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Miscarriage: Saying Goodbye Before Hello

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Guest expert Dr. Michelle Golland: How do we grieve the loss of a child before we were ever able to see them, touch them, and kiss them? The death of a child in utero can be a uniquely challenging grief experience in that the parent does not have a physical connection with the child. This type of loss is not commonly discussed or openly grieved in our culture.

Woman Crying

For the parents, their dream has disintegrated into despair. The shock can be overwhelming and the grief seems unbearable. I believe the grief process must be an active and engaged experience, particularly in this situation. I encourage couples, where possible, to follow the death rituals of their religious beliefs. This can be an intangible experience that needs to be made tangible. Having a memorial service or funeral can be very healing. I have counseled families who have buried their child at a traditional funeral home and some who prefer cremation followed by a ritual at their home or in another special place.

Many friends and family do not know what to say or do when this happens to someone they know. I encourage them to acknowledge the death of the child for the family in a concrete way. A card, flowers or a donation to a children's charity is a wonderful and meaningful way to contribute to the healing of the family.

The myth that the couple will forget this experience by having another child is completely incorrect. The loss of a child, the loss of the dream will forever be a part of the family's story. We need to weave this loss, this family member into our lives and into our family story. We must in an active and meaningful way say goodbye to our child even if we never were able to kiss them hello.

To read my personal story of losing a baby while in utero go to my website, and click on stories and go to "The Green Blanket."

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10 comments so far | Post a comment now
Midwest Grandma February 2, 2009, 2:36 PM

A miscarriage is very heart-wrenching no matter how strong you seem with the everyday struggles of life. I chose to make sure my family knew that I would never forgot the baby I lost when I had my miscarriage.
I had a daughter prior to my miscarriage then a son & daughter from two more pregnancies afterwards. My husband & 3 kids knew I wanted a Mother’s ring. So, upon over hearing my husband talking to my kids as to what they thought I would prefer (Yellow or white Gold) I simply pulled my husband aside & explained I knew what they were up to & I asked if I could have some input into designing my ring? He agreed & decided to have the kids sit down with us to design it. I explained, I didn’t care what it was as far as metal color. But, I requested that I would like 4 stones in it. I wanted each of my 3 kids birthstones PLUS I wanted a single Black Diamond included as a rememberance of the child I lost during the miscarriage. My husband and all 3 of my kids agreed and thought it was a great idea. It was really hard to get a jeweler to go along with my idea. But, We did find one & my ring is perfect. I have had many people comment on my ring. I simply state it’s my Mother’s Ring. It’s a combination of the Celebrations and of Grief of being a mother. This was my way of dealing with a very painful loss.

Gigohead  February 2, 2009, 3:05 PM

I had a miscarriage prior to my son over 15 years ago. It was a hard time for me because I feel that the hospital did not treat me or other women in my situation with dignity. I was sent home to wait for a week to get a D&C after it was discovered I had a blighted ovumn at 16 weeks. I was not even allowed to be treated in the maternity ward, but rather treated like the rest of the population which was so upsetting. I had to wait to see a physician for many hours as I bleed in the ER. I was not given any counseling nor real answers at the time. Over the years, I’ve accepted the loss because I conceived my son the say this baby was due to be born. So I am convinced for every loss there is a gain.

I now see that patients can get BETA testing early to pinpoint any problems. Ultrasounds are done more frequently. Most importantly, there are support boards everywhere to grieve with other women. Times have changed, but miscarriages will continue to happen, but thankful with much more compassion.

blogomama February 2, 2009, 10:38 PM

I just wanted to say I appreciate your post. I experienced 2 miscarriages in 2008. One at six weeks, one at twelve. Unless you’ve been there, you don’t understand that loss. The feelings of failure, helplessness and longing. I will never forget the short time God lent them to me and as painful as it was I AM thankful for that.

Cristina Mathers February 2, 2009, 10:45 PM

it’s something that so many people experience yet, no one has the right words to console someone when it happens. i have had 3 and my doc says that it’s something nearly every woman goes thru, and sometimes doesn’t even know. i have 2 happy and healthy little girls now though.

ame i. February 3, 2009, 10:41 AM

I have never had a miscarriage but I know what NOT to say to someone who has. One should never say it happened for a reason, there was probably something wrong with the baby, it was God’s will, they can try again, at least you have other children, at least it happened before “you got to know” the baby… How about just saying you are so sorry for her/their loss? Don’t tell her/them to let you know if there is anything you can do, but step in and DO. Deliver prepared meals, run errands, do or hire someone to do yardwork, house-cleaning, go to the grocery store for her/them, sit with her/them quietly and listen if she/they feel like talking.
I have friends and family members who have gone through this and was angry at the stupid comments some people made to them.
I am blessed to have 2 healthy daughters. From the moment I saw the positive sign on the pregnancy tests, they became my children, not fetuses. It does not matter if a woman is only 3 weeks along or 3 months, she still lost her child and is heart-broken.

Deb February 3, 2009, 12:21 PM

I had a miscarriage ten years ago. I already had three older children,17, l4 and 11,and I am always thankful for them, but that loss has never left me. To this day, I always wonder about my little angel. I don’t think anyone knows the extreme loss I felt at that time and I certainly didn’t want to burden my family with my pain. It is a terrible loss and I will never forget that moment.

Carla February 4, 2009, 1:57 PM

Tomorrow will be 6 years from my miscarriage. It feels like I’m living that day over and over. I am now divorced from the man that would have been the baby’s father. Alot has changed on the exterior and not much on the inside with respect to this loss. I don’t have any other children and frankly noone else remembers the day but me - and that’s in silence. I’m not comfortable speaking openly to anyone about it because I don’t think others know what to say but also because it just feels as if to them its as if I’m not moving on. Well I don’t think you really move on but remember differently each day and year that passes. I found this site and thought “at least there would be something out there about this day and my child”, and so here it is. Thank you for the venue and the opportunity. I’m always looking for a way to celebrate this very short lived life and all that it brought to me. My child is physically gone, although I will always love and miss that little soul.


Mrs. Collins February 11, 2009, 9:29 AM

I had a stillborn baby in March of 2007. I was 24 weeks pregnant. It was the most devastating thing to have to deliver my little girl dead. On top of that on the floor where I could hear other babies heartbeats thru monitors. Instead of hearing her cry when she entered this world, she was was cold and stiff and silent. We know have a 21 weeks old son, who is beautiful and full of life. But in no way can he replace his older sister in our heart. She’ll always have her own place there. God bless anyone who has to lose a child ever! We always say God needed a angel and chose to take ours.

cecille February 23, 2009, 1:50 AM

Losing a baby,especially when you got no chance of seeing her smile and see the glow of her eyes is a tremendously devastating one.It happened to me and it took me years before finally moved on…my way of feeling good and feel that I held her is by way of giving food to a hungry child on the street,support anti-abortion groups,and educating mothers in the proper nurturing of children.

Sadmom August 29, 2010, 3:52 PM

Yesterday I found out I was pregnant for the first time… and the same day found out I was losing the baby. Everyone tells me that being a little sad is okay, but that I should get over it in a couple of days and move on. I wasn’t trying to get pregnant, and I was upset at first, but now that I won’t be able to hold my little one… that I’ll never know if it was a boy or a girl… I have nothing to hold but regret. I wish I had not been upset when I first found out, but celebrated the life. I wish I had gone to the hospital sooner. I wish I had gone to the doctor to save my baby… And now I cry, but I try to hide it from everyone. I asked my husband to say a prayer for our baby. I wept so hard as he prayed to God for His mercy, love, and care for our little baby in Heaven. Everyone else seems to think because it was so early, that “the baby was probably a mutant” or “you just weren’t ready” — some kind of excuse as to why my baby is gone. All I can think is, “I don’t have my baby — can’t you let me have my grief?”

I’m away from my own family… so I’ll grieve in private and alone.

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