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How to Talk About Your Miscarriage

First of all, I am just so sorry that your baby died and that you are now facing such sorrow. The grief that comes after a miscarriage can be hard to talk about, even with your closest friends. But if you're anything like me, after I lost my first baby at 19 weeks, I was desperate to talk about him. So I just starting telling his story. I muddled through many painful conversations, but it was an important part of my grieving process, and I learned a lot along the way. So if you are feeling the need to speak out about the loss of your baby, but you don't know how to start, here are some gentle ideas from someone who has been there.

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1. Tell the story. It didn't take long for me to realize that nobody was going to ask me about the day that Ethan was born, not because they didn't care but because they didn't want to seem nosy or make me cry. But I wanted to tell his story. So I did. I just started talking, sometimes starting with the story of finding out we were pregnant. Other times, fast-forwarding to the day we found out he no longer had a heartbeat. I told them about those moments in the ultrasound room, seeing his still body on the screen. I told them about the drive to the hospital, about calling our family and friends. I told them about his birth, about holding him, about saying goodbye. I learned to quickly decipher whether the listener felt awkward, queasy or perhaps were even re-experiencing trauma of their own by listening to my story. So I was careful, for their sake and for my own, but I was also unashamed. This is my son's one story. There will be no tales of baseball games or first pets ... this is all I have. So if people will listen, I will tell his story.

This is my son's one story. There will be no tales of baseball games or first pets ... this is all I have. So if people will listen, I will tell his story.

2. Name your baby and use the name when you talk about him or her. It can be challenging and painful to name a child who has died, especially if you do not know the gender or if you had a name picked out that you now want to save for a future child. We experienced both of those scenarios. Ethan had a lot of physical abnormalities when he was born, and it was difficult to tell his gender just by looking at him. So we originally named him Grace, thinking perhaps he was a girl. After the genetic testing came back, we changed his name to Ethan. If he would have lived, we would have named him Gus, but we loved that name so much that it made us sad to think of the name we loved so much dying with our child. So we saved it, and now Ethan has a little brother named Gus. I felt guilty and ashamed about this in the beginning, like we had devalued Ethan by not giving him our favorite name. But it was important for me to remind myself that we are Ethan's parents and we had the right to name him any name for any reason. The same is true for you. I use Ethan's name every time I talk about him, rather than calling him "the baby we lost" or "our miscarriage." This makes it easier for me to talk about him, and it makes it easier for the listener to ask questions. It reminds us all that we're talking about a real person.

3. Never apologize. A few weeks after Ethan died, I was at a holiday get-together. A few other women gathered around me and asked how I was doing. I instantly found myself in tears, saying things like, "I'm just so sad" and "I thought he'd be here with me today." Two of the women started to shush me, and not in a "there, there," comforting sort of way—in a "shh, you're making a scene" sort of way. I was shocked and hurt. I hadn't even been crying loudly! But even if I had, they had no right to shush me. My instinct was to apologize for my tears. But looking back, I realize that I had nothing to apologize for. I was and still am a mother who lost a child. Of course, I’m going to cry.

Talking about your loss can be a wonderful, albeit painful and scary, way to heal and ask for support from those around you.

4. Use a conversation starter. I have a few necklaces with Ethan's name or initials engraved on them. We also have a couple of framed pictures up in our home in his honor—his name carved in a tree, a birdhouse hanging from the tree we planted during his memorial service and a Bible verse that reminds us of him. Sometimes people ask what my necklace says or about the significance of the pictures in our house. I love that because it gives me a chance to tell them about Ethan. People can't read our minds and know that we need to talk about our children who have died, but sometimes an image, a piece of jewelry or a tattoo can inspire words that otherwise would have gone unsaid.

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5. Write about it. Perhaps you worry that if you talk about your child, you'll cry and won't be able to stop. Perhaps you are concerned that people won't care enough to listen. Perhaps you don't want them to ask questions or say insensitive things. So instead of telling the story verbally, take the time to sit down and write it out. Post it on your blog or on Facebook. Email it out to people you want to tell. That way, you can cry with abandon. You don't have to worry about what people will say. And you don't have to tell the story over and over again. You can simply copy and paste, adding or removing certain parts based on who you are writing to. You can be as open or as private as you'd like. But having it written out will likely help you as you grieve and as you try to communicate your grief to others.

Talking about your loss can be a wonderful, albeit painful and scary, way to heal and ask for support from those around you. As you talk about your miscarriage, you will learn which friends and family members are your safe havens. And you may notice that each time you tell your baby's story, it gets a bit easier and the pain feels less raw. That's healing taking place. And although conversations about my miscarriage are sometimes awkward and clumsy, each time I tell Ethan's story, it feels like it's being written more and more deeply on the walls of my heart—right where I want his story to be.

Image via Twenty20/__justanothernobody.

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