Losing a baby is a terrible event for a mum, but she is not alone in facing the trauma; other family members do face emotional stress as well. Dr Hana Ra Adams, who is also a licensed marriage and family therapist explains that once a couple learns that they are expecting a baby, they will usually start to build dreams and hopes for a new life.
For mums, the connection with her baby is more immediate while for some fathers, the connection does not happen until the mum is visibly pregnant, he feels the foetus moves or the baby is actually born. Hence, if miscarriages occur in the early stages of pregnancy, it is usually more devastating for mums.
The father's trauma
How a father responds to miscarriage thus depends on his connection to their baby. Dr Adams illustrates that some fathers maybe just as devastated as mothers because his ideas and hopes for his child began at conception. Other fathers might grieve but not to the same extent as mothers because although aware of the baby’s presence, he might not feel a connection with the baby until he is born.
As different individual experience and deal with grief differently, Dr Adams says, “There is no wrong response to a miscarriage. It is thus important to recognise that your spouse may grieve differently from you. The range of emotions can go from being devastated to numb.”
During this difficult time, it is vital that couples maintain an open line of communication and speak to each other about the loss, be patient with one another and not judge each other’s feelings.
Felicia Tan, a mum who has experienced multiple miscarriages, agrees, “Family support is important in miscarriages. Miscarriages are particularly difficult for husbands as they usually don’t express themselves much. It is best for couples to discuss expectations of childbirth and raising children to ensure expectations align.”
Due to the differences in the way people grieve, Dr Adams cautions that it may sometimes be difficult to speak to your partner about your loss. If that is the case, try to find a supportive friend or family member to speak with.
If you are having a particularly difficult or sad day, find ways to tell your partner how you feel. Dr Adams advises, “If it is difficult to speak to your partner, you might want to find a nonverbal way to communicate. For example, some clients chose to light a special candle in their home to signify to their other partner that they would like to seek comfort or have some time alone to grieve.”
Telling your children
As with fathers, older children also experience different levels of grief based on the connection they feel towards the baby. For children, the concept of death can also be harder to grasp.
Dr Adams says, “The best way to understand a child’s response to the situation is to let the child tell you how he or she feels.” Children might regress when they are upset so it is vital for parents to provide more attention and comfort and to encourage the child to talk about his feelings.”
When breaking the news to your child, Dr Adams encourages couples to utilise their family’s beliefs and values to express how the baby died. While parents should try and answer any questions the child has about death, Dr Adams stresses that it is okay to be honest with your child when you don’t know something. Some children might become fearful that something might happen to them but reassuring your child that he is safe, loved and taken care of will help to allay his fears.
During this difficult time, parents may inevitably be upset or sad, even in front of their own children but this is healthy as it helps your child learn to recognise that parents have feelings too.
Dr Adams encourages parents, “Have a semblance of calm and comfort although you are upset because parents are a child’s main support system and your child mirrors your action so regaining your composure and being strong for your child helps your child to feel calm and in control.”
Dr Hana Ra Adams can be contacted via her website.