Latoya Grindley, Gleaner Writer
A miscarriage can be one of the most life-changing and difficult experiences a woman could ever go through in her life.
Quite a heart-wrenching ordeal, women who undergo such an unfortunate experience will no doubt go through a whirlwind of emotions.
Acknowledging that the loss of a child through miscarriage can be quite traumatic, Dr Vivian Panton says the emotions felt are dependent on certain factors. "It depends on the individual herself and her capacity to deal with the loss, the extent to which she was expectant of the child, how advanced the pregnancy was and the cause or causes of the miscarriage."
The pastoral counsellor notes that the range of emotions experienced are likely to be shock, numbness, sadness, depression, grief, guilt and shame.
Overcome by those emotions, there can be outward signs that become increasingly obvious, indicating that the grieving mother is not coping very well. Sometimes these can become detrimental to their mental and physical health.
"Memorialisation is one such sign where they hold on to things in a pretty abnormal manner in an attempt to remind themselves of the baby. For example, baby clothes and other things she had in preparation of the birth. Some mothers will start to practise self-mutilation and then there is ghosting, where they imagine seeing the baby as if the child is present," says Dr Panton.
Other signs, according to the counsellor, are inappropriate sudden outbursts and suicidal tendencies.
To help in the grieving and coping process, Dr Panton says family members, including partners, can be critical during the time of grief. They, at this very trying time, he said, should serve as a support system. "Family can provide empathic support in the form of physical presence, emotional support by providing optimism and hope."
While prime emphasis is placed on the grieving mother, fathers can also be deeply affected. According to the counsellor, in other cases where there are fathers who would rejoice in the occurrence of a miscarriage due to the responsibilities he would have been obligated to fulfil, there are the normal cases where the man experiences sadness. "It is likely that the father would experience a measure of sadness and empathy, disappointment, anger, grief and depression."
These range of emotions can also have an impact on the relationship between the couple. At this vulnerable and fragile stage, a relationship can be affected either positively or negatively.
"It can enhance the relationship or cause a divide. A sensitive man can empathise and become very supportive which strengthens the relationship. On the other hand, you may have the insensitive father who could start blaming the woman for the miscarriage, which causes the relationship to be strained."
Miscarriages are common occurrences, with statistics indicating that one in every five woman will experience a miscarriage. But, while that reality exists, no woman really wants that to be her reality.
Acceptance of the loss is difficult, but to help with the grieving and coping process, there are some strategies for mothers. "She should talk about the experience as much as she can. Consult with a competent counsellor, participate in group support with persons who have experienced something similar, and document her experiences and how she feels in a journal."
Dr Vivian Panton operates Classic Service and can be reached at 381-2191 or 755-0659.
Additional sources: http://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au and http://www.americanpregnancy.org.