Grieving At A Different Pace

Most women are devastated by the loss of a pregnancy. But even in their pain and sorrow, they can't help but notice that their husbands seem untouched. A woman may not be capable of resuming her former everyday lifestyle. It may be an effort just to get out of bed in the morning. Getting back to normal may be a lot like just going through the motions. Meantime, the husband seems to have no reaction whatsoever. He may toss off a flippant, "Sorry," and seem to think the case is closed.

From Mars

When it comes to grief, as in all things, John Gray's theory still holds true: Men are from Mars; women are from Venus. The reactions of the sexes to a miscarriage may be at opposite sides of the spectrum. Women will struggle, while men seem to rebound from the loss quite fast.

Kristin Swanson, RN, Ph.D., FAAN, who is a professor and the department chair of the University of Washington's department of Family and Child Nursing, says that it is quite common for men and women to experience miscarriage in very different ways. A man will move on from the loss of miscarriage with alacrity, and as a woman witnesses the sharp difference in his recovery time in comparison with her own, "she will start to judge him as kind of cold and callous, and he will judge her as carrying on a little too much when it's time to move on," says Swanson. It is for this reason that so many couples hit relationship snags around the time of a miscarriage.

Less Real

Swanson says that the difference in a man's ability to get past the loss is that the baby is much less real for him as a man. The woman has a true physical bond to the lost baby that was generated by pregnancy, but to a man, the baby was never quite tangible. "Seventy-five percent of women who miscarry would tell you they lost a baby," she says. But for a man, a baby isn't real until he holds it squalling in his arms.

A woman may feel alienated by her husband's lack of response. The husband may want to comfort his partner, but when she becomes aware that his grief doesn't match her own, she may not welcome this attention. She wants a partner in grief, but his feelings are not on a par with what she feels.

Men may be surprised at how long it takes a woman to process her grief after the miscarriage. It may take a woman three months to get through the first stage of deep grieving. But it's not unusual for a woman to grieve for years. Every anniversary of the miscarriage may plunge her into sorrow. A husband may be surprised at the seeming randomness of his wife's sudden tears. After she explains, however, he will be inclined to offer comfort.

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