Plenty of articles have circulated the internet with lists of things you should and shouldn’t say to a woman who has recently miscarried. Because I have my own perspective on pregnancy loss, I thought I’d offer up my own suggestions.
1. let her talk about it
In many ways, losing a pregnancy is like having a baby (except, of course, in all of the ways it isn’t). One of the similarities is that every women comes out the other side with a unique battle story. While miscarriage is heartbreakingly common, the experience itself is as individual as the woman experiencing it.
That’s why women want to share their stories. It isn’t something I’d ever discuss during one of those “when my child was born…” conversations that inevitably develops from time to time when moms get together. But in the first couple of weeks after we lost our baby, it was cathartic to talk things through (I suppose it still is, which is why I choose to write about it).
2. help out
Some more similarities between miscarriage and pregnancy: after the fact, both parents are physically, emotionally, and mentally exhausted. Any older siblings are confused. Life will never be the same. In the days following a miscarriage, surgery might be required and medication might be prescribed, leaving parents even less equipped to handle day-to-day responsibilities.
With that in mind, consider what you would do to help a new mom. Bring supper? Baby-sit? Clean house? Even though the parents haven’t welcomed a new baby, their world has still been turned upside down. Extend help in whatever way you can. Avoid empty offers, though; instead of “let me know what I can do to help” or “call if you need anything”, be firm. Send a text that says “I’m bringing supper in an hour” or “I’m taking your kids for the day tomorrow, see you at 9:00”.
3. ask how she’s doing- how she’s really doing
We all do it: offer a casual “how are you?” as a passing greeting. Often, no one gives- or wants- an honest answer. When you have a friend who has lost a baby, take the time to ask how she’s doing, how she’s really doing. Make sure she knows that you are asking for- and can handle- a genuine response. Hearing her raw grief firsthand will be hard, but having you there to listen is a gift your friend won’t forget.
4. offer a distraction
In the days and weeks after miscarriage, it’s hard to think about anything else. Sometimes it’s hard to want to think about anything else, or to imagine ever thinking about anything else. If you want to help, offer the opportunity to get out of the house, to attempt to escape the thinking. Have lunch, get a pedicure, or just go for a drive. A few hours out and about can be healing and remind her that one day life will feel “normal” again.
6. share your story
Until my own miscarriage, I had no idea how common they are. I also didn’t know, save for a few people, how many women in my life have suffered one. During the four days I was off work following my miscarriage, it seemed every day J. came home and told me that another coworker had revealed that she’d suffered a miscarriage in the past. Just since posting our own story, I’ve heard personal pregnancy loss stories from women I’ve known half my live.
For whatever reason, miscarriage seems to be a pretty taboo topic, but it’s comforting to know there are women around who have experienced similar pain. It’s helpful to see them carrying on with life, not forgetting their unborn child but living with the loss.
7. remember the dates
In the weeks following her miscarriage, your friend will begin to heal. You’ll think she’s doing a lot better, and she probably will be. But there will be dates and events that trigger the tears and bring her right back to those first few days after the loss.
Friends who announced a pregnancy around the time she did will start to show, and they’ll find out the gender of their baby. She’ll be happy for them, but she’ll also be grieving for herself and her family. The due date will be hard. If you can, remember these dates that will always be important to her. Swoop in and offer a shoulder, an ear, a laugh. Or wine.
8. don’t forget about dad
Dad’s role in the aftermath of miscarriage isn’t as clearly defined as Mom’s. It’s a widely accepted fact that, because they aren’t the parent who is pregnant, it’s sometimes more difficult for Dad to bond with baby until he or she is born. I think that makes a pregnancy loss hard for the guys.
When a woman miscarries, she can treasure the time she had with the baby. She can take comfort in the fact that she loved the little bean inside her. A man doesn’t have that connection. While he’s mourning the loss of his unborn child and worrying day and night about his wife, he doesn’t have that brief connection to cling to. So when you’re comforting a sobbing, bereft wife, don’t forget that her husband is being torn apart, too.
Note: this post is based solely on my own experience with pregnancy loss. Obviously, the suggestions listed above are not one-size-fits-all. The best way to help a friend through miscarriage- or through any difficult time- is to be patient, empathetic, and available.
What would you add to this list?