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a woman's hands on a pregnant stomach

Metaphors can help women to describe their experience, and help us to understand it

Pregnancy loss, which includes miscarriage, stillbirth and termination for foetal abnormality, is a particularly intense and unique form of bereavement, which engenders difficult or painful emotions. When people are talking about such emotions, they have been found to make extensive use of metaphor in order to make sense of their experiences. For example, they might describe their experience as a ‘rollercoaster’, a ‘dark tunnel’ or a ‘deep pit’. By studying the metaphors that people use, we can gain insights into their experiences and begin to understand what they are going through.
In this paper, we look at the metaphors used by a group of women who have experienced pregnancy loss when talking about the nature of their bereavement. In particular, we focus on the ways in which metaphor is used to describe: the experience of the loss, the effects that this loss has on people’s conceptions of themselves and their bodies, and the implications this has for recovery. We find that metaphors involving journeys, containers, and division are particularly prevalent. By studying these metaphors we can see how women who have experienced pregnancy loss are trying to make sense of their ‘new normal’. Our findings provide insights into the grieving process which follows pregnancy loss, the ways in which people respond to their grief, and ultimately their recovery.

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Why do metaphors work?