If you’ve had a miscarriage, you’ve more than likely heard one of these phrases, if not more than one.
And if you’re here learning what not to say, let me just say, thank you.
Thank you for caring enough about your loved one to educate yourself on such a delicate topic. Whoever your loved one is will appreciate your kind, empathetic, concern over their circumstance.
This list was curated out of my own experiences and out of the experiences of the grieving women I speak to. Each individual will have a different experience with grief and what phrases hurt her heart. So, you may see something on the list, and it may not bother you as a grieving mother, but it may bother another grieving mama.
Some mamas find statistical data and scientific facts about miscarriage/pregnancy loss comforting, while others may not. And that’s OK.
The take-away is this: Be mindful of your words.
That’s all a grieving mother wants. She wants you to be mindful and sensitive to her situation. If you are doing this, then you will be just fine.
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Ohh, just one more little tip, my dad used to always tell me when I was growing up, “Leticia, it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.” So, tone is also something to take into consideration.
Why do people say hurtful things?
It can be hard to wrap our minds around the phrases some people toss around, I often found myself wondering why people would even utter these words. But, I do believe most people are not trying to be hurtful, they are not trying to inflict more pain upon you than you are already feeling. I truly believe that we as humans can get uncomfortable about other people’s grief.
What do you say to someone who is going through an irreplaceable loss? How do you fix it, how do you explain what happened, and why? Grief isn’t a beautifully wrapped package, it’s not a celebration or party. Grief is a heavy load. It’s uncomfortable, it can be dark. It’s lonely, and it can get ugly.
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I believe that when people don’t know what to say they try to fill the air with something, anything. I know I’ve rambled down that path before.
I’ve narrowed down the typical responses I’ve heard into five categories of people:
- The fact spewer. This person gives you logical or rational responses—phrases may include, “25% of pregnancies end in miscarriage.”
- The fixer. This person’s response is to try and fix the situation or fix the atmosphere. They want to help you by fixing something.
- The minimizer. I’d like to think this person says this unintentionally and without malice in their heart. Phrases may include: You’ll be OK. You’re young, you can try again.
- The comparison-maker. This person will compare someone else to your experience to help you see your experience is not so bad or that “It could’ve been worse” (totally unhelpful and very hurtful). Phrases include: My sister had a stillbirth, at least you didn’t go through that.
- The look-on-the-bright-sider. They may literally say this or tell you to cheer up. Phrases may include: It’s all part of God’s plan. At least it happened early, etc.
25 Things Not to Say to Someone Who Had a Miscarriage
- You’re young, you can try again. No, she doesn’t want to try again, she wanted to keep being pregnant. Saying, “Oh, you’re young you can try again,” minimizes her loss. DO NOT minimize her loss.
- Well, 25 percent of pregnancies end in miscarriage. While this is a true fact, sometimes facts can still hurt.
- You’ll feel better in a few days. Most likely they won’t feel better in a few days. This isn’t the flu, this is a pregnancy loss.
- It’s not in God’s will. Yeah, don’t say this. It doesn’t matter if you’re religious or she is religious or not—this does not help. The receiver of this phrase may think, “So, it wasn’t God’s will for me to experience the joy of having a baby?”
- This is really common, you’ll be OK. Don’t assume to know how she will be feeling.
- My friend had four miscarriages and now has two kids. Probably a well-meaning comment. You’re trying to be helpful and looking at the bright side and the possibilities, but when someone is going through a miscarriage and she is in the thick of it, she most likely doesn’t care about what happened to your friend.
- At least you have children at home. Just because they have children at home does not mean they didn’t want the one they were carrying. Having one thing does not negate the other.
- It wasn’t even a fully formed baby yet. Don’t even go there.
- At least you know you can get pregnant. “Great, but I can’t keep the baby,” is what I always thought when I heard the phrase.
- There must’ve been something wrong with “it.” There are two things wrong with this. First, don’t call the pregnancy loss “it.” Second, don’t assume you know what happened and why the pregnancy wasn’t viable.
- It’s all part of God’s plan. Why would God want this to be part of my plan? What is His purpose for my life? This question could have the griever spiraling in her thoughts.
- At least it happened early. It should never have happened! the griever will think.
- You wouldn’t want a baby with “issues” anyway. Oh, don’t ever assume you know what the griever is thinking or what they would want.
- Did you do something you weren’t supposed to? Please for the love of all that it is good do not blame the woman who had the miscarriage. Yup, this question absolutely makes it feel like a blame game.
- Better sooner rather than later. Umm, no, she would rather this never happen, ever.
- Be grateful for the kids you do have. Just because someone is grieving her loss does not mean that she is not grateful for the children she does have.
- You don’t need any more kids. Opfttt, don’t go there. It’s not your decision as to whether or not your loved one should have more kids.
- Just enjoy the children you have. This goes along with the phrase, “Be grateful for the kids you do have.”
- Can’t you move on? It happened months/years ago. No, no, no. Just don’t. There is no timeline for grief.
- Look on the bright side. When someone is grieving, do not try to rush her grieving process by telling her to look on the bright side. Let her mourn her loss.
- It’s not in God’s plan. Let’s just leave out religious phrases that indicate that we know anything about God’s plan for our lives.
- It’s for the best. Never say this.
- Have you considered adoption? Now is not the time to bring this up.
- At least you didn’t know the baby. This is cringe-worthy.
- Shouldn’t you just move on already? This is rude and insensitive, just don’t.
What To Do If You’ve Said Something Hurtful to a Loved One
First of all, you’re human and I’m human. Sometimes, we say dumb and insensitive things to people we care about, and usually not on purpose.
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If you know you have said something hurtful to a loved one during a miscarriage or pregnancy loss, acknowledge it to the griever, let her know you realize you may have said something insensitive or hurtful about her loss, and apologize.
Own it. By acknowledging your hurtful comment and giving a sincere apology, you will gain so much respect from the griever.
Originally published on the author’s blog