It’s likely you know someone who has experienced a miscarriage. It is also very possible that your friend hasn’t openly shared about her loss. Approximately 10-25% of clinically recognized pregnancies result in loss and yet there is a deafening silence surrounding this life-changing topic in our culture. The shame and stigma associated with pregnancy loss is pervasive—all too often resulting in isolation, anxiety, and despair. Having a sense of community in the aftermath of loss can make a profound difference through grief’s journey. Be a friend who musters the courage to truly connect, rather than tiptoe around her mourning process. Your love will make an indelible, positive impact.
What to say: “How are you?”
What not to say: “At least you know you can get pregnant. It’ll be different next time.”
Be brave: Friendship provides opportunities for connecting through a wide range of life events—the good, the bad, and the ugly. Post-miscarriage your friend might be feeling vulnerable, confused, or sad. This is a chance to show up for her in a loving way, kicking assumptions and platitudes to the curb. Asking her how she’s doing could in and of itself be a transformative experience for both of you. This topic is a tough one; she’s most likely having interactions with people who don’t quite know what to do or say. Expressions of empathy are what she longs for most. She wants to feel understood and heard in the midst of grief.
What to say: “I’m here for you.”
What not to say: “Everything happens for a reason. This just wasn’t meant to be.”
Be consistent: Relaying that you are a friend who plans to stick by her side for the long haul will be a breath of fresh air. She doesn’t want her experience brushed under the rug, minimized, or compared to other things going on in the world. This moment hurts. Be with her pain. Typically, the more we honor our feelings, the sooner we witness their transformation. Show her that you’ve got the grit to navigate this disconcerting experience with her.
What to say: “I’m deeply sorry for your loss.”
What not to say: “At least you have a healthy child already.”
Be empathetic: Pregnancy loss affects people in myriad ways. It can be quite significant to one person and to another, not as heartbreaking. Find out how your friend is feeling about her situation. She may have already started daydreaming about her future baby playing alongside her/his sibling. So, having a healthy child doesn’t necessarily make this loss any easier.
What to say: “You did nothing wrong.”
What not to say: “You must be worried about getting pregnant again.”
Be compassionate: It is quite common for women to feel a sense of shame, self-blame, and guilt following a pregnancy loss. Furthermore, women often report feeling that their bodies have “failed”. However, the research shows that a majority of miscarriages have no relationship with something someone did or did not do. If your friend shares that she is concerned that she did something to deserve this, attune to her feelings while gracefully reminding her that she did absolutely nothing wrong. She did nothing to deserve this loss.
What to say: “Try to be gentle with yourself.”
What not to say: “Maybe it’s best it happened this way because the baby probably wasn’t healthy.”
Be thoughtful: Encouraging your friend to be compassionate toward herself might be a much-needed mantra. Our fast-paced lives can make navigating grief tricky if we aren’t accustomed to slowing down. She might feel pressured to return to her “normal” everyday routine. Since we can’t predict the length or severity of one’s mourning process, we reveal support by inviting her to be tender with herself, no matter the timeframe.
Be the type of friend you imagine you would want if you were in her shoes.
This blog was reposted from Huffington Post. Follow Dr. Jessica Zucker on Twitter and Instagram.