Chances are, you know someone who’s lost a baby.
Maybe it’s your own grandmother who never spoke about it. A friend of a friend. Another mom in your child’s class. Or maybe you’re the one in four who has experienced pregnancy loss. For me, it’s all of the above. I never imagined I would be a part of this particular mom’s club — the one where we lost a baby we loved but never met. The club that has us silently grieving years after the loss, while everyone else has forgotten.
Following my miscarriage, I encountered a lot of love and support. I also encountered many painful questions and comments, even from friends who believed they were helping. Miscarriage is such an intimate and personal loss. In many cases, the loss occurs before others are even aware of a pregnancy. So how do we change the narrative surrounding miscarriage? I think we’ll have the greatest effect on it by creating better support systems within our family and friends.
Knowing what to say to someone who has experienced pregnancy or infant loss can seem uncomfortable and awkward because we don’t know what we could possibly do or say that would make them feel better. The relieving thing is, quite simply, that we don’t need to make them feel better.
We just need to be there for them.
Below are a few tips to help you better support those in your life who may have experienced pregnancy loss:
Acknowledge the loss
The best things that were said to me following my miscarriage were: “I love you,” “I’m here if you want to talk,” and “I’m sorry.” It felt nice to know people were in my corner. Even if they couldn’t fully understand how I felt about the loss, it helped to know they cared.
Avoid “at least” phrases
These phrases, while well intended, end up being shaming and hurtful. “At least it happened now and not later in your pregnancy!” and, “At least you already have one healthy child!” While these statements are true, they always left me feeling worse. I was already confused as to why this happened, and the guilt of not being grateful for what I had just added to the confusion of it all. It made me feel like I should move on, and quickly, so that I didn’t bog anyone down with my sadness. I was sad about the life I lost — the baby I carried inside that no one else knew. “At least” statements further isolated me in my grief.
You know when someone has a baby and you bring a gift or offer a meal? Miscarriage feels in many ways similar to having a baby, except you only deliver the end of a pregnancy and not the beginning of a life. It is physically draining and emotionally exhausting. Our bodies need time to rest and recover while we process and heal. Offer to drop off a meal. If there are older children, offer a playdate. Come over with coffee or tea, ready to chat. Send flowers or a card. Text her and let her know you’re available if she ever wants to talk. No gesture is too small.
Remember their loss
Whether it’s been six months or six years, a mother who’s miscarried has not forgotten her baby. Check in with the women in your life who you know have lost a baby. It’s nice for us to know we’re not alone. If you’re unsure when they miscarried, October is a great month to show support, since it is Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness Month. It doesn’t have to be Hallmark card worthy — a simple text will do. Knowing that those around us remember what we went through is monumental.
These are a few suggestions that have helped me navigate my own grief after miscarriage. But the most important thing when dealing with someone who is grieving is to be there and to care.