Generally, when a mother has miscarried, the first and immediate concern is her health. It is only later that others begin to realize that a life has been lost. The mother and father have immediate concern for future pregnancies, as well. Their grief may be postponed, relying on the possibility of a future pregnancy. If this is not the first born, the parents have the additional painful experience of helping their other children grieve the loss of their miscarried sibling.
Self-blame is another major issue for the parents of a miscarried pregnancy. The mother may blame herself for some activity, or her husband for his absence in protecting the integrity of the pregnancy. Generally, the father feels powerless through this tragedy. His confusion and helplessness may be misinterpreted by those around him as aloofness. While it is true that both mother and father grieve the loss of an unborn child, the longer the pregnancy, the more intense the grief, especially for the father.
Miscarriages involve the loss of a child’s life. It is, therefore, paramount that parents experience and successfully accomplish grief work. Established rituals in our society to help parents experiencing the loss of an unborn child are virtually non-existent. There are, however, things one can do to help the grieving couple through their tragedy.
Naming the baby is of great value. A name gives the baby a tangible spot in the line of births within this family. It recognizes that there is another member of the family and reserves the sanctity for the child to be remembered and loved.
A memorial service offers an event for commemoration and solidifies the reality of the loss. This realism offers an opportunity for the parents and others to begin the grieving process. It marks a day for tradition, and gives dignity to the child that once existed within the mother’s womb and in the family’s wished-for future.
Planting a tree in the child’s honor also helps with the healing process. As the years progress, the tree will grow. The parallel symbolism helps the parents and any siblings of the child cope with the passing years.
Some families find a journal helps with grief. A journal for all members of the family to write special moments and wishes for the miscarried child, helps to solidify the structure of the family, and the child’s place within the family.
Some parents choose to bury their child. Burying the child gives the family a place to visit and includes the child as a legitimate member of their family. This is especially helpful to younger children. It helps them to understand that their sibling had value, that he or she was loved, and gives them confidence that they are loved and valued, as well.