August 22, 2019

A Shared Grief

“I hardly ever talk to men about miscarriage in my psychotherapy practice. But one day I met with Cass, who had been sent to me reluctantly by his wife, Lucy whom I had seen as a client for a while. (I’ve changed both of their names to protect their privacy.) Being a father was, as Cass later described to me, the most important thing in his life. Even as a little boy, he dreamed of the children he would have and the father he would be. So when Lucy miscarried in the ninth week of pregnancy, he was grief-stricken. But he also felt angry, envious, inadequate, and hopeless about having another child.

These were similar feelings to Lucy’s, but he often felt them at different times to her, and they weren’t so obvious to others. Cass’s profound response to this miscarriage is far from unique: It’s just that we don’t tend to recognize it.

While we can easily misjudge, misunderstand, or even avoid a pregnant individual’s experience of miscarriage, we can also forget that the loss of a pregnancy may impact a wide range of other people too. There’s usually one other person witnessing and participating in a pregnancy up close — the person’s partner, who is also a parent-to-be.

The fact that a miscarriage happens in one person’s body contributes to the tendency we have to forget a partner’s perspective. Male partners — and even more so female or gender-nonconforming partners — have largely been written out of the pregnancy loss stories that we do know of culturally, or are “written in” as an appendage or, worse, parenthetically. I hope to give such stories justice in my book, The Brink of Being.”

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