How To Be There for Your Partner Through Miscarriage or Embryo Loss
This article was sponsored by Fairhaven Health.
I was speaking with my new therapist recently, and in recounting the last several years of my fertility journey, she responded with, “Wow, you’ve experienced a lot of loss.” I’ll be honest: I hadn’t really thought of it that way until that very moment. But when I count the 7 embryos we’ve lost, compounded on top of the loss of my best friend to breast cancer at the age of 31, I would have to agree with her assessment.
Now, if you haven’t dealt with fertility challenges, you may not consider the loss of an embryo a loss. But for those of us who have been in the trenches, embryos are often the result of endless doctor’s appointments, blood draws, and ultrasound scans. Along the way, you come to learn that pregnancy is a privilege — not a right — and every embryo matters more than one may think.
When it comes to miscarriage, the same idea applies: As soon as you get a positive pregnancy test, you’re flooded with joy, fear, and visions of a life in which you get to bring that baby home. But when the pregnancy suddenly ends in loss, all of those dreams come crashing down. Well-meaning people may say, “At least it was early,” but words do nothing to ease the heartbreak that comes from learning your extremely wanted baby doesn’t have a heartbeat.
Simply put: fertility struggles can be hard to understand unless you’ve been through them yourself.
Even when you’re a couple navigating embryo or pregnancy loss, each person’s experience can be wildly varied. One individual may experience the loss physically and emotionally, while the other experiences it only as a bystander. If the past 5 years have taught me anything, it’s that fertility challenges and loss affect no two people the same way, and communication is key if you’re going to get through it together.
How to be there for your partner through loss
That being said, there are a few helpful tips for supporting each other through grief – whether it be the loss of an embryo, the loss of a pregnancy, or even the loss of a friend taken too soon.
1. Allow yourself to feel your feelings.
It may sound cliche, but when it comes to grief, the only way out is through. In the words of my all-time favorite author, Cheryl Strayed:
“Nobody will protect you from your suffering. You can't cry it away or eat it away or starve it away or walk it away or punch it away or even therapy it away. It's just there, and you have to survive it. You have to endure it. You have to live through it and love it and move on and be better for it and run as far as you can in the direction of your best and happiest dreams across the bridge that was built by your own desire to heal.”
In other words, however long you decide to avoid the difficult emotions that come with loss —no matter how busy you keep yourself —you can’t overcome it unless you’ve dealt with it in the first place. Grief, after all, is just love with nowhere to go.
2. Allow your partner to do the same, and accept that it may look different for them.
For some couples, struggling to get (or stay) pregnant may be the first major “crisis” that occurs in their marriage or long-term partnership. Because of this, you may find that while you want to scream into a pillow, your partner processes their emotions differently. It’s important to recognize that just because your partner is handling the same loss in another way, doesn’t mean they don’t care or aren’t grieving. Allow them to feel whatever they’re feeling, too, and encourage them to process it in a way that feels good, engaging in healthy communication along the way.
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3. Talk it out.
Following a traumatic experience, if one or both parties are shutting down whenever the other person brings up your new and difficult reality, things may come to a head very quickly. Even if each individual is handling the loss in vastly different ways, it’s critical to meet each other in the middle and attempt to understand what the other person is thinking or feeling.
You may find that one silver lining is learning how the other person deals with hardship, leaving you better equipped to handle difficult situations in the future. Communication is key to helping you get on the same page when it comes to your next steps, if any.
4. Protect each other’s peace.
Not feeling up for family functions and all of the “At least you know you can get pregnant” comments? Is your partner dreading your mom’s questions about when she can expect a grandchild? After a loss, setting healthy boundaries and making sure you’re protecting each other’s wants and needs is paramount.
Remember: you may feel mentally ready to go to a baby shower shortly after a miscarriage, but your partner may want to avoid the next family gathering altogether, and that’s okay.
Coping with loss, together: Remember why you started.
Trying to conceive can be hard. Add in a fertility journey more difficult than you could have ever imagined, and you may find that it’s more than you bargained for. But life, like fertility, is not without its challenges, and if nothing else, these experiences may show you a side of your partner that you have not seen before, making you more confident than ever that you can get through anything, together. Remember why you started; that will never steer you wrong.
Thanks again to Fairhaven Health for sponsoring this article. Fairhaven Health offers science-based products for your journey to parenthood - from fertility through pregnancy, breastfeeding, and beyond. They offer a wide range of fertility supplements, ovulation prediction tools, sperm-friendly lubricant, and more! Be sure to check out some of our favorite products — FH PRO for Women and Men — antioxidant-based, herb-free supplements designed to support reproductive health and fertility.*
Our readers receive 15% off their entire purchase (code will be automatically applied!) - learn more here.
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.
Kristyn Hodgdon is the Co-Founder and Chief Creative Officer at Rescripted.