When Underwood recently opened up about a series of three miscarriages she had over the course of two years, she shared the confusing feelings that came with them. “I had always been afraid to be angry,” Underwood admitted in an interview with CBS. “Because we are so blessed. And my son, Isaiah, is the sweetest thing. And he’s the best thing in the world. And I’m like, ‘If we can never have any other kids, that’s okay, because he’s amazing.’ And I have this amazing life…Can I be mad? No.”
Really, she can be mad, says psychologist Nicoletta Skoufalos, PhD. But Underwood’s trepidation make sense: Because pregnancy loss is something we don’t talk about nearly enough, there’s no blueprint for dealing with it the way there is for something like the death of a loved one or even a breakup.
According to Dr. Skoufalos, the response to pregnancy loss varies widely. “After experiencing a miscarriage, it’s absolutely normal to feel a great sense of loss, sadness, or irritability,” she says. “These are very normal emotions to have and do not necessarily indicate something to be concerned about, nor do they mean that the person is depressed or clinically anxious.”
She said it should be taken as a very good sign if anyone experiencing pregnancy loss wants to talk about it with others. “This is how people process the loss, and it’s also a healthy way of coping by including others into her process,” explains Dr. Skoufalos. “Tons of crying and a need for rest are very normal.”
While you should always seek the help of a mental health professional as soon as you feel you need it, this is especially important if your feelings of intense grief over a miscarriage persist after a couple months. “The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) suggests that even when someone is experiencing normative grief, they might also suffer from clinical depression,” says clinical psychologist Bobbi Wegner. “As a practicing psychologist, if the parent did not have a prior diagnosis of depression or anxiety before the miscarriage, I expect many parents to start to resume more normative daily functioning by two months, give or take. If deep and functionally impairing sadness or worry remains at this time, it’s important to assess for depression and anxiety.”
Taking the time to heal is essential to the process of grieving a pregnancy loss. If you think you can bounce back into work and social life without batting an eye, you’re fooling yourself—and the healing process will likely take even longer as a result.
According to Wegner, one of the best things you can do is prioritize self-care. “Don’t impose expectations on yourself about what’s right or wrong,” she advises. “Surround yourself with people who support you and care, and consider finding a support group. Try to find some structure in your day to help manage the symptoms, paying attention to good sleep patterns, healthy food, and exercise.”
And if you feel able to talk about what happened, that can help tremendously. “This is a loss, and the mother should feel free to grieve and to have someone listen to her,” says Dr. Skoufalos.
So, what is the “normal” response to a miscarriage? There is none. Whether you’re angry, intensely sad, or simply a little bit down, try not to judge your feelings. Take time and space to heal, and know that everyone is different.
Here’s advice on how to talk about miscarriage—whether it’s you who had one or a loved one. And here are some expert-approved ways to help yourself heal after a pregnancy loss.
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