Meghan Markle has always been an outspoken advocate for women, and has used her public image to highlight the struggles that women face around the world…
On Wednesday she revealed that she had suffered a miscarriage, and shared her grief and pain in an incredibly honest and raw column penned for the New York Times.
Her experience may be one shared by millions, but it is one that is seldom talked about. The loss of an unborn child is not something that can be truly understood by anyone that hasn’t been through it themselves. But for families who are grieving the loss, it’s important not to become isolated.
In her column, the Duchess highlighted the importance of being aware of the father’s grief
While most people naturally comfort the bereaved moms, it is the dads who are often forgotten and are forced to process their pain alone. Meghan said one of the ways she began to process the miscarriage was to include her husband Prince Harry. A simple “are you okay?” opens the door to the long journey of healing.
Although statistics show that almost 50% of pregnancies end in miscarriage, it’s still a fairly ‘taboo’ topic.
According to WebMD, many of the miscarriages take place before women even realise they are pregnant. “About 15%-25% of recognised pregnancies will end in a miscarriage.”
The subject has been highlighted by a number of prominent celebrities recently who have been brave enough to share their pain in order to help other women realise that they are not alone.
Chrissy Teigen was criticised by many for sharing a photograph of herself in hospital shortly after experiencing a miscarriage. But for her, it was one of the ways she chose to grieve.
“I knew I needed to know of this moment forever, the same way I needed to remember us kissing at the end of the aisle, the same way I needed to remember our tears of joy after Luna and Miles. And I absolutely knew I needed to share this story,” she posted on social media.
Processing the grief of a miscarriage & supporting those who have experienced loss
All4Women reached out to Coralie Deas, a long-time Griefshare group facilitator in Johannesburg, to find out more about how to support a loved one who has experienced a miscarriage.
Q: What can people around the grieving parents do to support them?
Coralie Deas shares 5 key actions to support the bereaved:
- Just be with them (physically if possible). Try meet outside with mask, exercise social distancing, or meet by Zoom, or on the telephone. The most important contribution is listening to them tell their story – over and over again if necessary. Talk about the baby they have lost. Avoid statements such as ‘your baby is in a better place’. Yes, that may be, but the hurting person in front of you is in the worst state of suffering they have ever had to face.
- Don’t say ‘I know how you feel’. Everyone grieves differently and each significant loss differently – you have no idea how they feel. ‘I can’t imagine how you must feel’ is a much better comment.
- Don’t try to ‘fix’ them. Your attempts at this are actually because you are uncomfortable seeing them suffer and your suggestions may just not be suitable.
- Don’t try to ‘replace’ the child. Please realise that a miscarriage is losing a child, with all the attendant hopes and dreams – a parent of a child will remember the exact age that child would have been at any future time during their lifetime – this is normal, not moribund. Children are NOT replaceable. Comments such as, ‘oh you can have another child’, or ‘well at least you have other children’ are hurtful in the extreme and negate the existence of the child they have just lost.
- Offer practical support. As with any other death: bring food, flowers, cards (or electronic messages), help with family chores and responsibilities. This could be ongoing for a while, grief takes years to work through, not days or months.
Q: What can parents do to come to terms with the grief?
Coralie Deas: I firmly believe joining a group is the most beneficial experience – it normalises how they are feeling – others are feeling the same way too – they are not losing their mind.
The child they have lost needs to be named and can be honoured as a ‘lost child’ within the family for the years to come. A memorial service is also very healing, and siblings should be included. Very young children are protected by not realising that death is permanent and children naturally practise ritual.
Anger needs to be released. This always finds a target and can be anything from the medical doctors involved to the child who died itself, whether realistic or not. If it is not realistic, it needs to be patiently listened to, as it cannot be reasoned away by logic.
Q: Is there a lot of guilt associated with a miscarriage? And if so, how do you approach this?
Coralie Deas: With a miscarriage, parental protection, or the perceived lack thereof, can be prevalent. However guilt is usually present with any grief and like anger, can be realistic or not. It is largely ‘what I should have done and didn’t’ or ‘what I did and shouldn’t have’ and can be triggered by feeling that we are being judged by others.
Talking this through with someone who is non-judgemental can be useful as, like anger, it cannot be reasoned away if not realistic.
I usually ask the bereaved who they feel judged by.
Whether this is another human being, and whether that human being is capable of doing the judging. I then invite them to comment on who is the only being capable of really judging them. If the guilt is reasonable (it usually is not), responsibility has to be taken for the action, or inaction, remorse felt and forgiveness sought.
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While All4Women endeavours to ensure health articles are based on scientific research, health articles should not be considered as a replacement for professional medical advice. Should you have concerns related to this content, it is advised that you discuss them with your personal healthcare provider.