- At least you know you can get pregnant!
- What was wrong with the baby?
- When can you start to try again?
- At least it wasn’t a REAL baby…
These were all real things my friends heard after experiencing a miscarriage.
While very few people intend to hurt a friend or loved one who is already grieving and heartbroken, it still happens ALL THE TIME.
Having a miscarriage is one of the most devastating events a woman can experience. Whether you lose your baby at 6 weeks or 16 weeks, the entire process is physically, emotionally and spiritually heartbreaking. It can take weeks, months or years to heal and it’s an event that is never forgotten. The other thing about miscarriages? They’re incredibly common, with 50% of pregnancies ending in miscarriage.
There’s no shortage of articles that share what NOT to say to someone going through a miscarriage (spoiler alert: Do NOT say it wasn’t a “real” baby. Oy.) But what *should* you say to your friend when they are physically and emotionally recovering from this traumatic event? Or, perhaps more importantly, what can you do? How can you show up? How can you actually help?
I spoke with 6 of my friends who experienced miscarriages (I changed their names below for anonymity). Each loss was under extremely different circumstances and at different points in their pregnancies. Some went on to have healthy natural pregnancies. Others struggled for years before pursuing IUIs and IVF. I asked them what their friends or loved ones said or did during their miscarriage that helped them feel loved, seen and supported during such a tumultuous, exhausting time. Here’s how they think you can best support your friend if she’s going through a miscarriage.
1. Acknowledge their loss.
Perhaps one of the worst things a friend or family can do is not acknowledge the incredible loss that is a miscarriage. Perhaps you feel awkward or don’t know what to say…but not saying ANYTHING is arguably the biggest blunder you can make. So whether it’s sending a text that simply says “I’m so sorry for your loss,” a handwritten card or coming over to hang out and talk, acknowledging your friend’s loss can be incredibly reassuring.
Rebecca, age 32, said after her second miscarriage that she was shocked by how quickly her own family stopped asking how she was doing. “I don’t come from the most emotionally connected or emotionally intelligent family,” said Rebecca. “After my miscarriage, that loss was forgotten very quickly. I wanted them to acknowledge it more. My grief didn’t end after a week. They had said something to me once after that first week, but that was it. I craved more support; more questions like ‘How are you actually doing?’”
2. Be real and be present. It’s going to be awkward but that’s ok.
Women going through miscarriages want your support, but they don’t want your platitude and they don’t want your pity. While it’s tempting to try to find a “bright side” of the experience, it’s best to just sit and listen to your friend rather than attempting to offer anecdotes or optimism. Watching a friend struggle can be tough, but it’s also not about you feeling comfortable. It’s about your friend and trying to lighten their emotional load by being fully present, even if it’s hard.
After her 12-week miscarriage, Karen said that she felt sort of paranoid, like her friends were only asking about how she was doing to be polite and didn’t REALLY want to hear her story. “You never know if people really want to listen. You feel like people would rather stay away from the subject and that makes it way harder and more isolating. Having to fake like you are totally fine so you don’t make someone else uncomfortable. The best thing you can do? Just be f**king real and not awkward. Just listen…”
3. Remember that people process grief differently.
There’s no ‘right’ way to grieve and it looks differently to every single person. Some want to talk. Others want to write. Others want to drink. (Or all of the above). It’s important to respect your friend’s process and not make her feel like she’s not “doing it right.” Sometimes grief can last a long time and other times it doesn’t even get processed for a few weeks (or months or ever).
Kaitlin, age 36, had a miscarriage between her first and second children. She was open about the loss on social media which triggered many acquaintances sharing their own stories of miscarriage and child loss. “It’s such a personal experience. I have one friend who had a full funeral service for her 9-week miscarriage and then I know someone else who didn’t want to acknowledge the loss at all. Another friend I have plants a tree everywhere she travels. As for me, I go to church every year with my parents on the day we found out the baby had passed and on the estimated birth date.”
4. Stay in the present. Don’t ask what’s next…
A loss is a loss is a loss. Try to stay present with your friend. Don’t ask about future pregnancies. Don’t ask about past pregnancies. Honor this moment. Honor this baby. Honor this loss, especially if there have been others.
Jennifer, age 33, said that one of the most common questions her family and friends asked after her 8-week miscarriage was, ‘So when are you going to try again?’ Jennifer added, “It takes some time to physically go through a miscarriage beyond the emotional stuff, which is a whole other thing…I didn’t like feeling as though I had to report back on how things were going every month following the loss. I also did not enjoy hearing questions along the lines of, ‘How can you prevent this in the future?’”
5. Bring food.
Bad at words? We feel you. A simple yet truly heartfelt way to show up for your friend is to bring over food during her recovery.
Karen mentioned in her interview that bringing meals was a beautiful, non-verbal way to show caring and that the effort meant a lot to her. 35-year-old Cassie agreed, “At the very least I wanted people to acknowledge and show support the way you would in any trauma: bringing food, sending cards, etc.”
Lily who had multiple miscarriages added, “I really didn’t need to hear much more than ‘This is all just really shitty and unfair.’ I was sent flowers and food and self-care items. All were so appreciated, but it wasn’t the items themselves that I appreciated the most, but rather the message it sent to me: that I was seen by them. They saw my hurt. They wanted to know I wasn’t alone. It’s an isolating and vulnerable thing to go through a miscarriage, so when people said, ‘I see you,’ I felt validated and much less alone.”
What did you need to hear when you were going through a miscarriage? What are some ways friends and family members can best support their loved ones experiencing this incredible loss.