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Question of the Month
Someone who recently had a miscarriage said she was grateful to have been able to carry that baby, even if it was only for a few weeks. I can't say I identify with that feeling. I can't decide if she is in denial or if she really feels that way. And I can't decide if that's an attitude I should strive to attain. Is it possible to achieve a sense of gratefulness?

Ann DouglasFrom Ann Douglas . . .

No two people respond to the death of a baby in the exact same manner. We all have very different reactions, as you have discovered. Some women feel grateful for having had any amount of time with the baby they were carrying; others are so angry and disappointed by the outcome of the pregnancy that they find it impossible to experience anything but negative emotions. It's important to realize that both types of reactions are perfectly valid. There's no such thing as a one-size-fits-all grief experience, after all.

But as for trying to achieve a sense of gratefulness yourself, it's not helpful to force feelings that simply aren't there. It's much healthier to acknowledge your true feelings -- anger, frustration, disappointment, sadness -- and to find healthy ways of working through these complex emotions: participating in a face-to-face or online support group for bereaved moms, reading books about grief, writing about your feelings, and so on. Only then will you be able to start processing your true feelings and coming to terms with the death of your baby.

Ann Douglas

Marilyn HeavilinMarilyn Heavilin

Our reactions to grief and loss will generally be unique to us. Perhaps this person is grateful to have at least been pregnant even if the pregnancy didn't go to full-term. Also, it may be this is her first experience with a pregnancy, and so she at least knows she can get pregnant. When a mid-term loss occurs over and over, we may find it extremely hard to be grateful. My son and his wife experienced six mid-term losses. They got to the point that each new pregnancy was cloaked with fear rather than excitement. They were afraid to tell anyone they were pregnant except me. I think both reactions, yours and your friend's, are natural responses. I don't think I would call her response "denial;" it's just different than yours.

I also don't feel you should strive to achieve her same attitude. At some point, you may be able to identify with her feelings, but you're still ok even if you never do.

Much love, Marilyn Heavilin

Sherokee IlseSherokee Ilse

Life is attitude. About the only thing we can have any control over is attitude. Yes, I'd say that one's attitude after a miscarriage or later loss is critical. However, to the first part of your question. How someone else perceives their miscarriage, or any life event, is their way of coping. It should not be judged. Is it denial? Maybe, maybe not. Is it the way she really feels? Maybe, maybe not. However, unless she is physically hurting others or herself or unable to even cope with any of life she is probably doing what works for her. Let it go, let her do it her way and give thought to whether it might work for you.

Now to your attitude--could this work for you? Possibly. Should you go there if you are not ready or wanting to? Absolutely not, since you will sabotage yourself. If, however, you do want to consider it as a potential method of coping then read on.

Indeed, attitude is a key. Will you let the pain and sadness totally carry you away or will you work toward a feeling of finding the "positive" or the "silver lining?" When one is in the middle of a crisis is it possible to find gratefulness or that silver lining? Seeking even just moments of that grateful attitude in between the deep sorrow can be uplifting. It is not reasonable to expect all to change and acceptance and gratefulness to take over one's emotions, but to make time during the day or the week to experience such feelings is a possibility to strive for. Moving toward this attitude is challenging for most people, but I can honestly say I have met people who genuinely find that place in their attitude. I envy them. I wish that for everyone, yet I know it is tough to get there too early, but possible to get there eventually, yes!

I remember meeting Deb who had 3 or 4 miscarriages. It was her attitude that impressed me when she was pregnant again. Her comments went something like this, "If all I have with this baby is 4 or 6 weeks, or 2 or 3 months then I will experience that to the fullest and be thankful for that. I am grateful for whatever time I have with this little one." There are no guarantees in life, who knows how long we will get with any of our children. Another mom talked over and over about how lucky she was as she rattled off things for which she was thankful, despite her two miscarriages. This philosophy is easier said than done. It usually only works when it is your idea, not someone else's. And it's quite normal to resent it when someone else suggests that you look for the "gifts" in your loss or find the "bright side." But when you are the one deciding to find those gifts, you own the idea and the outcome. Thus, your chances improve.

There are two ways I know of to change attitude. Both first require that you make a conscious decision to change. One method is to change your behavior, which when it works well, eventually in turn changes your attitude. For example, you can find one good thing that has come from your loss each day or week. Write it down. You can review your relationships with people and find one that is now better because of the pain you share or the conversations you have had. You can pray to be enlightened about any gifts that might spring forth from your little one's short life and you can open up your heart to notice them when they come.

Or you can focus your attitude on starting your day open to the gifts. Talk to yourself, remembering that you want to focus a little time today on those gifts. Write yourself a note on your mirror or someplace else--attitude: seek gifts. When you feel you are getting too down (remember there is nothing wrong with wallowing, but if you have had enough at any moment, do something else), look up, think up, think rainbow, think about how your dear one has changed you, her mother (or father) forever!

Attitude changing takes work. If you decide you want to give this a try, then do it because you want to, not for or because of someone else. Then jump in by changing your behaviors, even for a few minutes each day. You'll be surprised how it can grow beyond a few minutes. Or practice a little self talk about your attitude; tell yourself you can be open to these gifts. Search for them and you will find them, when you are ready to find them. That I can almost guarantee.

Blessings, Sherokee Ilse

On a personal note. I spend much time these days being thankful for the many, many gifts I have received because of the death of my sweet babies. I have met so many wonderful people and I parent my living sons differently being more acutely aware of how precious and short life can be. I have grown in my willingness to reach out to others, even total strangers, in their pain and I think I take more time to enjoy sunsets and flowers more. Does that mean I don't still have down times and sad memories? Of course I do, but they are now, and have been for years, surrounded with gratefulness and thankfulness. I am different now; I have found a new normal. You, too, can find this if you choose and work at it. The key is what do you wish? And what is your attitude?

StorkNet Member Responses:

From Paige: I have been thinking about this for awhile and think I have come to the conclusion that I am grateful.

I am grateful that I know I can get pregnant again. I am grateful that there was a baby, even for such a short period of time. Let me add here that I still get angry that it was given to me, only to be snatched away. But then I try to turn it around again and say, "God's timing, not mine."

This is the biggie. So many times when other people announced they had miscarried - you included - I said the words, "I am sorry", but I never really grasped the enormity of what was happening to that person - you still included. Now I know. My miscarriage has made it clear to me the pain and anguish at everyone else experiences at this type of loss. Now when I say the words, "I am sorry", I say them with heartfelt sympathy and sorrow for that person.

For what I have learned from my loss . . . I am grateful.

From Franros: I think when something bad happens it creates a kind of energy. I figure I can use this energy to feed anger and resentment or try to use it for something positive. I had very few choices when it came to Ben's life, now I feel like I do have a choice; I can wrap myself in grief and shut the world out or I can make Ben's life make a difference in the way I chose to live the rest of my life. It is only then that I can achieve any sense of gratefulness, not for his death but for his life.

From Maribeth: I truly believe that every one of our little ones leave us gifts . . . some of them are very hard to find. I think I struggle with using the word "grateful" in this situation because I'd hate to imply that I'm grateful I lost my babies. I will never achieve that kind of gratitude, but I do feel grateful *at this point* that I had those babies, even for a short time. It's taken me a VERY long time to get here and certainly not something I discovered within a few months (or even a year - maybe longer?).

Is it an attitude you should strive to attain? Only you can answer that. I think it's something that happens gradually for a lot of people and when the pain is much less raw. I'd only suggest "striving" hard for that IF you feel the kind of bitterness or negative feelings that are affecting a lot of areas in your life.

It's hard to feel grateful with a broken heart. But when that wound heals, it's like any other wound; it heals stronger than it was before. At that point, you may find some of those gifts your baby has left for you.

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