How to Cope With a Miscarriage When Your Partner Doesn’t Understand Your Grief

Miscarriage is a deeply painful loss that can affect couples in very different ways.

Pregnancy loss is a common experience for so many couples. In fact, experts believe that anywhere between 1 in 10 to 3 in 10 women experience a miscarriage or stillbirth at some point in their journey to motherhood. As a psychologist who specializes in maternal mental health, I’ve witnessed the significant impact of pregnancy loss on women and their families and seen couples struggle over how to cope with miscarriage. 

Miscarriage and stillbirth is a unique type of loss. It’s a type of disenfranchised grief, which is grief that is not formally recognized by society. In the event of an early pregnancy loss, only your partner and immediate family may know, which can feel incredibly isolating as you navigate grief with limited support. Because most people in your life are unaware of your pain, you may feel the pressure to carry on with your day-to-day life while pretending like everything is normal..

But the reality is, nothing feels normal to you anymore.

If you’re in the camp of not having yet shared your pregnancy news, the pain of a miscarriage announcement rather than a birth announcement hits hard. In many cases, there are a range of reactions from others. So often people acknowledge the loss in the beginning, but then stop asking about it. Women feel pressure to “move on,” as if their grief is on a timer. 

One of the hardest reactions to navigate is that of your partner. Your partner is going through their own grieving process after a loss, but this process is often very different from your own. Your partner may also be initially supportive, patient and understanding. Over time, though, you may sense a lack of patience, frustration or even pressure for you to “move on.” They may not understand why you’re still struggling when it happened weeks, months or even years ago. 

Why your partner has trouble emphasizing post-miscarriage

There are two main reasons why partners tend to have very different reactions to pregnancy loss and how to cope with miscarriage. The first has to do with the fact that the mother is the one who actually experiences the loss. The loss happens to them. Their bodies actually go through the physical experience. They are reminded on an almost second-to-second basis of their grief-stricken scenario as they feel twinges of symptoms and the emptiness in their body. 

The other reason why couples tend to have very different reactions to a miscarriage is that males and females, in general, tend to react differently to any loss. Men are often more likely to hold their feelings in, not talk about it, and throw themselves into work or other tasks. They don’t want to appear emotionally fragile, so they act like everything is okay. 

Women, on the other hand, are more likely to talk about their grief and seek support. They’re also more likely to experience complex feelings about the loss. They may blame themselves and feel guilt and shame, which adds an additional and often complex layer to the grieving process. It’s worth pointing out that this, of course, can vary person-to-person, regardless of the gender affiliation. 

You can imagine how this would cause a conflict when one partner wants to talk about the loss and the other avoids it. Women may be left feeling incredibly isolated and disconnected from their partner at a time when they need them most. 

How to communicate with your partner after a miscarriage

If you’ve experienced this in your relationship, you are not alone. There are some things that you can do to encourage more open and empathic communication from your partner. 

Open up the conversation about loss

First, it can help to explain why it’s important for you to talk about the loss. Some people incorrectly assume that talking about something painful makes it worse. It’s actually quite the opposite. Talking about your grief with a trusted person can help you heal. Explaining this can help your partner better understand why you need to talk about it.

Tell your partner how you’d like them to support you

 As much as you’d prefer that your partner just knew how to help you through this difficult time, they very likely are grappling with the very concept of the loss themselves. They may need some guidance on how to help you. We’re all unique and have our own emotional needs. I often see patients assume that their partner should know how they feel or what to do, which sets them up for failure. Don’t assume that your partner knows how to help you. Explain exactly what you need from them in a direct way. For example, “I’m having a very hard time right now. I need our Friday date nights so we can check in and reconnect. They help me a ton.”If you’re not sure exactly what you need, you can let your partner know that  too. 

Establish your love language and differentiate it from your partner’s

The Five Love Languages developed by psychologist Gary Chapman can be a good exercise for helping you think about what you might need from your partner. The Love Languages is based on the idea that people give and receive love differently. What feels like love to you may not to your partner. 

For example, if you cherish quality time but your partner shows love through acts of service, then this can create a conflict. They may constantly be doing helpful tasks for you, yet you still feel empty because your need for quality time with them isn’t being met. Understanding your own and your partner’s love languages can help you both think about how to support one another after a painful miscarriage.

Consider couples therapy

If you’re struggling to come together following a loss, you may also want to try couples therapy. Couples therapy can give you both a space to process your grief reactions and learn how to support one another in the ways that are most helpful for you. 

Another important point to note is that your partner may never fully “get it.” It’s very difficult for a person who hasn’t walked in your shoes to fully appreciate your experience. Instead of hoping that they’ll “get it,” try to appreciate their efforts to understand. That in itself is an act of love.

Miscarriage is a deeply painful experience for families. While everyone is impacted, the mother almost always experiences the most intense grief and pain. When family, friends, and even your partner don’t seem to understand or pressure you to move on, it is all the more isolating. Discussing why it’s helpful for you to talk about the loss and giving your partner guidance on how to help you can promote more empathic communication. 

And remember, there is no right or wrong way to grieve. 

Read more supportive and guiding stories about pregnancy loss at Miscarriage Movement. 

Author

  • Dr. Emily Guarnotta

    Dr. Emily Guarnotta is a licensed psychologist and perinatal mental health specialist (PMH-C). She has works with clients experiencing a range of maternal mental health concerns, including infertility, postpartum depression and anxiety, and miscarriage. She is also the co-founder of Phoenix Health, an online practice that specializes in therapy for maternal mental health conditions. When she's not working, you can find her enjoying time with her family, traveling, and staying active.

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