My partner had a miscarriage. What do I do?February 25, 2019
While miscarriages are common, the first thing to realise is that your partner’s connection to her baby is unique. So irrespective of how far along the pregnancy was, and how many pregnancies (successful or not) have preceded this one, her experience of this miscarriage will also be unique.
When couples come to me after a miscarriage, the biggest mistake I see non-carrying partners making is the tendency to minimise, down-play, or focus on the positives. Unfortunately, all those things tend to invalidate the experience of their partner. Those reactions – no matter if they’re motivated by love and care and a desire to help – can feel like they are invalidating the fact that a baby had died inside of a person. In my couples counselling practice in the Eastern Suburbs, women have shared some of the more hurtful things they have heard from friends and family:
“Fortunately you weren’t too far along.”
“Luckily you’re still young.”
“Well at least you know you can get pregnant.”
“We can just have another one.”
It’s common to respond in these ways, because no one likes to see a loved one in pain. But if you’ve said something like this to your partner, it would be a good idea to apologise and let them know you now understand this baby was unique, can’t be replaced, and that you haven’t had the same experience of loss as they have.
Confused about what you can do or say?
A miscarriage can be a complex experience for a relationship. People deal with loss differently, and in this particular situation, you and your partner will have connected with the baby in different ways. So those differences are likely to be exacerbated.
You can strengthen your relationship in this time of crisis by bridging the gap between what you are feeling and what your partner is feeling. Here are some ways to do that:
- Acknowledge the loss– This is the most important thing you can do. I’ve seen relationships end because of a partner’s denial, aloofness or avoidance at the very time they are needed most.
- Ask how she is doing– Being present and available is essentially what your partner needs. So when you ask her how she is doing, really listen for the answer. And don’t just ask once. Check in frequently.
- Don’t try to fix it, or focus on the positives – this might sound counter intuitive, but trying to look on the bright side at the expense of acknowledging the loss, can seem invalidating and condescending. It might be uncomfortable, but it is okay for your partner to feel what she is feeling. She will be okay as long as you remain present.
- Don’t expect her to grieve or cope the way you do– her connection with her baby is likely to have been very different to yours. Even if you didn’t see her do it, she may have sung to it, spoken to it lovingly, or held/hugged her tummy. She also gave up a lot to give it life. She will therefore cope differently with the loss of that life.
- Share how you feel– one of the most potentially damaging pitfalls of a miscarriage on a relationship is the comparison your partner makes between her grief and yours. She might feel loss, empty, at fault, self-blame, and broken. And she might show that through tears or being down. But if you aren’t reacting the same way, it can feel quite isolating for her. So if you are feeling similar feelings, then tell her. If you’re not feeling similar feelings, help her understand that your connection with the baby is different and that doesn’t invalidate her response in any way. And tell her howyou Your feelings are just as valid as hers.
- Reassure her of your love and that she isn’t to blame– While this point speaks for itself, its importance cannot be overstated.
- What is she going through physically– educate yourself about what a woman might experience physically during and after a miscarriage. Imagine what that might feel like. Then speak to her to understand what she is going through.
- Commemorate (if it’s right for your relationship) – speak with your partner and decide if you’d like to commemorate the passing with a ritual of some kind.
- Expect ups and downs– grief, especially due to miscarriage, doesn’t follow a straight line. There will be better days and worse days. Over the longer term your partner might also worry about the idea of pregnancy again. This is where the help of a professional can be valuable.
- Know your limits – if you feel one or both of you are not coping with the loss, or that one of you is not being supportive, get in some outside help. A couple’s counsellor is a good idea.
If you and your partner have experienced a miscarriage and are struggling to speak about it, find yourselves arguing more, or are feeling isolated, then marriage or relationship counselling will help you reconnect and get your relationship back on track.
Alex is an accessible and compassionate therapist. His clients appreciate that Alex listens with the intention of genuinely understanding them. He’s lovely with adolescents, who seem to warm to him
immediately, and he creates a space in sessions for any or all participants to have their say and feel heard.
Alex’s particular strengths are in the area of working with couples and he has extensive experience and training in this area. He is both Gottman and Systemically trained and draws on practical ideas that clients can immediately make use of to enhance their relationships.
Alex comes to Sydney Couple and Family Therapy Specialists from backgrounds as a Lifeline Crisis Line Counsellor and Trainer and Therapist at the highly-respected Jansen Newman Institute. He has supported individuals and couples through trauma, anxiety, depression, suicidal ideation and adolescent struggles.
Alex has helped many people through intensely frightening and painful life events – and to a place where they have the skills and confidence to carry themselves forward.
Alex is married with a young family and therefore easily relates to the stress and struggles that many couples and young families face today.
“It takes a lot of courage to share a moment of crisis with someone you don’t yet know. Even more so, to entrust your intimate relationship over to them.
I have been in the fortunate position to be trusted with that responsibility many times and have helped people – through their own bravery, honesty and effort – to transcend their suffering and improve their key relationships.”
Alex also runs the pre-marriage counselling course at the Sydney Couple and Family Specialists https://sydneycoupleandfamily.com/couples-pre-marriage-pre-commitment-course/
Qualifications and Professional Membership
Alex holds a Masters of Counselling and Psychotherapy from Jansen Newman Institute Sydney, and a Bachelor degree from the University of Sydney. Alex also holds a Gottman training certificate.
He is a member of the Australian Association of Family Therapy, the Counsellors and Psychotherapist Association of Australia, and the Psychotherapy and Counselling Federation of Australia.
Why see a Couples Counselor?
Are you wondering if couples counselling is for you? In this interview Alex Ryder answers common questions we hear from people who want to understand more about this process.
And remember, if you are a new client you can book a free 15 minute telephone session with Alex.
“We really like your approach. The other couples counsellor we saw left us stuck in negativity. Right from the start we felt hopeful with you. Your positive approach helped us out of the slump, so we could address the real issues.” – Murry (36) married to Tasha (39); One Child (3) – Clients who saw Alex Ryder for Relationship counselling.
“I’ve wanted to refer you to so many people. Obviously I haven’t given the circumstances, but we are huge fans and are so grateful for your help.” – Tom (49) married to Sarah (43). Two children; 15 & 13 – Clients who saw Alex Ryder for Relationship counselling following an affair.
“I think we told you in our first session that you were the last couples therapist we were going to try. Everything was on the line. So thank you for… well everything.” – James (55) married to Philippa (53) – Clients who saw Alex Ryder for Relationship Counselling