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How to Cope Emotionally with a Miscarriage

By Erica Patino
Reviewed by Jessie Everts, Ph.D.
October 10, 2022

Miscarriage—the loss of a pregnancy before 20 weeks of gestation—happens in about 10% of people who know they’re pregnant, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and to many others who never knew they were pregnant. If that information comes as a surprise, it’s likely because the experience often goes undiscussed.

“Miscarriage is one of the most common and least talked-about traumas we experience,” says Kathy Nickerson, Ph.D., a marriage counselor and therapist in Lake Forest, California. And it can be a difficult one to endure.

There’s No One Way to Feel After a Miscarriage

Because everyone is different, there’s a wide range of emotional reactions that can arise after a miscarriage. “After experiencing this trauma, you might feel any number of things, depending on the length of your pregnancy, your pregnancy experience, the hopes and dreams you had for your child, and your relationship,” Nickerson says.

It's common to feel hurt, angry, sad, shocked, or even devastated. Some people feel confused, empty, lonely, or numb, as if part of them is missing. If the pregnancy was unwanted, some people may feel relieved, and then feel guilty for that relief.

"You might be thinking, ‘What happened?’ ‘I failed,’ ‘What mistake did I make?’ ‘What's wrong with me?’" Nickerson says. Some people may feel guilty because they assume they did something to cause the miscarriage (which is almost always not true).

“There is a myth in our culture that if a woman does everything perfectly, she is guaranteed a healthy pregnancy and healthy baby,” says Diane Solomon, Ph.D., a board-certified mental health nurse practitioner and certified nurse-midwife in Portland, Oregon. Unfortunately, there are no such guarantees for pregnant women or other pregnant people.

The emotions you feel may also be heightened by the physical reality of losing a pregnancy. “After miscarriage, pregnancy hormones fall off just like they do [after delivery],” Solomon says. That sudden hormonal change may cause emotional symptoms similar to those that can follow childbirth, including feeling extra nervous, tired, and stressed, as well as symptoms of depression, anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

If you feel like you’re struggling to cope after a miscarriage, you may benefit from extra help. This is also true if you’re having insomnia, trouble eating, or low energy, or if feelings of guilt have taken over your thoughts. Such reactions could be a sign that something more serious is going on, such as depression, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Talk to your doctor, a mental health professional, a support group, or even a specialized coordinator. Postpartum Support International (PSI) has many resources to help you find the right kind of help for your situation.

Steps for Coping with a Miscarriage

When you’ve experienced a miscarriage, it’s important to give yourself time to heal both physically and emotionally.

Take Self-Care Seriously

“Try to keep things very calm and peaceful for yourself, and encourage your partner to do the same,” suggests Nickerson. “Spend time feeling your feelings, sitting and thinking, crying, talking to your partner, and doing things to comfort your body.” This can include restorative practices like napping, taking baths, walking, deep breathing, meditation, or listening to music.

Open Up to People You Trust

Solomon says that once you have the energy and desire to talk to family and friends, it can be healing to talk about your experience. “It is a loss, it is a source of grief, and you need to be able to talk to trusted others who will listen to you tell the story of the miscarriage, including how you feel about it,” she says.

Know that you can do this at your own pace. Holding in your feelings or ignoring them could minimize what you’ve been through.

Create the Boundaries That Feel Right to You

While it can feel healing to open up, don’t feel obligated to share more than you feel comfortable discussing. “This story is yours; no one is owed the story or an explanation,” Nickerson says. “I recommend finding a quiet time to sit down and speak to people one at a time, rather than handling the conversation in a group setting.”

To anyone who knew you were pregnant but to whom you’re not especially close, you can say something short and factual, such as, "Sadly, I lost my pregnancy, and I would rather not talk about it now. I'd very much appreciate your patience with me while I do my best to recover."

Don’t Push Yourself Too Hard

Ask for the help you need from others and try to manage your expectations of yourself. Don’t push yourself to bounce back right away. You've just gone through a trauma, and that can take a lot out of you physically, mentally, and emotionally.

Consider Performing a Grieving Ritual

Some people find it helpful to do a ritual, such as lighting a candle and saying a prayer. “You could also write a letter to your baby in which you express your feelings of sadness and loss,” Nickerson says.

Find a Way to Honor Your Pregnancy

It can be by donating to a charity as a memorial, creating a piece of art, creating a website, or planting a tree. “Doing something to mark the significance of your baby will comfort you and help you feel like you've honored your child's life,” Nickerson says.

Seek Support

A therapist can be an excellent source of support if you’re struggling emotionally or if your feelings are affecting your life at work or home. Also, consider joining a pregnancy loss support group, which may make you feel less alone in how you’re feeling.

To find a therapist who works with patients who’ve experienced perinatal loss, you can search the PSI provider directory. You can also register for an online support group or search for a local support group through PSI.

While you learn to cope after your miscarriage, remind yourself that there’s no one “right” way to feel and that grief and loss have their own timetable.

“Honor your own reaction, even if you have no reaction or if you're relieved,” Solomon says. “Whatever you're feeling, having compassion for yourself—not guilt or shame—is what's going to help you move forward.”

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