After my two miscarriages, I received a lot of support from friends and family. Most of the people closest to me knew the pain I was in and gave me the comfort I needed but not everyone handles the news of a miscarriage with grace. At the news of my losses, a few well-intentioned friends and family members made hurtful remarks without realizing the harm they were doing. Nothing anyone said was cruel or malicious, and I have long since forgiven them for their faux pas, but I know from talking to other women that my experience is not uncommon. People often say hurtful things without thinking about it. When a woman is in the throes of grieving a miscarriage, here are some remarks that she does not want to hear:
1: “At least it was early.”
This one stings. It undermines the powerful connection felt to the life that began inside you. I dreamt of having a third child for years before I conceived him or her. To me, the positive pregnancy test was proof of the life I had long envisioned as part of our family. When I started losing that baby, my hopes and dreams were lost too. Yes, it was early. Yes, I imagine it would have been even harder the farther along I was in my pregnancy, but the fact that it was early does not erase the fact that my baby died. The fact that it was early did not stop the physical pain I felt in my chest of my heart being ripped into pieces. The fact that it was early did not keep me from crying more tears than I knew I could even produce. So please, when you find out someone you know has lost her unborn child, don’t try to comfort her by minimizing her experience. That’s like saying to someone who has lost a loved one to gunfire “at least they died quickly.” They may not have suffered long but they are still unjustly, unfairly gone.
2. Don’t say “It may have been a blessing in disguise” or “It might have been for the best.” That is not what a grieving mother wants or needs to hear.
3. Don’t say “At least you know you can get pregnant.” I had at least two different nurses say this to me after my miscarriages. What good is being able to get pregnant if you have to say good-bye before saying hello?
4. Don’t say “You can always try again.” Many women who miscarry do go on to try again, but hearing that when the pain is so fresh is not helpful. Women need time to honor the short life of their unborn baby, and to process and deal with their grief.
5. Don’t say “It was God’s will.” As a Christian, I do believe that God has a plan for my life, but this is something I had to come to realize on my own after being angry with God and hurt that he would let this happen, I had to grieve and come to acceptance, seeing the bigger picture and coming to terms with what happened. Hearing that from others sounds like condemnation and it takes a complex and painful process like grief and turns it into something simple. It takes away a woman’s journey.
So what do you say to a woman who has miscarried?
I’m so sorry. You are in my thoughts and prayers. Is there anything I can do for you? Listen to her. Let her pour out her grief and disappointment and heartache. If she has children, offer to watch them for a few hours so she can take time to heal. Bring over a meal. Offer to hang out with her and watch a movie or take a walk. Give her space if she needs it but don’t be afraid to offer support. Just be there for her like you would if she lost anyone else that she loved.