A miscarriage is so common that it occurs in 1 in 5 women so chances are, you probably know someone who has gone through it or you may have experienced it yourself. It truly can be a traumatic experience for both parents and given the ridiculous taboo nature around it, the parents can feel isolated.
If you know someone who has recently suffered a pregnancy loss, it can be hard to articulate the right words to say and without realising it, you may cause further upset to the person. It’s not your fault at all; your intention is to provide comfort and genuine help to your friend or relative. It was only until I experienced a loss myself, did I realise that I had been saying the wrong things to friends and relatives in my life who had gone through a miscarriage. Since then, I am a lot more cautious as to what and when to say it, and even then, I sometimes slip up.
I am quite sure I heard a variation of most, if not all, of the below statements from when I was in hospital to now and even though it has been 3 years since the loss, some of the comments can still sting. So, here are 7 things not to say to someone who had a miscarriage:
1. “At least you know you can get pregnant”
Although you mean well, this statement is in effect minimising the grief the woman is experiencing right now. Plus, you don’t know if she can or will want to get pregnant again. Rule of thumb, any sentences starting with “at least” in this scenario never lead somewhere good.
2. “There must have been something wrong” / “It’s for the best”
Of course, something was wrong but she may likely never know the reason as to why this happened and this can make them feel helpless. Similarly, saying “it’s for the best” can indicate you think the miscarriage was the best outcome in this situation. To her, having a healthy baby would be the best outcome.
Related: My Ectopic Pregnancy Story
3. “It must have been your constant dieting/exercising/working/stress etc that caused this”
It’s more than likely that a mother’s first thoughts after suffering from a miscarriage are what did she do wrong and why did her body fail her. This guilt may always remain with her and hearing these comments from a supposedly supportive friend or family member won’t help her to heal.
4. “Did you know this person just had a baby”
There’s a time and a place to share good news about someone else’s new bundle of joy or pregnancy and that is perhaps not in the first few hours (yes, this actually happened to me!) or days after the loss.
If it is your own pregnancy, it can be nice to quietly let the mother who experienced the loss know before you make an announcement so that they have time to process the grief.
Related: A Mother’s Loss
5. “Be grateful you have other children”
Yes, this may be true but that doesn’t eradicate the fact that she has lost this child and she is grieving the loss of this child and what could have been.
6. “You should start trying again soon as you are very fertile right now”
Not only is this incredibly insensitive to the grieving parents, trying to conceive again is possibly one of the last things they want to do right now. Let’s not forget that the emotional and physical healing after a loss can take a long time.
7. “You shouldn’t be upset, you didn’t even know you were pregnant/you weren’t that far along”
It doesn’t matter how far along she was or when she found out she was pregnant, a loss is a loss whether she was 6 weeks or 8 months along and if she found out early on or on the day of the loss. In fact, multiple studies have shown that the grief experienced by women who suffered an early loss and those who had a stillbirth are practically comparable.1
Still not sure what’s the best thing to say? Here is what you can say at a time like this:
“I’m sorry for your loss”
“I’m thinking of you”
“What can I do to support you right now?”
“I’m here if you want to talk”
If you feel like your words aren’t enough, sometimes a simple hug can do the trick (of course, an elbow bump will have to do during COVID). Even dropping some homemade soup or a lasagne on their doorstep is enough to show that you are there and you care, and remember, checking in on them a few weeks or months after the loss can mean a lot to them too.
At the end of the day, every woman’s experience is different when it comes to pregnancy and dealing with grief. Some may want to talk about it whilst others would rather change the subject. Just don’t expect them to “get over it”.