Even though so many women experience miscarriages, they’re often not discussed, leaving lingering invisible scars. It can be difficult to know how to help your loved one heal, and all too easy to say something hurtful. Here are ways to provide the much-needed support and comfort at this pivotal time. Don’t say:
Nothing. Knowing someone has recently suffered a setback in her life can sometimes leave us at a loss for words. You may think addressing painful topics does more harm than good. But Ellen DuBois, miscarriage survivor and author of I Never Held You, (Miscarriage, Grief, Healing and Recovery), suggests simply asking “Do you want to talk about it?” If your friend feels that it’s not the right time for her to discuss the issue, then “I’m sorry for your loss” will let her know you still care.
You can always try again. We want our friends to know there is new hope for the future. In this time of grieving, however, “a woman may fear that she may not be able to carry another child to full-term,” says Julie Hanks, therapist and owner of Wasatch Family Therapy Clinics. She needs time to recover; the idea of trying to get pregnant again may feel too overwhelming. Instead, be patient and avoid pushing her to move forward.
It wasn’t meant to be. Attempting to make sense of difficult events can be comforting to some—but a woman who’s miscarried still may be trying to figure out why this happened to her. She may feel she didn’t deserve this experience. Better to recognize her viewpoint by letting her know, “It’s OK to feel whatever you feel for as long as you need,” Hanks says. Try not to offer too much advice, at least in the initial stages, and she will let you know how you can support her throughout her journey.
At least you already have one. While most mothers are grateful for their children, losing a pregnancy can be devastating. This comment dismisses a woman’s feelings. DuBois reminds us, “As with any other loss, grieving takes time.” She recommends we remind our friend that she deserves time to mourn, which “validates her loss and makes her feel less isolated.”
At least you weren’t that far along. Remember, “She has a lot going on—emotionally andphysically,” Du Bois says. A woman not only has to deal with her grief but also her body, no matter how recently she became pregnant. Because of her physical limitations, lend a helping hand. Don’t ask general questions such as, “Is there anything I can do?” Hanks recommends making specific offers like, “Can I come over and do your laundry on Friday afternoon?” She’ll be so grateful that her friend is providing useful assistance.
Don’t tell [insert name of pregnant friend/family member]; it’ll upset her. During this time, your friend needs to focus on meeting her own needs, not those of others. Most women want to be there for their loved ones, and just how supportive other women can be—no matter their own situation—can be a pleasant surprise. Let your friend share her experience with anyone she wants if it’s cathartic for her.
At least you didn’t know him/her. Every woman who’s been pregnant will tell you that she feels a bond to the precious being growing inside of her. Lisa Church, founder of HopeXchange, says, “From the moment a woman discovers that she is pregnant, a connection begins.” Let her know that her pregnancy was real and meaningful by asking her to tell you about her experience.
At least it happened before you bought anything for the baby. Couples often put off decorating a nursery until late in a pregnancy, so your friend likely won’t have to deal with baby supplies she no longer needs. No matter what, there are still presents that can and should be brought. Both Hanks and DuBois recommend purchasing a baby remembrance gift.
There must have been something wrong with the baby. Miscarriages can happen for reasons even medical professionals don’t understand. Would-be moms may feel uneasy about the unknown cause of their miscarriage, which can stay with them for the rest of their lives. DuBois gives us four golden words: “It wasn’t your fault.” This phrase gently reassures those who are still trying to make sense of what has happened to them.