Emotional Wound Thesaurus Entry: Experiencing a Miscarriage or Stillbirth

When you’re writing a character, it’s important to know why she is the way she is. Knowing her backstory is important to achieving this end, and one of the most impactful pieces of a character’s backstory is her emotional wound. This negative experience from the past is so intense that a character will go to great lengths to avoid experiencing that kind of pain and negative emotion again. As a result, certain behaviors, beliefs, and character traits will emerge.

Characters, like real people, are unique, and will respond to wounding events differently. The vast array of possible emotional wounds combined with each character’s personality gives you many options in terms of how your character will turn out. With the right amount of exploration, you should be able to come up with a character whose past appropriately affects her present, resulting in a realistic character that will ring true with readers. Understanding what wounds a protagonist bears will also help you plot out her arc, creating a compelling journey of change that will satisfy readers.

NOTE: We realize that sometimes a wound we profile may have personal meaning, stirring up the past for some of our readers. It is not our intent to create emotional turmoil. Please know that we research each wounding topic carefully to treat it with the utmost respect. 

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The rows of Jizo stone statues represent the unborn children of Japan. Grieving parents place toys and other offerings beside the Jizo statue to invoke his protection of their miscarried children.

While women bear both the emotional and physical strains of a miscarriage or stillbirth, men can suffer just as much emotionally from this kind of loss. Depending on a number of factors, this tragedy could be a wounding event for either parent.

Basic Needs Often Compromised By This Wound: safety and security, esteem and recognition, self-actualization

False Beliefs That May Be Embraced As a Result of This Wound:

  • I’m being punished for something.
  • It’s my fault; I did something wrong during my pregnancy.
  • There must be a reason I’m not supposed to have kids (I would be a bad parent, I wouldn’t be able to handle being a parent)…

Positive Attributes That May Result: appreciative, disciplined, empathetic, industrious, inspirational, nurturing, pensive, persistent, private, protective, sensible…

Negative Traits That May Result: addictive, controlling, cynical, defensive, humorless, inhibited, irrational, irresponsible, jealous, martyr, morbid, needy, nervous…

Resulting Fears:

  • Fear that it will happen again
  • Fear of losing one’s other children, too
  • Fear that one would make a bad parent…

Possible Habits That May Emerge: 

  • Mentally tracking the “would be” milestones (she would be one month old today, she would be starting kindergarten this year)
  • Possessive behaviors towards one’s living children
  • Becoming more health-conscious
  • Blaming oneself or one’s partner
  • Obsessively searching for a reason why it happened…

TIP: If you need help understanding the impact of these factors, please read our introductory post on the Emotional Wound Thesaurus. For our current list of Emotional Wound Entries, go hereFor other Descriptive Thesaurus Collections, go here.

Which emotional wounds are haunting your characters and keeping them from being whole and fulfilled?

Logo-OneStop-For-Writers-25-smallEmotional wounds are incredibly formative, changing how a character views the world, causing trust issues, damaging their self-worth, dictating how they will interact with other people, and making it harder for them to achieve their goals. As such, understanding your character’s wound is vitally important to your overall story.

To help with this, we have integrated this thesaurus into our online library at One Stop For Writers.

Each entry has been enhanced and expanded to provide even more helpful information about your character’s wounds and is cross-referenced with our other thesauruses for easy searchability. We’ve also included a must-see tutorial on this topic—a crash-course on how a wound impacts the affected character and the role wounds play in his or her arc over the course of a story. Interested in seeing a sampling of our completed wound thesaurus entries?  Head on over and register for free!

If you’re waiting for the Emotional Wounds book, Angela and I are hoping to have that ready for Fall 2017.  Sign up here to be notified as its release date approaches.

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About BECCA PUGLISI

Becca Puglisi is an international speaker, writing coach, and bestselling author of The Emotion Thesaurus and its sequels. Her books are available in five languages, are sourced by US universities, and are used by novelists, screenwriters, editors, and psychologists around the world. She is passionate about learning and sharing her knowledge with others through her Writers Helping Writers blog and via One Stop For Writers—a powerhouse online library created to help writers elevate their storytelling. You can find Becca online at both of these spots, as well as on Facebook and Twitter.
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8 Responses to Emotional Wound Thesaurus Entry: Experiencing a Miscarriage or Stillbirth

  1. Pingback: Monday Must-Reads [12.28.15]

  2. Dee McKinney says:

    Hi Becca,

    I think you did well on detailing the for a writer the wounds resulting from this event. You were also sensitive to how it might stir up emotions in those of us who have gone through it (lost a child in second trimester). Those bullet points read like a checklist of all that I felt and thought, and it’s been 16 years. I was shocked to find out how many women do experience this kind of loss–yet at least at the time it happened to me, it was still a taboo of sorts to discuss it. Again, thanks for discussing it in a reflective way, as a writer might need to see it.

    dee

    • Dee, I’m so sorry that you’ve suffered through this. I can only imagine how much quieter this issue was 16 years ago. And yet, I believe it’s still too hidden. The emotions surrounding this event are so raw and profound, I’m sure it makes it incredibly difficult for parents to talk about openly.

  3. Janet Smart says:

    I think this is something you have to experience in order to know how a person feels that this has happened to. I experienced this years ago when I lost my baby when I was almost 5 months along. I remember feeling very lonely after it happened. I was so used to it being the “two of us” and all of a sudden it was just me. Although my baby had not been born yet, I missed him. I would find myself out in the yard walking and talking to my baby that wasn’t there any more. It also brought me closer to my other two children. And, my body didn’t know that the child I delivered was not alive, so it was ready to nurture a new life. This added to my sadness. I know everyone is different. Some want to talk about it and others may not. Most of my family didn’t talk about it around me, like nothing had ever happened. I think they thought it would be too sad for me to talk about it. But, I wanted to talk about my baby. It helped me to talk about him, because I loved him and didn’t want to forget him.

    • Thank you for sharing your story, Janet. I’m so sorry for your loss. I truly can’t imagine. My second child was a twin for a short time but I miscarried one of the babies very early in the pregnancy. Technically, I’m one of the 1 in 4 who have gone through this, but my experience was nothing compared to yours. Nothing.

      I agree 150% that no one can know what this terrible thing feels like if they haven’t been through it themselves. No amount of research will get an author to that level of understanding and empathy. But hopefully, by educating themselves and talking to people like you who are willing to share some of their stories, authors will be able to have at least a head knowledge of how a traumatic event might affect their characters.

  4. Brmaycock says:

    I always find this a hard one to read in terms of a reader and don’t think I’d ever attempt to write it (of course never say never and all that!). I have read so many issues with childbirth and probably stuff that the author has gone through but it comes off as something they’ve seen in a soap opera, with the silence in the room as the doctor’s face changes. I hope I am not insulting anyone, it’s just I think people should err on the side of caution before they throw it in to a wip as one of the female protagonist’s ‘challenges.’

    • Yes, there are many wounds that I would find difficult to write because they hit too close to home or are just too sensitive. In writing these entries, I’m always wary because I know there are people reading who may have suffered through the experience. This is where, if you are writing about sensitive subject matter, deliberate and careful research HAVE to come in. In the case of miscarriage or stillbirth, there are message boards where people share their stories, facebook pages like this one (https://www.facebook.com/MothersOfUnbornAngels/?fref=photo) that offer women the chance to speak out about their experiences. Places like these offer real information about what people experiencing this tragedy have gone through. And with an estimated 1 out of 4 women experiencing this in their lifetimes, we’re literally surrounded by friends and family members who might be open to sharing their experiences with us so we can write from a realistic perspective. I agree that we need to be so incredibly careful when writing about something like this. If the story calls for it, the right kind of research is imperative.

  5. A terrible tragedy for all.

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