Q: Is it normal to deeply grieve a miscarriage? My husband and I suffered one, and we're surprised at how devastating it's been for us.
Jim: You've just experienced a genuine loss -- a deeply meaningful loss. It would be surprising if you didn't feel as if the rug had been pulled out from under you.
When a pregnancy ends in miscarriage, a woman and her spouse usually experience a wide variety of turbulent emotions. According to mental health professionals, you may feel guilty, as if the miscarriage were somehow your fault. Your mind may default to denial and cling to the possibility that you're actually still pregnant. Depression and mood swings are common. Anger can become a mask for grief. Jealousy toward pregnant women or new mothers may be a problem, causing you to withdraw from social contacts. Eventually, you'll probably experience a combination of these symptoms, spinning through a recurring cycle of grief, shock, denial, anger, depression, detachment, and mental "bargaining" with God.
Whether they're experienced immediately or at some point later on, the emotional and physiological responses to a miscarriage are the same as those involving any significant loss. As with any loss, it's important to ride the cycle of grief out to its natural conclusion -- that of accepting the reality of the situation.
For healing to occur, you and your spouse need to give and receive permission to fully grieve. If this doesn't happen, you can get "stuck" in the denial stage, mired in a morass of depression and repressed emotions. This in turn can have a detrimental effect on your overall spiritual, emotional, and physical health. If you need help working through the cycle of grief, please don't hesitate to call our team of counselors here at Focus on the Family.
Q: I'm a woman in my twenties, raised by a single mom and who rarely saw my dad. Recently he's expressed an interest in seeing me, but when I schedule a time he always cancels. I've decided not to initiate anything further because I feel he doesn't really care for me. I love my mom, but she's insisting that I continue to pursue a relationship with him, to the point where it's created tension between us. What should I do?
Dr. Greg Smalley, Vice President, Family Ministries: I can understand some of the emotions you're feeling. You've never had a relationship with your dad and want to guard your heart from further disappointment. But this is threatening the good relationship you have with your mom. You're feeling caught in between.
Since the relationship with your mom is one you value and want to preserve, I'd start there. Talk to her and try to understand why this is such an important issue for her. The energy behind this may possibly stem from feelings of guilt over the divorce, or perhaps regrets from an unfulfilled relationship with her own father. Your goal here is to better understand your mom's feelings, but not to be controlled by them. As part of the conversation, you'll want to set clear boundaries and respectfully communicate that the relationship with your dad is a matter between him and you, and that you won't be discussing it unless you raise the subject.
As for what happens with your dad, the decision is yours. If you want a relationship with him, let him know that's your desire. If you haven't, he may be thinking it's all your mom's idea. Move slowly. Start by writing him a letter, or communicating on Skype or Facebook. And work on getting to know each other first, before airing your grievances or sharing deep emotions.
Jim Daly is a husband and father, an author, and president of Focus on the Family and host of the Focus on the Family radio program. Catch up with him at www.jimdalyblog.com or at www.facebook.com/DalyFocus.