The Gravity of Memory: Healing after Miscarriage

It was a snowy night when I experienced one of the greatest sorrows of my life; I was suffering from a miscarriage. I was young, my dad drove methodically through the freak snow storm as my mom held me in the backseat. I was inconsolable, sobbing with deep emotion. Although the pregnancy was a surprise, I had grown to love and cherish the little one growing inside of me. Anticipation for his arrival filled my mind with hopes and dreams the longer I carried and after I felt him move; like a butterfly fluttering within.

At the hospital, The doctor searched for a heartbeat and I thought I heard the precious “whoosh whoosh” sound but it turned out to be my own heartbeat. I clenched everything inside of me trying to keep the baby inside. The nurses kept telling me it was already gone. The ER doctor kept calling it a ‘spontaneous abortion” it didn’t sit well with me. When I asked the doctor why it had happened he said “some babies just fail to thrive.” It wasn’t the concrete answer I had hoped for. It would have made me feel better if the answer told me what exactly happened. It was traumatic, painful  and sad.

The thing about miscarriage is that the pain is silent and mysterious. There are so many things that can create grief; the due date, the anniversary of the miscarriage, what they child would have looked like, the pain of a missed future. I had a hard time finding help talking about it. I was referred to a grief counselor who was confused by my immense sorrow only to be told “I usually help parents who had live children pass away” Her words were seared into my memory. I looked for books about miscarriage only to find myself in indexes pointing to a few pages that referenced it in pregnancy books; books I couldn’t bear to look at.

People tried to comfort me by telling me “time will heal” and “I understand your pain” which did the opposite of comfort me.

Miscarriage is ambiguous and painful. Each woman suffers in her own way. Whether the baby is planned or not, the loss of a pregnancy leaves questions and doubts about fertility and health. Perhaps it would be easier to recover from such a loss if there was an answer better than a statistic about the odds. I loved the baby I carried and considered it more than just a statistic.

It took me years to get over the pain. Seeing other pregnant women was hard. I felt defective when I would discuss what had happened. It is an uncomfortable subject but I believe it needs to be shared. There are too many of us with this silent grief which makes letting go and moving on just a bit harder.

The anniversary of my miscarriage passes each year with a tug on my heart. It happened 16 years ago,  yet the memory is clear and vivid. It was a catalyst for me and my life changed when I left the hospital. I became more determined by shutting out the pain and moving through college and my first career with a stoicism that hid my vulnerability well.

Looking back, I see that what transpired was a blessing in disguise. However, I was only able to see that after the grief was processed. Without having something to bury, I needed a way to let go and memorialize so I got a tattoo soon after.  Later on, I created a ceremony to let go of the pain and help me move on. It wasn’t until I started honoring my vulnerability and talking about this specific pain that healing began. I needed a safe place to talk about it and feel heard. I needed to know that my pain was valid.

I want to hold a safe place for women who are suffering from the grief of miscarriage. The pain is personal and deep. What I can do is listen with empathy and understanding. Talking about the pain helps with the healing process and honors the child that was lost. One of the reasons I wanted to become a spiritual life coach was because of this specific pain. I have learned the beauty in letting go with remembrance. A miscarriage is not forgotten but it does not have to hold you back.

A miscarriage is a natural and common event. All told, probably more women have lost a child from this world than haven’t. Most don’t mention it, and they go on from day to day as if it hadn’t happened, so people imagine a woman in this situation never really knew or loved what she had.

But ask her sometime: how old would your child be now? And she’ll know.
― Barbara Kingsolver 

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