This is true for the women who must bear the brunt of the trauma, of course, but also their spouses and partners, too.
Dawson’s Creek actor James Van Der Beek has just shown why it’s so important for men, in particular, to tackle the silence around pregnancy loss.
Writing on Instagram yesterday, Van Der Beek revealed that he and his producer wife, Kimberly Brook, recently suffered a miscarriage at 17 weeks.
The couple have five children together aged two to nine years old. But they’ve also been through five other pregnancy losses over the course of the past decade, including one late last year.
“After suffering a brutal, very public miscarriage last November, we were overjoyed to learn we were pregnant,” Van Der Beek wrote. “This time, we kept the news to ourselves. But last weekend, once again, 17 weeks in… the soul we’d been excited to welcome into the world had lessons for our family that did not include joining us in a living physical body.”
In the emotional post, the actor recalled how his wife was rushed to hospital for blood transfusions and he was “helpless to do much for the woman I loved other than massage her feet and try to keep her warm”.
He urged everyone to take better care of one another, and concluded with a message of unity: “to all the families who have gone through this… you are not alone”.
His words were accompanied by a photo of two of their children lying in bed together.
Van Der Beek’s words are important because miscarriage remains a loss that is difficult to share for many people: an unseen physical and emotional pain that is hard for others to understand.
“It can be a very lonely experience,” says comedian Katherine Ryan, who miscarried earlier this year, 10 weeks into her pregnancy. “I felt embarrassed and shameful. Not that I had the loss but I felt embarrassed for getting excited before the loss.
“I felt all these things, and I looked for stories [of people who suffered in a similar way] and I really couldn’t find many of them.”
The situation becomes even more difficult with partners, husbands and wives. Partners of women who go through miscarriage may share their grief just as acutely. And yet, being one step removed from the experience, they may find the loss harder to open up about.
This is especially true of men, who have traditionally been taught to bottle up their emotions.
“Men in particular don’t appear to know what to say or at least don’t generally share their experiences in public spaces,” says journalist Keyan Milanian, who suffered five miscarriages with his wife Amy Swales.
“We are also battered by the waves of emotion that come with loss, but we are meant to be the rock, steadfast and unflinching too – the strong silent type […] There’s even still a lingering idea that men just don’t feel it, that they just aren’t affected by it.”
Van Der Beek’s raw and honest post paves the way forward to a different kind of dialogue: one in which openness and empathy are key.
As he says, “There are no words to ease that pain… to make the process hurt less or to solve it quickly. But the way out of it? Starts with an open, broken-hearted contemplation of this question: How can we take better care of each other?”
Are you suffering from the loss of a pregnancy? You’re not alone. Seek help and support with the Miscarriage Association