How to support your partner if a pregnancy doesn't go to plan
Men and women may grieve differently over a miscarriage. Some men may find it difficult to know how to help their partner while working through their own emotions.
According to the support group Sands Australia, women often experience an intense need to cry or talk about their feelings, while men might not express themselves so openly.
Sands parent supporter Janelle Tsockallos, who has experienced multiple miscarriages, says it’s crucial couples accept each other’s differences and offer as much support as possible by being patient and understanding.
Janelle shares some tips with us that may help men support their partner through this difficult time.
Don’t feel you have to take your partner’s pain away
As much as you’d like to wave a magic wand and make your partner’s pain go away, it’s not that easy.
“Sometimes men feel that they need to be the protector, the problem solver and the one who needs to be in control, but when something like this happens there is no solution and no easy grief path,” says Janelle.
“It must be heartbreaking for men to feel that they are not able to comfort their partner in that really raw grief stage, because sometimes there is just nothing anyone can do that will help.”
Janelle says it’s important to let your partner express herself without feeling the need to ease her crying or have all the answers.
“Sometimes there’s no right thing that can be said or done, it may be simply knowing that they’re there as a support for you,” she says. “Just having them there with their arms around you if you’re sobbing can be the most supportive thing.”
Respect each other’s grief
It’s important to acknowledge and respect each other’s different ways of coping.
“It can cause problems if one partner thinks the other is not grieving or experiencing the same level of grief or is not mourning the loss of that baby the way they would expect them to,” says Janelle.
The key is open communication, which may not come naturally to some couples in difficult circumstances.
Janelle suggests speaking to someone who can empathise, like a help line or local support group, can make a big difference.
Show your sadness and emotion
According to Sands it’s common for fathers to hold back their emotions, to be strong for their partner. But Janelle says putting on a brave face could be misinterpreted as not caring.
She says by expressing that you too are affected by the death of your baby, it may help reassure your partner that her feelings are shared and valid.
Allow each other time to grieve separately
Grieving together may help bring you closer by understanding each other’s feelings, but it’s important to allow each other time to mourn separately.
“Some people do that quietly, internally and can’t articulate their feelings and would rather keep it to themselves, while other people might want to talk and speak to friends, family, support people, or a GP,” says Janelle. “People need different things at different times.”
Just ‘be there’
Sometimes the most powerful way to support your partner is by saying nothing at all, by simply being there to listen and provide a shoulder to cry on.
“It must be heartbreaking for men to feel that they are not to be able to comfort their partner in that really raw grief stage, because sometimes there is just nothing someone can that will help.”
“Sometimes just physical proximity, holding their partner in their arms and letting them know that they’re there when they want to talk is all you can do.” Janelle says.
Make time to do activities you both enjoy
Spend time together doing something you both enjoy to relax. Take the time you need to nurture your relationship and stimulate positive feelings. It’s important not to feel guilty about the miscarriage.
“I remember feeling guilty watching a show and laughing and thinking: ‘How can I be laughing when I lost a baby a few weeks ago?’” she says.
“But I found doing things you love together is a way to reintegrate yourself into your previous life.”
Look after yourself
Sands also advises that it’s vital fathers don’t neglect their own physical and emotional well-being when caring for their partner.
“You need to be in a good place yourself before you can offer good support to other people,” Janelle says.
If you feel that your grieving or your partner’s grieving is not progressing, and things aren’t getting easier after some months, it’s important to seek professional help.
Sands volunteer parent supporters are on call 24/7 on 1300 0 SANDS (1300 072 637). Sands also has a dedicated men’s support line, operated by trained male volunteers who are bereaved parents.