He said, she said: Couples talk about miscarriage and marriage
“Maybe it sounds dramatic, but I actually thought my wife was going to die. Her miscarriage was painful and bloody and the whole thing really freaked me out. She wanted to talk about it all the time afterwards, but I hated the memory of her like that so usually would try to change the subject. It took me a long time to realize this breakdown in communication was really affecting our marriage. It affected our sex life, too. I think she always associated sex with the miscarriage, whereas I was hoping it would help us feel closer.” —Anonymous
“She was in such despair after the miscarriage that I didn’t have time to grieve. I felt like I needed to be the strong one, shielding her from a world that was filled with things that made her cry. I wish someone had told me that it was okay for me to be sad, too. I wish I would have felt comfortable crying about it or sharing with friends. Instead, I stuffed it all down. A year later I finally went on anti-depressants and started seeing a therapist. It took me a while to realize that my grief was normal and that it’s okay to need help. Guys just don’t talk about this stuff, at least among my circle of friends. I’m trying to change that now.” —Travis
“I felt so close with my wife after she miscarried. We hugged and cried and talked about it a lot. But I guess I sort of moved on after a few weeks. I still have sad moments every once-in-a-while but mostly it doesn’t affect me anymore. A few times I’ve noticed my wife grow distant toward me and after some probing I realized it’s close to the anniversary of the miscarriage or due date or something like that. I need help remembering, whereas her grief seems to come back much stronger than mine. I’ve noticed when we talk about these things from the heart we feel much closer—and I’m wiling to do that—but I need her help remembering.” —Mark
“I put my grief on hold while my wife was grieving and recovering from the miscarriage. Months later I broke down. My wife had moved past that point in her grief whereas I hadn’t begun. It was a weird and confusing dynamic, but with a lot of communication we grew through it. Our marriage is stronger because we made space for each other’s grief, loved the best we could, and worked through it.” —Pete
“When I was able to share that with my husband how my miscarriage felt like birthing a dead baby and describe how hormonal I felt on top of all the emotional stuff, it helped him to have more patience with me. Somehow it also helped him understand that I had actuallybeen pregnant and made losing the baby more tangible for him. Grief hit him a little harder after that realization, but that wasn’t a bad thing. It felt good to grieve together.” —Jess
“Our miscarriage was the beginning of some troubling times in our marriage. Not the miscarriage itself, but the fact that I grieved and he didn’t comfort me. My husband isn’t a hard-hearted person, but he just didn’t feel the grief like I did. He couldn’t understand my pain and didn’t communicate his feelings with me well or try to empathize with mine. It was the beginning of a great divide between us, at least from my perspective. Our marriage was eventually healed, but I would recommend anyone going through miscarriage to get professional counseling together with your husband.” —Lisa
“Walking through multiple miscarriages with my husband bound us closer together. We learned how to comfort one another and how to tend to our marriage and our emotions with mutual compassion and love. I hope there are many women who would say this, but I am married to an extraordinary man who is tenderhearted and attentive to God’s voice. I don’t recall him ever being impatient or frustrated with how I processed through our miscarriages. His grief was different and shorter lived, I believe, whereas mine certainly still crops up over the years. But I am thankful to be walking through this with him.” —Sarah
Body Image, Sex, and Intimacy after Miscarriage
While it’s clear men and women experience miscarriage differently (because of its physicality), what seems to be talked about even less are the implications of miscarriage on body image, sex, and intimacy. Yet when I surveyed over 750 mothers and fathers while writing Grace Like Scarlett, over and again these themes came up. Perhaps these women and men felt safe enough to share under the guise of anonymity (or semi-anonymity for those who gave their first names)? Whatever the case, many women described a fear of sex and intimacy, or that they struggled to see sex as a not just a necessity, but a source of pleasure and intimacy. Many women described feeling ugly or even hating their bodies. Still others (both men and women) described an obsession with getting pregnant again and shared how the pressure they put on their spouse put a strain on their marriage.
“Before we knew that my body would not be able to sustain a pregnancy without significant intervention, intimacy was something I began to fear because it would remind me of the grief of each miscarriage. Over the years I was able to work through that and not associate intimacy with pregnancy loss, and we found the ways and means that worked for us in order to move forward physically, but in the last year or two (seven years after our first miscarriage), I’ve realized how miscarriage and infertility still affects my desire to be intimate.” —Sarah
“I thought if we could just get pregnant quickly again, it would help my wife to heal. I never forced her, but I think I might have been a little too eager to persuade her. I remember her crying after sex a few times, and when she did get pregnant again she was excited but her grief didn’t disappear. In retrospect, I think we rushed it—not the sex itself, but the ‘trying.’” —Jeremy
“My husband told me after our last loss how scared he is to lose more of me. He feels I’m not the same since the losses began (and I agree). I experience PTSD that the outside world is completely blind to, but creeps into my thoughts and especially my dreams. While we are intimate often, it’s hard for me to enjoy.” —Catie
“When I got pregnant again after miscarriage, sex was basically nonexistent. My husband tried to control everything so it wouldn’t happen again. (As if miscarriage was in our control!) Somehow he thought it was safer not to have sex so I had no choice but to go with it. It actually made me feel really insecure about my changing body, but I could see that it was his way of coping, which helped me to offer him grace.” —Erika
“The midwife told us we were fine to begin trying for another baby as soon as my wife stopped bleeding and felt well. The next month she became obsessive with making another baby. I felt like she was rushing it and worried about her, but I also felt like opposing her passion would crush her. We didn’t get pregnant for about four months so it turned out okay, but those four months of madly “trying” to make this thing happen put a lot of stress on our marriage. Then when she got pregnant she was afraid of having sex and hurting the baby even though the midwife said it was fine. It was a really hard time for us as a couple.” —Khalid
Do men and women grieve differently after miscarriage?
While it’s a common assumption that men and women grieve differently, perhaps it’s more accurate to say people grieve differently. Sure, cultural constructs may weigh in on how men and women respond to their grief—heavily at times—but we undermine the grieving process when we expect it to look one way or another according to gender. There are certainly commonalities among grief experiences—in that way grief is universal—but there are also differences, which are sometimes vast, sometimes subtle. No two people will grieve in exactly the same way.
Miscarriage is not a women’s issue; it’s a family issue, a human issue. Women grieve. Men grieve. Whole families and support networks grieve.
The grief that results from losing a baby is messy and complex. It’s confusing and can feel abstract because it’s not just a lost baby but a lost vision and dream for the future.
For resources to navigate grief after miscarriage and pregnancy loss, or to learn how to best support a friend experiencing loss, please visit my Miscarriage Stories and Resources page or download my free grief journal and free 7-day devotional. You can also find the Men and Miscarriage series here.
If you’d like to go deeper in exploring how to grieve with hope, I’ve written a whole book for you: Grace Like Scarlett: Grieving with Hope after Miscarriage and Loss (available at all major retailers).