Is it normal to experience deep grief after the unexpected termination of a pregnancy? I recently lost my first child through miscarriage, and my husband and I are surprised at how devastating this experience has been for us. Is this typical?
You've just experienced a genuine loss – a deeply meaningful loss. It would be surprising if you didn't feel as if the rug had been pulled out from under you.
When a pregnancy ends in miscarriage, a woman and her spouse generally go through a wide variety of turbulent emotions. You may feel guilty, as if the miscarriage were somehow your fault. Your mind may default to denial – in other words, you cling to the possibility that there's been some kind of mistake and that you're actually still pregnant. Depression and mood swings are common. Anger can become a mask for grief. Jealousy toward pregnant women or new mothers may be a problem, causing you to withdraw from social contacts. Eventually, you will probably experience a combination of these symptoms, spinning through a recurring cycle of grief, shock, denial, anger, depression, detachment, and mental "bargaining" with God.
Whether they are experienced immediately or at some later point in time, the emotional and psychological responses to a miscarriage is the same as those that involve any significant loss. As with any loss, it's important to ride the cycle of grief out to its natural and appointed conclusion – that of accepting and coming to terms with the reality of the situation. The stages highlighted above rarely follow one another in linear progression. Instead they tend to recur in spiraling cycles until the loss is resolved.
For complete healing to occur, you and your spouse need to give and receive permission to grieve and acknowledge your loss. If this doesn't happen, you can get "stuck" in the denial stage, mired in a morass of depression and repressed emotions. This in turn can have a detrimental effect on your overall spiritual, emotional, and physical health.
If you need help working your way through the cycle of grief, we'd urge you to seek counsel from a licensed Christian therapist. Call us. Focus on the Family's Counseling department can provide you with a list of qualified professionals practicing in your local area.