Stages of Grief That Commonly Follow a Miscarriage

Tensed couple being consoled by doctor
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If you have recently miscarried or learned that you will miscarry, you will likely experience the five stages of grief. Typical emotions can be anything from shock or anger to sadness or numbness. Whatever you’re feeling is okay. Everyone reacts differently to pregnancy loss, and pretty much any reaction is normal.

Grief Is Strongest Early On

In the immediate aftermath, your feelings of grief may be at their strongest and may feel similar to depression. The pregnancy hormone (hCG) has dropped in your body, and you will likely feel an overwhelming sadness. Feelings of grief may continue even after your menstrual period returns and your body recovers.

People often discuss grief in terms of five stages, a theory which originated in 1969 by the American-Swiss psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in On Death and Dying. Many women may find their grief after a miscarriage follows a similar pattern.

Some women will go through all of these stages; others will go through only some of them or will experience them in a different order.

Denial and Isolation

Many women hold out a slim hope that the doctor was wrong and that they are not, in fact, having a miscarriage. You might find yourself doing hours of research on the internet looking for another explanation for your miscarriage symptoms.

Perhaps you don’t want to see anyone — not even your spouse or partner. You might resent anyone who speaks to you. You might want to hole up at home and not take phone calls or go to work. Social interaction may feel exhausting, and you may just want to be by yourself.

Anger

You may look for someone to blame for the miscarriage. Many women may blame their doctors for not seeing the signs earlier and for not being able to prevent the loss from taking place. You might blame your partner or find some reason to blame yourself. (Try to remember that miscarriage is very rarely anyone’s fault and usually cannot be prevented.)

You may feel resentment toward the medical clinic you attended if you felt its pregnancy loss support protocol was inadequate in some way. Your friends and relatives may infuriate you with thoughtless and unintentionally hurtful comments. (Try to remember that the people in your life rarely intend to hurt you — they are usually just trying to help.)

Bargaining

If you are religious, you may try to bargain with a higher being and promise specific good deeds if you get pregnant again quickly and do not have a repeat miscarriage. Or, you may conduct hours of research on how to prevent miscarriages and search for anything that you can do to minimize the risk of another loss, such as leading a healthier lifestyle or trying alternative medicine tactics.

If you have this inclination, remember again that you probably did not do anything to cause your miscarriage and that most miscarriage causes are completely out of your hands. Working toward a healthier lifestyle is nearly always a good idea for any person, but just beware of creating any unrealistic expectations for yourself and believing any claims that something is a "miracle cure."

Depression

You might wonder if you will ever have a baby. You may convince yourself that you just aren’t meant to be a mom, or that you are being punished for some reason. If you are trying to conceive again, and you are not getting pregnant as quickly as you would like, you may despair that it will never happen. If you do get pregnant again, you may feel intense anxiety and a conviction that you will miscarry again.

Images of babies or pregnancy in public and in the media might bother you, leading you to turn away when you see families with young children or women with visibly pregnant bodies. You may not be able to handle attending coworkers’ and relatives’ baby showers or visiting newborn babies. You may end up flipping the channel when commercials come on featuring pregnancy tests. Fortunately studies have shown that 85% of women who have suffered a miscarriage will get pregnant again and successfully carry a child to full term.

Acceptance

Although the pain of your miscarriage may always be with you, it will at some point become easier to deal with. You will be able to look back and be sad that the miscarriage happened, but your feelings of sadness will not feel nearly as overwhelming as they did in the beginning. Some women may not even reach this stage until after giving birth to another child.

Whatever you are feeling, please remember that it’s normal and that it won’t always feel as overwhelming as it does in the beginning. You will find that you are stronger than you think and that, over time, coping with the miscarriage will become easier.

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