How do you deal in your marriage, with the death of a child you never had the opportunity to hold in your arms? And yet you held them, and will always hold them, in your heart. How does any human being emotionally deal with such a grievous loss?
Tragically, so many couples deal with this horrible situation every day —losing their baby before the 20th week of pregnancy, commonly called a “miscarriage.” Even the word “miscarriage” brings with it the thought that the parent will “miss” being able to “carry” their baby physically, this side of heaven. And yet, they will always carry the baby emotionally in their hearts. For those of you who are grieving through this loss, the emotional effects upon your marriage and upon each of you as individuals, can vary greatly.
“Sometimes a husband may blame his wife, or the wife may even blame her husband. Confusion and hurt can develop and cause great tension in a marriage if they are not handled properly” (Elizabeth Honeycutt, who developed Babygrief.com).
That is why it is extremely important to give each other the grace, space, empathy, and help that is needed so the grieving process doesn’t push you farther apart as a married couple, rather than draw you closer together as partners who work together through every tragedy that is encountered. There’s something that Christi Bear wrote, that you might consider about all of this. It comes from the article “Understanding Miscarriage”:
“It’s common to experience extreme sadness, anger, guilt and anxiety about future pregnancies. There is no ‘typical’ time-frame for emotional recovery; every woman experiences the grieving process in her own way and travels the road to healing at her own pace. While it’s important to allow time and personal ‘space’ for grieving, if the grief becomes too overwhelming —leading to a more serious episode of depression and despondency —it may be necessary to get professional help.
“Fathers, too, are profoundly affected by the loss of a child. Unfortunately, a common misconception regarding miscarriage and stillbirth is that only the mother is affected. Women often feel more freedom to cry and express their grief, whereas men tend to feel pressure to ‘remain strong’ and may busy themselves with work or other activities in an effort to deal with their grief. “Because men and women typically express their emotions and process their grief differently, it’s important for both parents to communicate their feelings to one another, helping to avoid the added pain of misunderstandings.”
John and Sylvia Van Regenmorter wrote something about this in their book, When the Cradle is Empty, that could help to explain the pain and tension that a miscarriage can bring into the marriage:
“The following reactions are common among women: ‘Does my husband feel as badly as I do about our baby? Does he know that since our baby died, I hate having sex? Why do I feel so unattractive? Why is becoming pregnant again such an obsession for me, but not for him?’
“Conversely, it’s not uncommon for the husband to think, ‘I have to be strong for my wife’s sake. She’ll only grieve more if I show my emotions, so I’ll keep my thoughts to myself. Why has she withdrawn sex? Is she blaming me? I know she wants to become pregnant again, but I’m afraid of what losing another baby would do to her. It seems like she’s crying all the time, and it’s really getting to me. I wish we could be happy again, like we were before the baby died.'”
John and Sylvia go on to give suggestions for walking through the loss of a baby like personalizing your baby, not rushing through to “move on” before you are ready, and bringing “your turmoil to God.” But they also suggest that you “grieve in your own way.” They write:
“Greg Bodin, director of pastoral care at North Medical Center in Robbinsdale, Minnesota, has worked with hundreds of families who’ve experienced miscarriage, still-birth, or early infant death. He and his wife have also suffered the loss of two children through miscarriage and stillbirth. Among the things he’s learned are:
• Loss is uniquely personal. There is no typical response or ‘right’ reaction to a pregnancy loss or death of a newborn.
• Feel the freedom to grieve in your own way. Don’t let anyone prescribe how you should feel, and don’t try to adapt your feelings to the expectations of others.
• Remember that the length of pregnancy doesn’t correlate to the grief felt. Some parents experience a great sense of loss even though the pregnancy was short-term.”
“Many couples feel the grief over miscarriage or stillbirth years after the loss,” Elizabeth Honeycutt from Babygrief.com says. “Others close up their feelings and try their best to move forward. For those who have felt the personal pain of losing a baby, the emotions, questions and grief need to be felt, answered, and worked through.”
To help those of you who are living through the pain and confusion that this experience brings into your life, we have found quite a few articles posted on different web sites, written by those who have experienced miscarriage, firsthand. We pray they will minister to your hearts and your marriage relationship. You will find the links posted below. The following article is written by Laura Mills, and is featured on the Todayschristianwoman.com web site. Please click onto the following link to read:
The following article, written by Lisa Brock, is featured on the Focusonthefamily.com web site. It’s one of a 4-part series on the subject of miscarriage that we recommend you read:
Below are a few things that Marlo Schalesky learned through the ordeal of her and her husband experiencing 6 miscarriages (which she wrote about in a Today’s Christian Woman article titled, “Surviving Miscarriage”) that you may find insightful.
Marlo not only discovered truths about her husband’s way of dealing with grief and life in general, but also about herself, and about God’s love and care
She wrote that she and her husband Bryan were having marital problems after her miscarriages (which is quite common for those who lose a child). They kept arguing about so many different things and she just didn’t feel like he cared about the losses like she did. But then she eventually saw that the problem she was having with him was that he wasn’t “reacting” like she thought he should. She couldn’t understand the way he was acting and reacting. She wrote:
“I wanted him to be more emotional. He wanted me to be less. Only later would we realize that each of us faces hard times in life in different ways. I get mad. He gets stony quiet. And that’s okay. To partner with each other through grief didn’t mean we had to be mirrors of each other. Instead, it meant we had to stand alongside each other, supporting each other as we allowed the other to process miscarriage in our own individual ways. We had to stop judging, stop expecting, and stop secretly demanding.”
And then she wrote something else you might find helpful:
“When we started to allow each other to process the grief of miscarriage differently, without judging or accusing, we found that partnering with each other through the process drew us together and strengthened our marriage. The lessons we learned about each other could then be applied to other areas of stress in our lives. When Bryan came home cold and stony from work, I knew he’d had a bad day and that didn’t have anything to do with me or his love for me. When I blew my top over something small, he learned not to take it personally but to ask me how my day went because he knew something hard must have happened to set me off.
“Once we lifted the burden of expectation, we found we could appreciate, support, and allow each other the grace to be partners in the process instead of copies of each other.”
You can read about Marlo’s experiences by googling the title and author on the Internet.
And then here’s something I’d like to share with you that is written by someone unknown, and yet the advice given may be important for others to know about:
Don’t tell me, “You can have another baby.” How do you know? Besides, I want this baby.
Don’t tell me, “at least it happened before it was born. It’s not like you knew the baby.” I did know my baby. For the short time s/he was with me, I loved my baby with all my heart. I had hopes and dreams for this baby. I had names picked out and a theme for the nursery. I knew my baby was going to be a very special person.
Don’t tell me, “It’s just one of those things.” It was not just “one of those things” from my viewpoint. Miscarriage has had a devastating effect on my life, and making it sound as though it was an unimportant event does not lessen the impact.
Don’t tell me, “It’s common,” or “It happens to a lot of women.” This happened to me, and all I want is to have my baby back.
Don’t tell me, “It was just a blob of tissue.” In my heart and in God’s eyes, I know I was carrying a living being inside me from the moment s/he was conceived. Please don’t trivialize my beliefs or that precious life.
Don’t tell me, “You should be over it by now.” Even though the physical effects may have subsided, I am still hurting emotionally. My child has died, and it takes much longer than a week or two to recover from that pain.
Don’t tell me, “You’ll get over it.” The miscarriage was the death of my child. I will never “get over it.” The pain and grief will eventually lessen, but I will always wonder what my child would have been like. Every should-have-been birthday, and every anniversary of the miscarriage will be a reminder.
Don’t tell me, “You should get pregnant again as soon as possible. That’ll help.” Help what? I need time to grieve the baby I have lost. I can’t even begin to think about getting pregnant again at this time.
Don’t tell me, “It won’t happen again. The next time will be fine.” Again, how do you know? My second pregnancy ended in miscarriage also, even after doctors said there was no reason it wouldn’t be successful the second time around.
Do listen to me when I want, or need, to talk about what I am going through.
Do be sensitive to the fact that I probably won’t want to hear about your pregnant friend/neighbor/cousin/daughter, or about your new grandchildren or nieces and nephews for a while.
Do give me time to grieve. Some days I may need your shoulder to cry on after everyone else thinks I should be “okay” by now.
Do understand that there are “milestone days,” such as the expected due date of the time I should have felt the first kick, when I will be feeling the loss as deeply as when the miscarriage occurred. I will need your support then.
Lastly, the following is an article that is written by Una McManus, as told to her by Mary Cunningham Agee, featured on the web site for Nurturing Network. Please read how one couple’s miscarriage birthed a ministry to unwed mothers, showing how God can use ordinary people, and painful circumstances, to bring hope and help to many others:
This article is written by Cindy Wright of Marriage Missions International.
If you have additional tips you can share to help others in this area of marriage, or you want to share requests for prayer and/or ask others for advice, please “Join the Discussion” by adding your comments below.