Dr. John Canine, a nationally recognized grief expert, answers questions and discusses grief issues here in our “Ask The Doc” section.

Question 1 

We are a military family.  Shortly before my husband left for his 9 month deployment, I found out I was pregnant with our first child.  One week ago, I miscarried.  I was 3 months along.  My husband is deployed for another 7 months.  How do we begin to grieve?  How can we lean on each other when he is so far away?


Your situation is difficult not only because of the loss, but also because of the very dramatically different environments.  It is also complicated by the different way men and women look at the loss of a child (miscarriage).  Men look at it as “dismemberment” and women as “abandonment”—Harvard Bereavement Studies, 1973.  However, in the end the most important issue for both of you is the grieving of your child.

Here are some suggestions:

·         Both of you should keep an “everyday” journal–writing down thoughts and feelings

·         When you can, text each other with positive (as much as possible) thoughts about missing your child, but moving forward

·         Send emails with more content and detail than the texts, but still keep the focusing on how you are doing

·         Skype when you can–this is when you can lean on each other, but try to always end on a positive thought

When the 7 months are up (he comes home) there will be a lot of review, catching up, and even fresh grief.  At that time, I would suggest that you see a counselor for a few sessions.

Question 2

My sister was expecting her first child and we planned a baby shower.  We’ve sent out invitations and she has registered for gifts.  Her baby died two days ago in utero.  What do we do now?  What is the best way to tell others?  How can we help her?


This is a difficult situation, but I am going to give you 5 thoughts.

1.       Sit down with her (mother) and talk about what has happened.  Do a lot of listening and be encouraging.

2.      Somewhere toward the end of the conversation try to discuss some of the things that need to be done to begin to move “forward”.  Be delicate.  Specifically discuss the invitations and the gift registration.

3.      Encourage her to be “involved” in making decisions on how to handle those situations.  If she wants to be involved, let her tell you how much.  If she wants to handle everything—let her.  If she wants others to do it for her–then do it.

4.      SHE should make the decisions (as much as possible).  Remember, a lot of people may be hurting, but it is her baby and her grief.

5.      Here are suggestions of things that often happen in similar situations:

·         The baby is named

·         The family has a funeral ceremony for the baby (social support)

·         The baby is buried or cremated (ashes in an urn)

·         The family sends out notices with the baby’s name, picture (if available) and date of death

·         The gift registration cancelled

There may be other things that come up along the way—discuss them with the mother (father), and let her decide to handle them or not.