Q: My wife just had a miscarriage. I’m trying to be as strong and supportive as I can but it’s affected me too. I wanted to be a dad so badly, and my wife really wanted to be a mom. We are both devastated. I want to talk to someone about what I’m going through but I’m feeling guilty about not focusing completely on my wife. What can I do?
A: Miscarriages, like the pregnancies they end, have almost always been thought of as having an emotional impact only on women. But this simply isn’t true. There’s no question that men don’t suffer the physical pain of a miscarriage, but our emotional pain can-and often is-as severe as women’s. Expectant dads, like expectant moms, have hopes and dreams and fantasies about their unborn children, and most of us feel a profound sense of grief when those hopes and dreams and fantasies are dashed. And like our wives, most men feel inadequate and guilty when a pregnancy ends prematurely.
Despite these similarities, men and women experience and express their grief in very different ways. Women, for example, are much more likely to grieve openly and, as a result, are more likely to get support and comfort from friends and family. Men, on the other hand, usually keep their feelings bottled up inside and rarely let anyone know how much they’re hurting.
Whether you want to admit it to anyone or not, miscarriages take a real toll on your emotions. It’s crucial, then, that you get as much emotional support as you possibly can and as soon as you can get it. The first step is to talk it over with your wife. Ask her how she’s feeling and be supportive and sympathetic, but tell her how you’re feeling too.
If your wife isn’t able to be as supportive as you need her to be (don’t be too harsh on her if she isn’t-she’s going through a tough time too), talk to a therapist, your priest or rabbi, or even a close friend. Whatever you do, don’t just sit back and wait for anyone to ask how you’re feeling: chances are it’ll never happen.
If you want something a little more structured, your hospital or OB can put you in touch with counselors or support groups specifically geared to couples who’ve suffered a miscarriage. Groups like these-some of which work with couples, some actually focus on men-can offer a wonderful experiences, particularly if you haven’t been getting the support you need from your other sources. A lot of guys who have been to support groups say that the people in the group were the very first ones to ask how the men felt about their loss. Another advantage of working with a special group is that it’ll give you the opportunity to stop being the tough guy and being strong for your wife and allow yourself to feel what you need to feel.
Of course, not everyone’s interested in getting together with a bunch of people who don’t have anything else in common but their sadness. If you’re feeling this way, that’s fine. But make sure you don’t give in to the temptation to handle everything on your own. Stuffing your feelings inside will only hinder the healing process.