By Amber Greviskes
Psychologist Paul Coleman and his wife had already purchased a baby outfit and were planning for the many adjustments they would need when their first baby arrived.
Then, his wife miscarried.
“It was a scary time for her and then a very sad time,” Coleman said. “I tried to be ‘strong for my wife, which is the ‘traditional male role’.”
But, that didn’t mean it was easy for Coleman. A few days after the miscarriage, Coleman was driving alone in his car and started crying. He didn’t mention it to his wife until much later. That’s a very common response said Sharon N. Covington, the Director of Psychological Support Services at Shady Grove Fertility in Rockville, Maryland.
“Men often feel similar feelings of grief and loss as a woman does, but usually not with the same intensity,” Covington said. “However, what makes it difficult for them is the societal view that men must not show emotion and be strong for others. In addition, what men often talk about is a sense of powerlessness.
When a miscarriage occurs, a mix of emotions including shock, disbelief, yearning, searching and eventual reorganization or resolution can exist. What makes grief from a miscarriage unique is that one is grieving over future dreams rather than past experiences.
The isolation that this type of grief causes can be especially difficult for men, who Covington calls the ‘forgotten mourners’.
“Focus is often on the woman, and the man is often left of the periphery,” Covington said. “The best things family and friends can do is to acknowledge his sense of loss and to give him the opportunity to talk about it.”
If a family member or friend feels like either person needs professional help such as a support group or counseling, there are options available. Resolve, the National Infertility Association, has directories of mental health, physicians, and fertility clinics as well as other services.
“I suggest that couples come in to counseling together because it is important to help them grieve together and learn how to support each other,” said Crystal Clancy, an Eagan Minn.,-based marriage and family therapist. “It is also helpful to have a discussion about possible future pregnancies because that can be anxiety-provoking following a loss.”
Post-miscarriage counseling is also important to the couple as a unit. It has the potential to make the relationship stronger if both can share in the grief, acknowledge that both people will feel and deal with the miscarriage differently, and talk about their feelings. Without counseling, a miscarriage can make a marriage that was struggling before the loss more at risk.
“Just be sure to let men have their space to figure all this stuff out. They like to process their thoughts and emotions in their caves, and that’s ok,” said Susan Hudson, the founder and CEO of the Fertility Institute of Texas, who has worked with infertile couples for nine years. “Be there and be supportive. Don’t try to fix the world if he happens to be venting, he just wants reassurance.”
- Sharon Martin, LCSW
- Crystal Clancy
- Paul Coleman, Psy.D.
- Sharon N. Covington, LCSW-C
- Susan Hudson, M.D., Founder and CEO of Fertility Institute of Texas