Learning that a friend or family member is experiencing a miscarriage can be heartbreaking. And while you care for your grieving friend, it’s often difficult to know how to respond to such news. In reality, there is nothing you can say or do to make it better. But you can still support your friend by helping them to feel seen.
Everyone’s experience is different, and there is no one-size-fits-all response. Instead of telling you exactly what words to say, we’ve gathered some tips to guide you when responding to news of a loss.
If you don’t know much about miscarriage or haven’t experienced it yourself, take some time to learn about the process. That does not mean you’ll take the facts you learned about miscarriage rates or anatomical processes and spew them at your friend–please don’t. You do not need to educate them. But learning more about the miscarriage process can help you to be more empathetic and understanding when listening to your friend’s story. Keep in mind that each loss is unique, and what you learn may or may not be similar to your friends’ experience.
Acknowledge, Never Minimize
Miscarriage can feel overwhelmingly lonely. Chances are, your grieving friend will appreciate you acknowledging their loss and pain. Let your heart break with theirs. Try to understand that there is a hole in their heart and in their home.
People experiencing a miscarriage are likely dealing with a variety of physical and emotional experiences. It can be a lot to process, and it’s often helpful to have a listening ear. Let them tell you about the messy and painful parts. They may be experiencing intense physical pain, trauma, anxiety, depression, and many other difficult feelings.
It may be uncomfortable for you to hear these things, but rest assured it is not your responsibility to make it better. You are simply there to listen. While listening, rather than responding to what your friend is saying with a statement, try responding with a question to better understand what they are sharing with you.
Pay attention to how your friend refers to their pregnancy and baby. Use their language when talking to them about their loss.
Don’t Try to Say the “Magic Words”
Sometimes people try to find the perfect words to say in efforts to help their grieving friend feel better. Unfortunately, there is nothing you can say to improve the situation. After a loss people need time to grieve. They may not be ready to begin looking for the bright side, the silver lining, or a hopeful future. In fact, it can feel very dismissive to hear these things from well-meaning individuals. It may even make your friend feel guilty for not having the strength to stay positive.
As much as you may want to help provide solutions when hearing about your friend’s pain, they might not be ready for that. They may not be ready to see a therapist, attend a support group, or read a book or pamphlet. The idea of moving forward may feel too overwhelming for them at the beginning. Give your friend time and space to sit in the pain. If they ask for advice, only then should you try to give it. Follow their lead.
Understand that the topic of trying to conceive again is likely a sensitive one for your grieving friend. Pregnancy after loss can be filled with fear, and future pregnancies do not erase the pain of a loss. Statements such as “It’ll happen!” or “At least you know you can get pregnant,” can feel very dismissive.
Be careful about sharing your personal beliefs regarding pregnancy loss in regards to religion or life after death. Let your friend believe what they believe. They may need time to find that out for themselves.
Serve Where You Can
Many people experiencing pregnancy loss find it difficult to continue doing the everyday tasks. They may need a break from work or school. They may need help cooking dinners, getting groceries, or cleaning the house. Some people may be reluctant to ask for or accept help. Try offering a specific act of service, such as offering to grab some groceries for them while you are at the store. That way your friend doesn’t have to guess what you are willing and able to do.
Another way you can show your support is to give your grieving friend a gift. A few ideas are:
- Stuffed animal
- Gift card
Consider specific details about your friend and their baby when selecting a gift. You may want to choose a gift that memorializes their baby’s due date, name (if chosen), or gender (if known).
You may not have the time or resources to give much, but that’s okay. Serve where you can. Your grieving friend will appreciate any effort to support them.
Keep Checking In
Losing a pregnancy can be a traumatic experience emotionally and physically. It is not something that resolves overnight, or even over a few months. It can take a long time for bodies to heal, and even longer for hearts to heal. Keep checking in on your grieving friend in the weeks, months, and even years after their loss. If you can, try to be aware of specific times of year that may be difficult for them, such as when their due date was, and the date of their loss. In reality, the grief never goes away–parents just grow stronger.
Above All, Love Them
Every person is different, and every loss is different. It can be difficult to know how to respond, but at the end of the day, what your grieving friend needs is love. Listen to them, validate their feelings, and show up for them however you can.