When someone you love has suffered a loss like miscarriage, it can be hard to know what to do to support them. You want to help in whatever way you can, but you may not know what they need. Perhaps you worry about saying the wrong thing, or you wonder if it wouldn’t be better to say nothing at all.
Should You Talk about the Miscarriage?
You might also feel compelled to give advice or encouragement to help them feel better about their loss. Out of your love and care for them, you want to ease their pain, so you say what you think they need to hear.
Unfortunately, many ladies who have experienced miscarriage have also experienced hurt from a friend or loved one in the aftermath. How does that happen?
First, as mentioned above, we can hurt her with our silence. We’ll discuss how to avoid this hurt in the next section.
Second, if you’ve had a miscarriage, you might think you know what your friend is feeling, and perhaps you’ll want to tell her the things that were helpful to you in the aftermath of your loss. But because women experience a wide range of emotions after a miscarriage, all to varying degrees, it’s possible that your friend has feelings and beliefs about her loss that are entirely different from your own.
Third, if you’ve never experienced miscarriage, it can be hard to fully empathize with your loved one’s loss. You may know the stats about miscarriage – that 1 in 4 pregnancies end in loss within the first 12 weeks – and believe that the likelihood of miscarriage reduces (or should reduce) the grief one might feel if they experience one. Or perhaps you’ve heard of the “12 week rule” and believe, even subconsciously, that women shouldn’t announce their pregnancies before they reach the end of the danger period. Additionally, you may hold beliefs about when life begins (at conception? when you can hear the heartbeat? when a fetus is viable outside the womb?) that could color your response.
Either way, your words and actions come from a place of love and support – that’s to be commended! But when we don’t know how to love the people in our lives the way they need to be loved, we can unwittingly add to their pain, rather than comfort them in it.
Dos and Don'ts of Supporting a Friend
Let’s look at some DOs and DON’Ts of supporting a friend after miscarriage.
DON’T minimize their loss.
Some common statements women who’ve experienced miscarriage are:
“At least it happened early so you weren’t so attached.”
“At least you’re young, so you’ll be able to get pregnant again.”
“Miscarriage is really common.”
Statements like these can leave women feeling invalidated or ashamed of their feelings.
DO acknowledge the loss.
A common question that friends and family have when a loved one has a miscarriage is, “Should I say something?” We often fear that saying something might add to their pain, or we don’t know what to say, so we keep silent. Our silence, however, adds to the stigma she feels after her miscarriage, so it’s better to openly acknowledge her loss. Feel free to send a note or a text with a simple, “I’m so sorry for your loss.” And don’t be afraid to say it privately in person if you have the opportunity.
DON’T attribute the loss to God or a higher power.
When a friend has suffered a loss like miscarriage, you might be tempted to say something like:
“It must not have been God’s will.”
“It just wasn’t meant to be.”
“Everything happens for a reason.”
However, even if your friend is a person of faith, she will need time to process her emotions and reconcile her experience with her beliefs about God. Statements such as these can actually make it harder for her to move through the grieving process and may prolong her emotional pain.
DO treat it as a true loss.
When someone suffers a death in their family, loved ones often bring meals, offer childcare, run errands, etc., to help minimize the stress of everyday life during the initial grieving period. Though the child was not yet born, your friend who had a miscarriage has still experienced a death. Be as generous as you can in offering practical support during this time.
DON’T try to talk her out of feeling what she feels.
Sometimes it’s tempting to tell the one’s we love how they should feel or do, especially when they’re feeling feelings we don’t understand or cannot relate to. You might want to say something like:
“Be grateful for what you have.”
“Be glad that you know you can get pregnant.”
“You should [insert unsolicited advice here].”
Again, statements like these can lead to shame and should be avoided.
DO validate her emotions.
Instead of minimizing her feelings of loss, encourage her that it is okay to grieve, that everything she feels is okay, and that there is no right or wrong way to feel after a miscarriage.
Your friend will need time and space to grieve and to process her emotions, but she will probably also feel like she shouldn’t need time and space to grieve and to process. She will need loved ones who encourage that it’s okay to feel what she feels, even if her emotions are contradictory or illogical – which they will likely be, and that’s okay.
And a bonus:
DO just be with them.
This depends on the closeness of your relationship, but no matter how close you are, there is a place for you to show your love and support. That may look like sending a daily text to let them know you’re praying for them, or it may look like showing up at their house unannounced to sit on their couch and let them talk/rage/cry as needed. If you don’t know what she needs, ask her! It’s always okay to say, “I don’t know what to say or do, but I want to support you. What can I do? What do you need?” She will appreciate your honesty, and even if she doesn’t have an answer (she might not, and that’s okay) she’ll appreciate that you care enough to ask.