The Guilt and Shame of Miscarriage
The inherent and primary function of mankind is procreation. Perhaps it is because of this innate understanding that sex, pregnancy, birth and motherhood are so powerfully present in the fiber of our beings. Sometimes the instinct to mother is so strong it defies understanding, reason or control. It is a driving force.
When a pregnancy is lost, no matter how far the gestation has progressed, the sense of loss is profound. A child has died - a woman doesn't usually think, "Oh, I lost the fetus," she thinks, "My child has died." And, along with that death has been the loss of hopes, dreams, plans, desires, the loss of self-confidence, identity, and the loss of success as a woman and mother. Because these thoughts (and scores like them) are so difficult, and the loss is so ambiguous, many women struggle for a long time to recover. Some never do.
Negative Emotions of Miscarriage Can Lead to Guilt & Shame
A baby in the womb is a part of the mother and a miscarriage touches a type of bereavement that is very different from that of any other kind of loss. There are the emotional effects of both a birth and a death and grieving is complex. The negative emotions a woman feels at being robbed, the sense of inadequacy at not being able to fulfill the call of motherhood, the fear over having done something wrong, all add up to the most common of all unspoken emotions: guilt and shame.
The Difference Between Guilt & Shame When Dealing With Miscarriage
Shame and guilt are often found together. Guilt is a feeling about something we have done, whereas shame is the conclusion we come to about ourselves as a result of the act. The problem with shame is that it is a buried emotion, one we don't talk about and one that is insidious and damaging. Guilt is the feeling we've done something bad - we let the baby die; we didn't take care of ourselves; if we didn't have that drink maybe things would be different. Shame is the feeling that we, ourselves, are bad - we killed the babies; we are irresponsible; and thoughts like, "If I am capable of that, I am a terrible person." Shame is a feeling that is attached to ourselves, not about what we've done, but who we are, and the brutalizing feelings are deep leading inevitably to our sense of worth and value. A woman who is feeling shamed also feels unworthy.
You can see how this escalates into closing us into a box where we avoid anything that will take us back to that sense of shame or cause us to revisit it. While guilt can have a purpose, leading us to make amends or do things differently, shame keeps us captive inside and strips the joy from our lives. The feelings of shame can cause us to feel and believe that because we're not good enough our baby died.
Guilt & Shame over Miscarriage Leads to Embarrassment
Shame can manifest as embarrassment, causing us to withhold information in order to avoid being judged as harshly by others as we are judging ourselves. This state is not momentary, like some emotions that come and go. Rather it, like guilt, tends to stay buried inside, undermining self-confidence and the ability to have joy and live life fully. Without resolution, shame will hinder the grieving and healing process.
The key to addressing shame is to know deep within that the miscarriage did not happen because of who we are. The miscarriage does not determine our worth or value or make us more or less. It simply adds to the experiences of life that we've lived to this point. Regardless the cause of the loss, it is important to know that it was not fully in our control. Accepting this is often far easier said than done.
Finding Help to Deal with Feelings of Guilt & Shame Because of Miscarriage
If you are carrying a load of guilt and shame, embarrassment about the miscarriage, and fear of being judged, find someone to talk with who really understands what you're going through. A close friend, perhaps someone who has suffered a miscarriage, or a counselor, can help you sift through the pain of the emotions to find your truth.
Miscarriage happens for any number of reasons. The emotions that are attached to the experience are real and often difficult. Allow yourself time to grieve and get help if you need it.