being a mom

Having A Miscarriage Isn’t The Same As The Death Of A Child, But It’s Still Heartbreaking

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broken heartDealing with the death of a child and suffering a miscarriage are inherently different experiences, but that doesn’t mean a woman isn’t allowed to grieve over a miscarriage for as long as she needs to.

A question was sent to Dear Prudence recently wanting to know if having a miscarriage entitles someone to grieve in the same way as someone who had a child that died.The question came from a woman who lost a baby to SIDS. She wrote in for advice on how to deal with her sister-in-law. The sister-in-law suffered a miscarriage while five weeks pregnant and now wants the writer to attend a memorial service to commemorate the one year anniversary of the miscarriage. The writer is also angry because she feels like the sister-in-law compares the two losses as if they were the same and the writer feels otherwise. She wanted to find a way to express her feelings without angering her sister-in-law and damaging the relationship.

Prudence’s advice was to have someone else talk to the sister-in-law, either the writer’s brother, if it’s his wife, or her own husband, if it’s his sister. Prudence called the comparison of a miscarriage to the death of a child appalling and said if the behavior continues, the the writer should excuse herself from the room when the subject is brought up.

While Prudence is typically spot on in her advice, here she seriously missed the mark. Having your brother or husband try to explain how you feel to someone else is a recipe for miscommunication. If a situation is that upsetting then it should be a conversation that happens directly between the women so they can try to understand the other’s perspective. Furthermore, while there is a difference between experiencing a miscarriage early in a pregnancy and dealing with the death of a child, this isn’t the suffering Olympics. Just because one of these women had more time with her child doesn’t mean that her grief is therefore more justified or that having a miscarriage is something you can just shake off.

Sure, plenty of women may not even know they had a miscarriage at five weeks, because that early on one could think their period was simply late. But for all we know, this could have been the first pregnancy she had after years of trying. Even if she didn’t struggle with infertility, the fact that this woman did know she was pregnant that early on suggests she was very eager to have a child. The amount of time spend together doesn’t equal the depth of emotion you feel when it comes to loss.

Prudence also thought holding a memorial to remember the miscarriage a year after it happened shows something is “wrong” with the SIL. Perhaps it’s not an event most people in that situation would host, but people process grief in their own ways and there’s nothing wrong with being upset over what that pregnancy could have yielded. If having a gathering of people who love and support you will help you get past a difficult time in your life, then by all means, go for it. Moreover, Prudence and the writer both fail to consider the fact that the sister-in-law’s actions don’t appear to be intentionally malicious. They ignore the possibility that the sister-in-law’s comparison of the miscarriage to the baby who died from SIDS may be her way to trying to reach out to the writer, to say I’m here for you and I’m trying to let you know that you’re not alone in your pain.

If anything, it’s the woman who lost her child to SIDS that seems to be having the more difficult time coping. This feeling that her SIL isn’t entitled to her own emotions sadly reflects how deeply her own loss hurts. If the writer needs to take space from her sister-in-law while the women process these events further, the sister-in-law of all people would probably understand. Grief affects everyone differently and people shouldn’t have to censor their own feelings over their own life experiences out of sensitivity to others’ losses. Having a miscarriage isn’t the same as the death of a child, but that doesn’t make it any less painful.