child, but also the loss of the dreams, hopes, and expectations they had for themselves and their families.”
The Experience of Miscarriage for Partner
In this way, pregnancy loss is not an autonomous experience. Osborn articulates that “partners may have different reactions to miscarriage that may vary based on cultural background, gender norms, and past life experiences. However, research has repeatedly shown that while partners may show less explicit forms of grief (e.g., crying, appearing distressed, and/or asking for help), they have been found to report similar levels of distress and grief following a miscarriage as their partners who carried the pregnancy. Additionally, likely because partners are not given as much emotional or physical support, they have been found to experience higher levels of prolonged grief—chronic grief that persists well after the initial loss.”
The Importance of Conversation
As I discussed in a previous blog, partners affect one other. When there is exclusion or lack of communication, there is a tendency to misinterpret the actions and feelings of one’s partner. As a result, emotional distance is often an issue for couples who seek counseling from me after miscarriage. This phenomenon was articulated during a therapy session between married couple, Jane and Ed. Jane expressed feeling sad and emotionally unhinged, while Ed was described as cold and sterile after the loss of their pregnancy. Jane took Ed’s reaction as a sign of ambivalence, which made her feel more alone and wounded. Despite appearances, Ed was experiencing a deep sense of loss, but doing his best to remain emotionally stable and reliable for Jane.
The Need for Inclusion
By opening up the conversation to both spouses, Jane and Ed gained a sense of solidarity and connection. While different, they were each affected and grieving the loss of pregnancy. In this way, expanding the conversation to include partners is a necessary step in developing adequate support for those affected by miscarriage.
Read more than just excerpts and learn how to provide partner support. Click to read Dr. Osborn’s full article.