For most women, Mother’s Day is a time of joy and celebration. But think what the day can represent to a woman who has suffered a miscarriage. Many such women find that Mother’s Day brings back the sting of the worst emotions they experienced in connection with their miscarriage. Understandably so. For someone who was all set to be a mother and had the opportunity stolen away from her, a day focused on motherhood can be a source of great pain.
A miscarriage is the kind of emotionally powerful event that affects people in very different ways. How people react to it, how they cope with it, what coping strategies might be more effective for them than what they’re doing-these are all things that depend in large part on an individual’s psyche, values, and circumstances.
That’s very hard for a lot of people to grasp. They look in from the outside and think they can assess the would-be mother’s experience and know what would be best for her. But they can’t, not if they’ve never gone through it themselves.
On the other hand, that’s not to say someone who has gone through it is in all that better a position to judge. Possibly worse in fact. Due to our very human tendency to universalize from our own experience, it’s easy for someone to overconfidently proclaim that, having had a miscarriage herself, she’s in a position to know how it affects a woman and how she should cope with it.
When in fact she knows nothing of the kind. At best she knows how it affected her, and what helped and didn’t help her to cope with it. She doesn’t know those things about this woman, or this woman, or this woman.
So this is the kind of very personal issue that needs to be approached with extraordinary sensitivity and humility. There’s no one answer to how to deal with a miscarriage. Some women respond to a miscarriage exactly as intensely as they would to the death of a child. Some react to it as a very minor setback, disappointing, but no more traumatic than having tried and failed to conceive in the first place. Other women’s reactions run the gamut of every point in between these extremes. A coping strategy that works for one woman might not be appropriate at all for another.
Because every woman is different, there can be no universal right answer for how to handle Mother’s Day after a miscarriage. What we can do, though, is mention a few rules of thumb, a few points to consider, a few things that have helped some women in that situation:
* Accept your feelings
In time you might decide to-and be capable of-changing how you feel about your miscarriage. But you aren’t going to get there by beating yourself up over reacting “wrongly.”
In a sense, there’s a certain validity to your feelings whatever they are. If you don’t experience Mother’s Day as anything particularly traumatic, don’t talk yourself into pain by wondering “Does that mean there’s something wrong with me? Does that mean I’m cold-hearted? Does that mean I wouldn’t have been a good mother after all?” On the other hand, if you experience Mother’s Day as very, very hurtful, don’t make it worse by wondering, “What’s wrong with me that I’m overreacting? What right do I have to feel this way when some other people who have had miscarriages or even lost born children aren’t this devastated by it?”
You’re not other people; you’re you. You’re not obligated to feel what other people feel.
* Prepare yourself for the rough spots
You know, or with enough experience you’ll figure out, what pushes your buttons and what doesn’t. For some women who’ve had a miscarriage, it is indeed Mother’s Day. For some it might be the anniversary of the day of their miscarriage. For others it might be any time they’re introduced to someone who has the same name as what they had decided to name their child before they miscarried. For still others it might be whenever they see an infant.
Forewarned is forearmed, as they say. If you know Mother’s Day is a particularly rough one for you, it needn’t take you unawares. You can psychologically prepare yourself for it as best you can, and also be sure that the people in your life know they’ll need to be a little more patient and supportive of you on that day. And you can tell yourself that it’s temporary, that if Mother’s Day stands out to you as particularly painful, then that means other days are less so, so if you can get through it, things will get better the day after.
* Participate in support groups
Your obstetrician or hospital should be able to direct you to a local support group for women who have had miscarriages.
For some women, a support group wouldn’t help. The last thing they want to do is dwell on their miscarriage by sitting around talking about it with a bunch of other women who’ve had miscarriages. But for other women it can help a lot.
At the very least you know that other women who’ve been through this are willing to listen to you and support you. You’ll be able to hear all different perspectives on the issue, including coping strategies that have worked for other women that you might want to try. You can ask the other members specifically about how they deal with Mother’s Day following a miscarriage.
* Seek counseling
If a group situation like that isn’t what works best for you, one-to-one sessions with a trained psychiatrist may be more appropriate. Or some women find that the period around Mother’s Day is a time that they can most benefit from receiving counseling from their spiritual advisor or clergy.
For some women, a good way to get their feelings out in the open and deal with them is through writing. If you keep a journal, don’t shy away from the issue of your miscarriage. If Mother’s Day puts it foremost in your mind, then write about that.
Without a doubt Mother’s Day can bring up a lot of powerful emotions for a woman who has had a miscarriage. It’s important for them to learn the coping strategies that happen to work best for them as individuals, and for the people around them to know to be especially understanding on that day.