Whenever couples sadly experience a miscarriage, it is the traditional view in society, families and amongst friendship groups that only women grieve a miscarriage. Men aren’t affected by them at all, and because of that false belief men are left to grieve miscarriages in silence because they sometimes believe that no one cares about them, their feelings and how miscarriages impact them. In this social psychology podcast episode with a minor overlap in clinical psychology, we investigate how miscarriages impact men and their own grief process. Definitely listen to this one everyone. It is critical to understand.
Today’s episode has been sponsored by Psychology of Relationships: The Social Psychology of Romantic Relationships, Friendships and More. Available from all major eBook retailers and you can order the paperback and hardback copies from Amazon, your local bookstore and local library, if you request it.
How Do Men Grieve Miscarriages?
I want to start off this episode by saying that miscarriages are normal and extremely awful for the people who experience them because 1 in 5 pregnancies end in a miscarriage and this does negatively impact the miscarrying woman and her own social network. As well as miscarriages do occur inside and outside a wide range of relationships, but typically they happen in heterosexual and cisgender people.
Therefore, the effects of a miscarriage sends shockwaves through a social network system and relationships leading to an increased chance of the couple getting divorced (Gold et al., 2010) or breaking up.
In addition, when it comes to men they often suffer from grief, anxiety and depression after a miscarriage as well as at times their mental health difficulties lasts longer than their partner’s does (Farren et al., 2021). This only makes the fact that men often feel ignored or stopped from grieving even worse and they may feel the pressure from society and their friends to be stoic, emotionless and “strong” so they don’t grieve.
This only ends badly.
Not only because men need to cope with their grief for the sake of their mental as well as physical health, but for the sake of the relationship and their partner’s health too. Everything interacts when it comes to mental health after all.
How Metaphor Can Be Used To Help Men Grief A Miscarriage?
The work of Horstman et al. (2019) was very interesting reading and they looked at the stories of 45 white, straight, married men and how miscarriage impacted them. also, what’s really interesting is that they made sense of the loss and the miscarriage by using metaphors, that’s certainly a new take on this important issue.
We all know from English classes that metaphors are a set of tools we use to help us understand confusing ideas or events by linking them with a familiar idea, event or concept.
Therefore, in the work of Horstman et al. what they did was get participants to use metaphors to reflect society’s very limited knowledge about how common miscarriages are and how society morphs this into a very taboo topic. Not only so that people can always believe that miscarriage is a very rare and I’ve heard conversations that blame the mother for the miscarriage, but also so the people experiencing the miscarriage cannot grieve for their loss because it is such a taboo subject.
One common theme of the metaphors used was the idea a lost gift or another idea was that wonderful gift you receive and it is suddenly taken away. Some participants said this was like a present under the Christmas tree only to find it broken or missing when you opened it. or a participant described it as being given the winning lottery but you’re one number away.
That would be seriously annoying.
As well as that’s why metaphors are so important in human communication, because I don’t have kids and I wouldn’t have them for at least another decade ideally if I ever do. But even I can understand that feeling of a lost gift, a lost precious item and the lottery idea. I can understand all of that and it is a truly awful feeling.
However, other people describe a miscarriage, as a profound emptiness that fills you right up.
You feel like you have empty legs, empty chests and empty hearts because that lost baby has left such a gap or void in your world. Leaving these men feeling hopeless and listless.
Finally, men can describe a miscarriage as something unexpected, devastating and sudden like a cataclysm or maybe something like a natural disaster. Leading men to feel like a miscarriage is a tragedy and the men were onlookers of this tragedy and couldn’t do anything to stop it. Like witnessing their loved one was in a car crash and they could only stand and watch the destruction and fallout happen.
These metaphors were all to show that the participant was helpless as they tried to help their devastated partner through both emotional and physical pain. And this links to a point earlier about how men aren’t really helped and there is no support for them too.
Social Psychology Conclusion
Overall, I am telling you all this because I want us all to understand that the idea that men don’t care or grieve about miscarriages is such a myth and it has to end. I also want to highlight that yes miscarriages are a dark topic in society, this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t talk more openly about that not only so we all understand the truth about miscarriages like their likelihood. But also so that the men and women that have to go through this horrible event don’t feel isolated, pressed and abandoned because society deems this topic to taboo to actually talk about.
That taboo-ness has to end outright.
Connecting this to social psychology, we are a social species and our communication comes under social psychology too. Therefore, the metaphors that men use to describe and explain how it feels to have a miscarriage will hopefully provide all of you with a better understanding of what it’s like to have a romantic partner experiencing this type of loss.
Then if we understand how it feels then we can better support the men and women experiencing this perhaps better inform our own private conversations and the larger, more societal discourse too. That would be nice.
And maybe if you have experienced your own miscarriage then maybe this has validated you. Maybe you can finally realise that you were okay to grieve, be sad and emotional during this impossible time. I don’t know but I know there is something in the USA (and other countries probably have it too) the National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness month so get involved in that in your own way. I think in the UK a similar event is in March judging by a politician’s social media that I follow.
I truly hope none of us ever have to experience a miscarriage but if you do or if someone you know experiences one. Then it is critical we all support each other and allow people to talk about it. Nothing good comes from keeping everything bottled up so please, don’t let it.
I really hope you enjoyed today’s social psychology podcast episode.
If you want to learn more, please check out:
Psychology of Relationships: The Social Psychology of Romantic Relationships, Friendships and More. Available from all major eBook retailers and you can order the paperback and hardback copies from Amazon, your local bookstore and local library, if you request it.
Have a great day.
Clinical Psychology and Social Psychology References:
Farren, J., Jalmbrant, M., Falconieri, N., Mitchell-Jones, N., Bobdiwala, S., Al-Memar, M., Tapp, S.,
Van Calster, B., Wynants, L., Timmerman, D., & Bourne, T. (2021). Differences in post-traumatic stress, anxiety and depression following miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy between women and their partners: multicenter prospective cohort study. Ultrasound in obstetrics & gynecology: the official journal of the International Society of Ultrasound in Obstetrics and Gynecology, 57(1), 141–148. https://doi.org/10.1002/uog.23147
Gold, K. J., Sen, A., & Hayward, R. A. (2010). Marriage and cohabitation outcomes after pregnancy loss. Pediatrics, 125(5), e1202-e1207.
Horstman, H. K., Holman, A., & McBride, M. C. (2020). Men’s use of metaphors to make sense of
their spouse’s miscarriage: Expanding the communicated sense-making model. Health Communication, 35(5), 538-547.
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