There’s no doubt about it, pregnancy loss is one of the biggest challenges that can hit a relationship. It is also one of the biggest personal challenges a woman can face. Even though an estimated 20% of pregnancies end in a loss, miscarriage is not a common topic of conversation, and those experiencing this type of loss often end up feeling very alone—even within their romantic relationship.
Although miscarriage may have your marriage or relationship feeling a little bit rocky, there are effective ways to solidify your connection.
After pregnancy loss, you and your partner may experience:
You have just lost someone you loved, or were going to love, very deeply. You lost the addition to your family, the identity of being a parent, and the very real person your baby was going to become. This grief is just as deeply felt as grief for a person you knew much longer.
The grief for your expected future, the self you were about to become, and the life you thought you were about to have is also very real. Although the parent who experienced pregnancy may have experienced the connection with the baby differently, the other parent , most often the father, has also lost the future they expected to have with their child, and the identity they were about to take on. These are additions to their grief as well.
Difficulty Connecting with Friends and Family
If you share the pregnancy loss with friends and family, it might feel like they just don’t get it. Or they might seem awkward around you now. Despite their best efforts, and yours, it may seem harder to relate to them or talk to them about what’s really going on with you.
In some cases, friends and family may make inappropriate comments. They may diminish your grief by trying to point out a silver lining like, “At least you can get pregnant.” Or they may completely dismiss your pain with comments like, “Don’t worry, it happens a lot.”
Isolation & Loneliness
Since pregnancy loss is rarely mentioned in the workplace and even avoided as a topic between friends, couples may feel isolated. This isolation can result in feelings of loneliness. You might feel like you are the only people going through what you’re experiencing, or that you have no one to talk to.
Within a couple, many women report feeling lonely despite being with their partner. Different grieving styles or different perceptions of the same experience can leave couples trying to connect but continually missing the mark.
Change in Identity/Loss of Self-Esteem
All of these changes, the grief, and the feelings of isolation and loneliness can leave you feeling like a totally different person. You might not recognize yourself in the intensity of these new emotions. Or you may feel like a part of yourself was stripped away with the pregnancy loss.
For most moms their self-esteem is deeply affected. You may feel like a failure, or that you’re not a “real” woman if you can’t have a baby. Many women even feel like their bodies are “broken.”
Strain on the Relationship with Your Partner
Different grieving styles between men and women1, or between people of any gender in a relationship, can create conflict and frustration. Women are often more emotionally expressive and want to talk through their thoughts, experiences, and feelings. Men are often more solution-oriented and may want to “fix” the problem.
One partner might wish the other would grieve the way they are grieving or feel like they can’t talk to their partner about their very different experience. Women often end up feeling alone in their grief and men may feel frustrated that they can’t just fix their sadness.
Ways to Solidify Your Relationship
1 – Share Your Experience
Talk about the feelings and emotions you’re experiencing. This does two things: it diminishes the emotion’s control over you, and it improves communication with your partner. Naming emotions and talking about traumatic experiences are both known techniques for alleviating stress and processing grief and trauma. Research has shown that naming those emotions can help calm the nervous system. Sharing your experiences and turning to your partner helps create a positive attachment that has been shown to improve resiliency and lower stress.2,3, 4
2 – Acknowledge Differences Between You
Both partners in a relationship are individuals with different habits, backgrounds, dreams, and expectations. Each of you experienced the pregnancy and loss differently, and it makes sense that each of you is grieving differently
Talk about these differences and how they are affecting you. Acknowledge, don’t judge, the differences. When you make your partner feel heard and validate their experience, you might just make a dent in those feelings of loneliness.
3 – Make Time for Each Other
It’s easy for some people under stress to hide themselves in work or activities or become inaccessible while they veg out on the couch. Set aside time to be together as a couple and really be present with each other.
This might look like a morning walk, an afternoon coffee date, or snuggling on the couch with the TV off. This is time to see the other person and feel seen by them. It’s time to remember who they are to you and why your relationship is so important. Remember to turn off your phones and be fully present.
4 – Reach out
Remember your network of support and find small (or big) ways to accept help from them. It’s okay if they don’t “get it” right away. Let them know what you are going through. Social support is a well-known protective factor against depression and anxiety. Your friends and family don’t have to understand everything you’re going through to be there for you. They can still be a listening ear, or pick up groceries, or take you out to get your mind off things.
When each of you individually feels supported, it helps refill your patience and goodwill buffer within the relationship. You remember that you are not alone out there but surrounded by support that can help you get through this together.
5 – Seek Professional Help
Another great way to solidify your relationship after pregnancy loss is to get help from a therapist who specializes in pregnancy loss and couple’s therapy. Experienced therapist can help you talk about your differences in grieving in a way the other partner can hear you. Therapy provides couples a safe space to talk about very sensitive topics and the tools to guide you through the process.
Dr. Irena offers online therapy for couples in Texas and New York who have experienced pregnancy loss. She uses research proven Emotionally Focused Therapy to help couples develop and maintain secure attachments and support each other through miscarriage. She has helped highly distressed couples be available and responsive to each other, access their resiliency, and strengthen their relationships.
If you would like to schedule a session, call Dr. Irena for a free 10-minute phone consultation: (281)-267-1742.
- 5 Ways Men Grieve Pregnancy Loss. (2020, April 9). Retrieved from https://www.drirena.com/5-ways-men-grieve-pregnancy-loss/
- Feuerman, M. (2020). Emotionally Focused Therapy: Effective Treatment for Distressed Couples. VeryWellMind.com.
- Johnson, S. (2008). Hold Me Tight. New York, NY: Little, Brown Spark.
- Lieberman, M. D., Eisenberger, N. I., Crockett, M. J., Tom, S. M., Pfeifer, J. H., & Way, B. M. (2007). Putting Feelings Into Words. Psychological Science, 18(5), 421–428. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9280.2007.01916.x