Many women struggle to talk about their experience of miscarriage, in part because many women don’t share the news of their pregnancy before the loss. But I also think it’s because as humans, admitting we’re in pain puts us in a position of vulnerability, and that feels uncomfortable and threatening. I felt isolated and ashamed. Nobody within my immediate circle had lost a pregnancy so I constantly wondered if I’d done something wrong. My close friends and family were reassuring and supportive, but when my grief lingered beyond a few weeks, I became afraid of sounding like a wet blanket; I worried they would tire of holding my sadness, and then not want to be around me. So, I suppressed my feelings and put on a happy face. As a result, I felt inauthentic because I was hiding this huge aspect of my life from many of my friends and nearly all my colleagues. There is a Rumi poem called “Cry Out in your Weakness” and several stanzas now resonate with me:
Give your weakness
to one who helps.
Crying out loud and weeping are great resources.
A nursing mother, all she does
is wait to hear her child.
Just a little beginning-whimper,
and she’s there.
God created the child, that is, your wanting,
so that it might cry out, so that milk might come.
Cry out! Don’t be stolid and silent
with your pain. Lament! And let the milk
of loving flow into you.
I like this idea of giving my weakness to those who can help. Grief is a heavy burden to carry alone, we need others lighten the load. For some, this support comes from friends and family, for others from online communities or support groups, for me it largely came from therapy. I currently have two therapists. One for me and one for my marriage.
My mom is the Executive Director of a counselling center outside Chicago and I’ve dealt with mental health issues (anxiety and depression) since young adulthood, so for me, therapy was an obvious option. Even so, I had to overcome self-judgement to set up the first appointment. I wanted to be stolid and silent with my pain. I was frustrated with myself for continuing to be sad about my losses, and I didn’t want to admit I needed support. Seeking help is often stigmatized in our society. It feels weak and it can be awkward to share your feelings with a stranger. If you want to try therapy, but are wary, here is my advice:
- Have an introductory conversation with the person before you book an appointment. Tell them what you’re going through and what you’re looking for. Ask them if they have experience with the types of issues you’re facing and if they think they can help you. And, if that conversation doesn’t go well, then don’t make an appointment with that person.
- Give it three sessions. If you don’t feel a connection in three sessions, break it off and find someone else. Do not waste time with someone who won’t work for you. You can even say up front that you want to have a check-in after three sessions to make sure it’s a good fit. A good therapist should agree to this.
- Don’t think it’s like on TV. Yes, we all want that breakthrough moment like Matt Damon had with Robin Williams in “Good Will Hunting” but it doesn’t work that way. Therapy takes time and work. Sometimes a session will be helpful and move your forward, but then the next session feels stagnant and unhelpful. Adopt the long view.
Grief comes in waves and sometimes even when you think you’re totally fine, something happens that lands you back on your ass in tears. I’ve had several friends recently lose pregnancies. I’m not sure any of them would have confided in me had they not known about my own experience, and I’m grateful and honored to have heard their stories. I’ve told them all the same thing:
Be patient and kind with yourself. This is not your fault and there’s nothing you could have done to prevent it. What you’re going through sucks. It feels unfair. It can make you feel sad, angry, or jealous. These feelings are ok. They don’t make you a bad person or mean that you’re ungrateful or lack perspective. They’re just feelings. Cry out and share them.