Our caregiver expert helps a family get through a devastating miscarriage.
QUESTION: I have an unusual situation, and I’m hoping you can offer some help. Three months ago, my unwed daughter had a miscarriage. She was three months pregnant, and we were finally in a place of happy anticipation looking forward to this new little life. Now, my daughter is in a terrible state. She is sad, exhausted, frail, unresponsive and feeling so negative about her future. My heart breaks for her. I have been trying different things to cheer her up, but nothing works. I feel myself beginning to retreat and isolate, as well. I want to be a healthy caregiver and a positive role model for my daughter, but I’m sinking. Are we two lost souls? —Maria-Linda
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ANSWER: You are far from two lost souls—you have each other. And while life looks bleak right now, wellness and happiness await both of you in the future. First of all, you have both suffered a profound loss. While miscarriage is often viewed by many as a “natural” side effect of a troubled pregnancy and is probably a “good” thing, it is far from that by those who experience it. All of your dreams surrounding the birth of a child no longer exist, and the sadness you and your daughter feel is palpable. As a caregiver, you must somehow balance both your own pain and the pain your daughter is experiencing. This can be accomplished by caring for yourself in a healthy manner to give you the caregiver support you need so you have something left to give your daughter. Eat well, exercise, get restful sleep, and find ways to recapture life’s joys. Simply put, start doing the things that make you happy. (Find out how other caregivers avoid compassion fatigue.) While you may experience the natural impulse of a caregiver to tend to all of your daughter’s needs, give her the physical and emotional room she needs to recover. Let her know you are there if she wants your support, but allow her to grieve and heal in her own way. If you sense she is spiraling into depression or needs help, locate a mental health professional who specializes in the area of pregnancy and loss. There are a number of websites offering assistance as well. These sites are comprehensive and also provide information about support groups: Hygeia Foundation, SHARE and PregnancyLoss, to name a few. These sites address many of the concerns both you and your daughter may have and also provide you with the comfort of knowing you are not alone. You did not mention the father of the child, but if he is in the picture, it is important to know miscarriage can also profoundly affect males. They are not immune to the emotional devastation miscarriage can cause. Perhaps sharing any helpful information with him might be a good idea. In time, you and your daughter will begin to look to the future knowing you have weathered the storm and, most likely, have come through stronger and more resilient.
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Patricia Smith is a certified Compassion Fatigue Specialist with 20 years of training experience. As founder of the Compassion Fatigue Awareness Project©, the outreach division of Healthy Caregiving, LLC, she writes, speaks and facilities workshops nationwide in service of those who care for others. She has authored several books including To Weep for a Stranger: Compassion Fatigue in Caregiving, which is available at www.healthycaregiving.com or Amazon.com.