What to say to when someone has a miscarriage
What to say when someone has a miscarriage?
Have you ever Googled this? When a friend or relative has a miscarriage, it’s devastating.
What do they do with all the hopes and dreams that they had for this new little life? The plans they’d made for a life as their Mummy?
Aside from the physical effects, they also have to deal with unhelpful comments from people. Comments like “Better now than later.” or “It’s probably for the best.” The best for whom?
On the flip side, instead of these comments, women who experience miscarriage often find that instead of love and support, they get silence. Clearly, when some people don’t know what to say when someone has a miscarriage they just opt to say nothing at all. So, as well as feeling torn apart by grief, they also feel isolated, lonely and unsupported.
We can do better, can’t we?
I know it’s hard to know what to say. You don’t want to upset or offend your friend. You’re worried that you’re going to make it ten times worse. That things will be awkward.
But really, isn’t that just putting your own comfort ahead of what your friend or loved one is going through?
As a Mum of four, who has never experienced this, I feel ill-placed to write this post. But when a close friend of mine experienced a miscarriage a few years ago I felt determined to hold space for her grief. I couldn’t, I wouldn’t, fail to acknowledge her baby, her experience, her pain.
Am I under qualified to give comfort because I haven’t gone through it? Maybe. But I feel offering empathy is the least I can do.
When I looked for a card, I couldn’t find anything appropriate - a sympathy card didn’t seem quite right, and it certainly didn’t seem to fit her situation. A simple “thinking of you” card seemed somehow euphemistic.
So I created something for her with a verse and a simple rainbow. I wanted something to mark that life that briefly was, but, given how optimistic and positive my friend is, something that was also hopeful for the future. You can see what I came up with below.
A year later, this card, and the associated poetry print, is my way of providing something that helps us support our friends. Recently, I went a step further. I didn’t feel the card was quite enough, so I produced a short verse to enclose with it.
Because it is difficult to know what to say when someone has a miscarriage, to communicate that we will be there for them, holding space for their grief, however and whenever it comes.
But just because it’s difficult doesn’t mean we can’t do it.
Now, this verse, which I simply titled ‘What to say’, is enclosed with every purchase of my miscarriage card, to help us support our friends and loved ones, to acknowledge what they’ve been through and to tell them we will always be there for them.
So what can you do to hold space for this very unique type of grief?
Everyone copes with grief differently. For as many people there are in the world, there are as many ways of dealing with grief. And there’s no manual for how to support a friend through it. Being gentle and giving time are the best you can do. Have a read through the next few points and maybe something will help you when you’re figuring out how you can best support them.
Ask your friend what happened
If she doesn’t want to talk about it, that’s absolutely fine. Don’t force the issue. But letting her know that if she ever does want to share what happened that you’re there to listen.
Don’t put a time limit on her grief
Grief isn’t linear. There seems to be an idea that once a certain (yet undefined) point comes, that grief should be finished, done with, dealt with. That’s as unhelpful as it is untrue. Grief can be immediate, prolonged, delayed or a mixture of all these. Don’t just allow for this - expect it and be there when it happens.
Use her baby’s name - if she wants you to
If your friend named her baby, ask her if she’d like you to use it when you speak of them. If she tells you when he or she would have been born, the date that she miscarried or any other meaningful dates of the pregnancy or birth, note them down.
Even if she’d prefer not to mark them or talk about them on these days, that’s absolutely fine, of course, but making sure you’re aware of them and how she’ll be feeling on these days is an incredibly important way of supporting her.
Follow her lead
Some women throw themselves into a new hobby - join her. Some women want to hide away and hibernate - send a candle and maybe a thoughtful note. Others don’t want to talk about it - respect that. Hurrying her through or trying to “jolly” her out of grief simply won’t work - she has lost something irreplaceable - help her find herself again by being whatever she needs you to be.
Yes, after losing a child, you having a moan about your Amazon order being late is probably the very definition of a first world problem...but it’s also life. Tiptoeing around and treating her like she’s made of glass might feel like what you should do, but a bit of distraction in the form of you having a good old whinge about a work frenemy might also help...and if you’re in doubt - ask!
And finally, remember…
Grief is complicated, messy and an unfortunate part of life for everyone. Watching a friend go through the experience can make you feel helpless and powerless. Can you make it go away? No. Can you make it a little less lonely and isolating. Yes. And that is one of the greatest gifts you can give.