When someone you know experiences a pregnancy loss, it can be difficult — or even feel impossible — to know what to say. And there’s good reason for that: When a pregnancy ends spontaneously and without a live birth, there is not a singular “normal” or “correct” reaction. In fact, the formerly pregnant person may experience a range of seemingly conflicting emotions simultaneously. In many cases, though, grief is one of those emotions, and it’s important to keep in mind that everyone grieves in their own way, on their own timeline. And for some people, the trauma of pregnancy loss can result in PTSD. This brings us back to our original point: figuring out what to say to someone who had a miscarriage.
It may seem counterintuitive, but before anything else, it could be helpful to take a look at some of the things not to say to someone after a miscarriage. Then, when you know what to avoid, you can start formulating a response. The following expert insight and suggestions should help you navigate this highly nuanced topic.
How to Comfort Someone After Pregnancy Loss
Because communicating with someone in this situation is so complex, Scary Mommy reached out to experts for added insight. Here’s what they suggest keeping in mind as you approach these conversations.
Recognize what they’re going through.
Although your first inclination might be to avoid the loss altogether, acknowledging it can be more helpful than you might think. “When someone has had a miscarriage, express empathy by validating the experience they’ve had. Recognize their heartache, shock, numbness, or disappointment by speaking it out loud,” said Shelby Forsythia, grief guide and author of Your Grief, Your Way and Permission to Grieve. She recommends open and direct yet compassionate statements, such as “I’m so sorry this happened to you” or “This is so awful.”
“Statements like these may seem depressing or even despairing, but remember that words like this meet your friend or family member where they are right now, and right now, they’re in emotional pain! Acknowledging their grief and letting it be true is far better than insisting they cheer up or look on the bright side. Your friend or family who’s had a miscarriage just had their world shattered. It’s as much as they can do right now to get through moment to moment,” Forsythia explained.
Give them space to be afraid and confused.
It’s natural to want to reassure someone struggling that they are strong enough to handle whatever they’re facing. But just as it’s essential to validate their experience, it’s vital to let them know it’s OK not to be OK. Said Forsythia, “Keep in mind that for the person carrying the baby (no matter their gender), the miscarriage happened inside of their body. Miscarriage is one of the few losses that happens within a body; it’s OK if your friend or family member who miscarried is feeling spooked or scared.”
Her recommendation? “Saying something like, “It’s OK to feel afraid/numb/shocked/stunned right now. You don’t need to be or feel anything else.” According to Forsythia, “that phrase alone can work wonders when companioning someone who’s had a miscarriage.”
Realize that the loss likely affected others, too.
Clearly, knowing what to say to someone who had a miscarriage can feel complicated. So, it’s not surprising that many of us get tunnel-vision and forget there may be others who suffered the loss as well. In situations where a partner is in the picture, make sure to check in on them. “Partners of people who have miscarried are often overlooked in favor of supporting the person who suffered a miscarriage,” Forsythia told us. “They may also be struggling with the loss of the baby [and] with the hopes and dreams that they were incubating alongside their partner. Expressing empathy by saying, ‘I know you weren’t the person carrying the baby, but in a way, you miscarried too. I’m so incredibly sorry’ can open up conversation and compassion where it is often missing.”
Understand that every day is different when you’re grieving.
Dr. Tina Gupta, a medical doctor and women’s health coach, says we should keep in mind as we broach these conversations that grief isn’t linear. “Be mindful of where they may be today,” Dr. Gupta said. “Meaning, always begin with asking, ‘How are you doing today?’ — where today is the operative word. This question is very different from the question, ‘How are you doing?’ which will differ from moment to moment and is impossible for the other person to answer.”
Be content with no conversation at all.
Although some people find comfort in opening up about their experience, others need more time to heal before discussing it. Dr. Gupta, therefore, says it’s imperative not to put the person who suffered the miscarriage in a position of having a conversation they aren’t ready to have yet.
“Don’t push for a conversation. Be receptive to the fact that the other party has just undergone an out-of-body experience and may not be well enough to carry on a conversation. Listening is better than talking. Be a sounding board for them,” advised Dr. Gupta. “Be there for them but don’t push them. Read the room instead and figure out whether they need you right now or whether they simply need space (and time) to gather themselves. But make sure to keep in touch without expecting anything in return.”
Offer actionable help — if they’re ready for it.
If you sense the person who had the miscarriage could use some help (and, more importantly, wants it), let that inform what you say to them. “Offering to research some options for support may be helpful if the person is open to receiving information,” Michelle Pargman, licensed mental health counselor, told Scary Mommy. “This may include whether the person has access to a company’s Employee Assistance Program, therapists through their health plan, and/or community-based (local or national) support groups and organizations for pregnancy loss.”
Accept that there genuinely isn’t a “right” response.
“I wish there was the perfect instruction manual for the perfect response when someone you know has a miscarriage and has shared this significant event with you, but we can probably agree that there is no perfect,” said Pargman. “As human beings, we are complicated, and we get to go through all that life offers up, at times with complete unpredictability. For each person and their loved ones that have experienced pregnancy loss, there are as many unique circumstances and reactions in their internal thoughts and feelings that go along with that uniqueness. Even if you have yourself experienced a miscarriage, responding in the best way can often feel like a struggle. Our reactions can vary a great deal throughout time, space, and circumstance — we evolve as we navigate through this kind of grief. Immediate reactions to a miscarriage may differ from one’s reactions further in time. The steps that unfold for those that have experienced a miscarriage may also vary.”
So, what do you do? Pargman suggests that sometimes doing nothing is what’s needed. “It is helpful not to assume, and to convey that you are there to listen and hold space for this person,” she said. “This means you refrain from putting forth your interpretations or explanations for why it happened, what someone should do, or how someone should feel. You simply invite them to just be in the moment.”
Things not to say.
There are many comforting things to say to someone who has had a miscarriage, but there are also words you should steer clear of to avoid upsetting or offending them. Here are a few examples to avoid:
- “Don’t worry; you’re young. You can always have another baby.”
- “It was probably for the best.”
- “It’s OK because at least you have other children.”
What to Say to Someone Who Had a Miscarriage
If you do find yourself in a situation where it feels right to say something to someone who recently experienced pregnancy loss, here are a few helpful suggestions.
- “I’m sorry.”
- “Would it be OK if we talked about ways I could help you during this time?”
- “I may not understand your pain, but I’m here to hold your hand.”
- “I’m so sorry for your loss.”
- “Just checking in. You up for doing something today?”
- “I’m sorry to hear the news.”
- “I’m thinking of you.”
- “It’s OK to cry.”
- “I’m not sure what to say or do, but I am here and I am so sorry.”
- “Please let me know if there’s anything you need.”
- “I’ve been thinking about you a lot — sending you my love.”
- “I’m here if you ever need to talk.”
- “What can I do for you?”
- “Remember you are not alone.”
- “Be gentle with yourself.”
- “I love you so much and I imagine you feel [awful] right now, but I just had to remind you of how wonderful I think you are.”
- “Grief knows no timeline. Take all the time you need.”
- “I want you to know that if you’d like to talk about your loss, anytime, I’m here. I’m here always.”
- “I don’t know what to say.”
- “Your feelings matter.”
- “Do you need some company? We don’t have to talk or do anything. I’m happy to just be there with you.”
- “This is not your fault.”
- “Do you need company while you recover?”
- “I haven’t forgotten you.”
- “I don’t want to assume what you might need right now. Is there anything I can do for you?”
- “I wish I had the right words to say to you right now.”
- “I can’t imagine how much this must hurt right now. If you need to talk, I’m here.”
- “I might not be the person you want to see right now, so I just want to let you know I’m thinking of you.”
- “It must be awful.”
- “Whatever you’re feeling right now is valid.”
- “You have a right to feel sad.”
- “I’m deeply sorry for your loss.”
- “Make sure that you feel through these emotions, and know that you don’t have to do that alone.”
- “Everyone grieves in their own way.”
- “There is no timeline or schedule for grief.”
- “My heart goes out to you as you grieve for the baby you were so looking forward to meeting. I’ll be thinking of both of you in the days and weeks ahead and checking in to see if there’s anything helpful I can do.”
- “Please be gentle with yourself right now and grieve however you need to.”
- “This was not your fault. You loved your baby so well.”
- “Sending caring thoughts your way and hoping for peace and healing when you’re ready.”
- “I know how much your baby was already loved. I am so sorry you won’t get to hold your little one in your arms.”
- “Take all the time you need to grieve and heal. I’m here for you through it all.”
- “You are one of the strongest people I know, but please don’t feel like you need to be strong right now. Being kind to yourself is more important.”
- “Please don’t forget to be as kind to yourself as you can right now. Allow yourself the same grace you would afford anyone else.”
- “I know it can take a long time to grieve a loss like this. Please know that however long it takes, I’ll be with you the whole way.”
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