Having a miscarriage can be an isolating and devastating experience for some people.
As a recurrent pregnancy loss specialist, I ask my patients about their emotional well-being in addition to their physical well-being. Patients with miscarriages are grieving their losses and describe the strain this can place on relationships with friends and family.
People can unintentionally be hurtful when trying to be supportive. Patients can feel isolated from their family and friends.
Miscarriage is more common that you may think since approximately 1 out of 3 women will have a miscarriage in their lifetime. If someone you care about has had a miscarriage, here are some ideas for how you can help. Please share.
1. Listen – Avoid clichés like “Everything happens for a reason” or “It just wasn’t meant to be.” Clichés are clichés for a reason. Avoid giving advice unless asked. People deep in grief do not need to hear about an article you read about preventing miscarriages or a friend who took a supplement to have a baby. Just listen for now. Avoid sharing other people’s miscarriage stories since people really do not want to hear about your friend’s cousin who had 10 miscarriages and finally had a baby. Sharing your own miscarriage experience (if you feel comfortable) Is different and may be comforting to your friend but do not turn the conversation to you and your experience. Focus on her loss and needs for now.
2. Say something – do not avoid your friend because it’s awkward or you do not know what to say. It’s okay to give her space if she needs it and asks for it but check in every once in a while. Text, call, send an email “Thinking of you” “Let me know if I can help in anyway.” If she is ready to talk you can say something like “I am so sorry for your loss” “It is not your fault” but mostly listen. One good question to ask anyone grieving is, “How are you doing, TODAY?” Grief comes in waves and some days are better than others. A general question like ‘How are you doing’ can be overwhelming, paralyzing to someone deep in grief but they can focus on today and anyone grieving can be relieved if that’s all you’re asking about. It’s one day at a time.
3. Invite them out – Social situations may be tough for a while but keep inviting them. It’s ok if they need a little space but do not stop asking them to do things just because they have said ‘No’ before. Also ask them to do things one on one – a movie, dinner, shopping day. They may not be ready for a social gathering but getting out the house can be good for getting back to everyday routines.
4. Play interference – social situations like parties and baby showers are battle ground for some people struggling with infertility and miscarriage. If you hear people asking your friend questions like ‘When are you having kids?’ or ‘When are you going to give your child a sibling?’ help steer the conversation to a new subject. Playing interference can also be offering to tell your group of friends how your friend with a miscarriage is doing or organizing meal delivery among a group of friends. You can buffer the out pouring of concern but only if your friend wants you to
5. Do something for them – cook them a meal, walk their dog, babysit their children. Ask them if there is anything you can do to help and give them ideas. Most people say ‘No’ when asked a general question like “What can I do to help?” so be prepared with some specific ideas that you know your friend may need.
Most importantly just be there when they are ready to talk, go out, be alone, be sad. Be a friend.
Dr. Lora Shahine is a board certified Reproductive Endocrinologist currently practicing at Pacific NW Fertility and IVF Specialists in Seattle. As a Clinical Instructor at the University of Washington and Director of the Center of Recurrent Pregnancy Loss at PNWF, she is committed to providing excellence in patient care, teaching the next generation of women’s health providers, and continuing research in the fields of fertility and recurrent miscarriage. She has published over 20 peer-reviewed research papers and is an active member of the American Society of Reproductive Medicine, Pacific Coast Reproductive Society, and Seattle Gynecology Society. Dr. Shahine is committed to a holistic approach to care and co-authored the book, “Planting the Seeds of Pregnancy: An Integrative Approach to Fertility Care”.