The loss of a pregnancy may be considered as one of the most difficult experiences that someone can go through. Unfortunately, research and experience show us that parents who lose their children may experience severe psychological stress, and the healing process; which may take quite long, is very painful. Individuals or couples who go through this trauma without the right support, may unfortunately suffer from mental health difficulties. In fact, having a good support network when you are dealing with grief is generally considered to be one of the most determining factors for a good prognosis.
In my work with individuals who have lost a pregnancy, I have come to notice that most often, in heterosexual couples, males tend to prioritise their partner’s well-being over theirs. Even though both males and females who go through this experience suffer very much, most men tend to feel that the loss of a pregnancy affects women more intensely and thus, all that matters is how able they are to take care of their partners. Many loving men feel a sense of obligation to be emotionally strong for their female partners, even though they themselves would feel devastated. This, in turn, may mean that they would not open up to their partners as much as they might need, out of fear that they will cause more pain.
Even though research shows that females tend to create a bond with their unborn children more easily than their male partners during pregnancy, there is no evidence that suggests that the pain felt by women who have gone through a miscarriage is more intense than that of their male partners. This is a subjective experience and the effects of such a loss depend very much on the person’s personality, their previous experiences of loss and the level of support that they have. Even though men may tend to brush off their feelings, it is very important for them to seek the right support in a timely manner, as sometimes, men tend to break down at a later stage (after their female partners start getting better), because they might feel that it is then safe enough to turn to themselves and reflect about their own personal experience of the loss.
Couples’ therapy may be very helpful for those who have gone through a miscarriage, as both individuals are offered a safe space to process their loss and to turn towards each other for support. Nonetheless, if one member of the couple opts for therapy whilst the other does not, this might still create a change in the couple because therapy can help the individual increase awareness and adopt healthy coping strategies, which may in turn, affect the other partner positively as well. Supporting oneself during such a difficult time is crucial. Both the parents and people who are close to them would benefit greatly from reaching out (in their own time and at their own pace) and expressing what they are going through. Reaching out for help is not a sign of weakness, but on the contrary, it signifies courage and strength.
Claire Borg is a gestalt psychotherapist at Willingness. She works with adolescents and adults. She has a special interest in mental health. She can be contacted on email@example.com or call us on 79291817.