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Nicola Reed, Cruse Scotland’s Area Manager for the North and East, explores the silences enveloping miscarriage and the complex feelings that parents, grandparents, siblings and friends may experience.
October 11, 2021
Miscarriage often brings silence. We even call some miscarriages 'silent miscarriages'.
From feeling that there are no safe places where they can talk, to thoughts that other people are fed up of hearing the same story over and over again, parents experiencing the deep loss of miscarriage often find themselves silencing their stories. Yet the pain and grief shouts ever louder - not wanting… or ready… to be silenced.
Over the years, I have spoken with mothers, fathers, grandparents, siblings, other relations and friends all grieving the loss of a miscarriage in different ways. The losses may be different, but the grief is real. Painfully real.
Time and time again I hear things like “no one understands”, “I can’t speak with them about it – they have their own pain”, “I don’t want to open it up for them again”, “they must be fed up hearing me talk about it”, “it was all so long ago, everyone else has forgotten”. And so, they silence their story - for days, weeks, months, years, decades.
But the story is more than a story.
For someone grieving the loss of a pregnancy, it is the death of a baby, the death of parenting that child, the death of being able to watch them grow and develop, the death of hopes, the death of dreams and so much more.
The layers of grief are wide, complicated and interwoven.
The pregnancy may have been planned and hoped for, or unexpected and unintended. It would be easy to think that the grief is different, but it isn’t. It just holds different silences.
It may be hard to voice the emotion of relief where you know others are devastated… so you silence that. It may be hard to voice that you didn’t feel ready to be a dad but knew your partner wanted to be a mum… so you silence that. It may be hard to voice that you fear that this was your last hope and you are tired of trying… so you silence that. It may be hard to voice that you feel that you have lost everything that you ever hoped for… so you silence that.
To be an ear to hear some of those silences voiced has been one of the most humbling things in my life. Where someone trusts you to listen and not judge, to hear and not advise, to hear the baby’s name spoken for the first time, to receive a photo on Christmas Day, or due date, of how the baby was remembered. These are sacred spaces that it is an honour to share.
Silences can be dangerous. They can push and bury grief deep, deep down.
I read this quote recently and found it to ring very true:
“Like trying to submerge a beachball under water, it became almost impossible for me to hold my emotions down. The longer and more forcefully I tried to hold them down the more violently they burst up through me again.” (Alain Emerson – Luminous Dark, 2017)
Grief is normal. It is part of our healthy response to loss. By giving ourselves the time, space and permission to grieve well, we do ourselves a great kindness.
If you are grieving the loss of a pregnancy, there is support available. It might feel difficult to reach out for that and I know that breaking the silence takes courage, but you will be doing yourself a kindness as you make that first connection and start the conversation.
The Cruse Scotland helpline is here for you, no matter when you experienced the bereavement. Call free: 0808 802 6161 or start a webchat on this site, to access information, advice and support.
If you know someone who has experienced a miscarriage – be brave and connect with them. That takes courage too. You will not make them feel any worse – the worst thing has already happened. Just a simple “I’m sorry to hear what happened. How are you today?” will help them break the silence.
We are also compiling a list of online and book resources for those experiencing the grief of infertility, miscarriage or stillbirth - or for those wanting to find out more about these issues so that they can support someone they care about. Find it here.
Nicola Reed - Cruse Scotland Area Manager & Volunteer
Nicola, after a 20 year career as a chartered accountant, joined the Cruse Scotland staff team as an Area Manager in April 2019. Alongside this shift from the corporate to the charity world, she also embarked on a counselling diploma, clocking up some of her placement hours with Cruse as a volunteer. This is all not as strange as it may as seem - for many years Nicola has been actively involved with a local Dundee charity which offers pregnancy and baby loss counselling and listening support - so her passion for seeing people well supported through bereavement has always been a driving force for her. In her “free time”, Nicola enjoys lots of different things – cooking, writing, crochet, parkrun, church and sometimes she even spares a bit of time for her husband and two girls!