How to Support a Friend Grieving a Miscarriage
Unless you or your partner have experienced it firsthand, you may not have thought much about what it's like to experience a miscarriage.
This is partially because many miscarriages happen within the first trimester, before a couple even makes an announcement, and partially because it's often not discussed openly or publicly. This can be isolating, however, for those who do go through this painful loss.
You may also think it's a rare occurrence. In reality, about 10-15% of all pregnancies will end in miscarriage. And for those who haven't experienced it, it's hard to imagine the struggle or pain the couple experiences.
When an expecting parent has a miscarriage, they lose a child, and it's one they never got to meet. It doesn't matter whether or not they have the baby bump yet or not; they may have wanted, waited, and planned for this child. They've started picking out names, designing a nursery on Pinterest, and may have even bought baby clothes.
Many who haven't experienced a miscarriage are at a complete loss of what to say or do to those who are currently grieving one. Knowing what to say can help your friend who is grieving the loss of a pregnancy and help them to not feel so alone. In this post, we're going to look at how to do exactly that.
Talk About the Baby and the Loss
Too many people think that miscarriages aren't a big deal, or assume that they're somehow shameful to the women experiencing them. Neither of these things are true. Trying to brush this loss under the rug won't cut it.
The expecting parents need an abundance of support right now. They were expanding their family, and they've lost that. And remember that even though they never got to meet this baby, they still loved this baby.
Talk about the baby with them and the loss. Acknowledge what they lost. If the pregnancy was far enough along that they'd named the child, use that name. You can also use their chosen nickname like "bean" or "bug."
Above all else, make sure you're saying "baby" instead of using medical terminology like "fetus" or "embryo" unless the parents are using that language themselves, as it completely invalidates their loss.
Let Them Talk About Negative Feelings
Miscarriages are almost never a mother's fault, but many still feel guilt or shame regardless. Fathers often feel hopeless. Both often feel immense grief, and may have significant anxiety about trying again, another loss, or whether or not they'll be able to expand their family at all.
Most of these feelings can be hard for a couple to admit, so let them express them if they come up. Once they've talked about how they felt, then you can assure them that there was nothing that could have been done differently. Remember that if people don't process the hard emotions, the miscarriage can be more difficult to heal from long-term.
Offer a Loving Gift for Their Lost Family Member
Many people think that someone will simply forget a miscarriage as soon as they get pregnant again. This isn't true in many cases.
It's not unusual for a mother to remember miscarriages decades after she's had them, even after other children have been born and have grown.
Giving a loving gift to honor and acknowledge the lost family member shows that you understand the magnitude of their loss, and it gives the family a beautiful, tangible way to remember them (that isn't baby clothes, which can be heartbreaking).
Ask if They Need Anything
This is a loss that someone is grieving, so they may need support to get through it. On top of that, the mother may have needed to undergo medical procedures, including medical or surgical termination of the pregnancy. Depending on the cause of the miscarriage, this can be physically draining and involve an invasive procedure.
Offering to help with chores, babysitting, or a dinner drop-off can go a long way. Ask if there's anything else they need, and to let you know if they think of anything along the way.
What Not to Do When Your Friend is Grieving a Miscarriage
While all of the tips we've discussed so far on our list look at what you can do to help a friend grieving a miscarriage, there are a few things you'll absolutely want to avoid doing, too.
Here's what not to do when your friend is grieving a miscarriage:
- Asking how long before they try again. This is extremely hurtful because it makes it seem like you're saying that this loss doesn't matter and they can just try again later. You also don't know if the couple may be experiencing infertility concerns or anxiety about being able to carry a pregnancy to term.
- Neglect in asking about the partner who wasn't carrying the baby. Both parents need to be considered, including the expecting parent who wasn't the one physically carrying the baby. They're experiencing a loss, too, but often fail to get the support they need because everyone's attention is focused on the mother.
- Asking what caused the miscarriage. Moms often carry enough guilt, even though it wasn't their fault. Don't ask what caused the miscarriage or how it could be prevented, ever. They likely don't know, and even if they did, it's anyone else's business.
- Saying that it's God's will or "meant to be." Both of these statements are extremely hurtful. It implies that this was supposed to happen and that this is a positive thing, instead of the painful loss that it is. Never mention that this opens up the door for their "real, future" baby; this baby was real, too.
- Reminding them to be grateful for any children they already have. Just because the already have one, beautiful child (or even two, or three, or ten) doesn't mean that this loss isn't impossibly hard. Maybe their family doesn't feel complete, and telling them to "settle" can only make the feelings of guilt or isolation worse.
Experiencing a miscarriage and losing a pregnancy is one of many expecting parents' greatest fears, and it is a devastating thing to go through. Offering support for families or individuals experiencing these losses can go a long way.
If you're looking for a gift to honor an expecting parent's loss for a miscarriage, you can take a look at some of our remembrance items for this particularly devastating here.