4 Things NOT To Say To a Woman Who Has Miscarried

This is a guest post written by a friend of mine.

Miscarriage

There is no easy way to transition into this subject, so I will just say it: I recently had a miscarriage. I learned of my baby’s demise on June 4th. Words cannot convey the complex grieving process I am working through. Every day I am faced with the reality that I am no longer pregnant. It’s difficult to adjust to, even over a month later. The physical and emotional effects from losing my child are ongoing; however, what I find most difficult is the lack of understanding, or even ill-thought condolences, that I am faced with when people learn of my loss. I thought it wise to share with others some of the questions and statements either I heard directly, or others who had miscarriages disclosed to me, that should be avoided when speaking with someone who has suffered a pregnancy loss.

“At least you know you can get pregnant.”

This particular statement was said to me on several occasions, as I had been going through fertility treatments for six months before I conceived. While those who said it were well-meaning, it did not address the loss of my child. Yes, I guess now I knew I could get pregnant, but if I had my way, I would still be pregnant that child. This statement essentially negates the importance of the child I carried, basically reducing him to a trial-run for a pregnancy that would one day be successful. For some women, getting pregnant is easy- it’s staying pregnant that proves a challenge.

“Everything happens for a reason” or “This was nature’s way (or God’s way) of fixing something that was broken”

I heard this a lot after I learned that my baby had Down syndrome. Once I learned of that diagnosis I did extensive research on the subject and learned majority of babies conceived with Down syndrome will miscarry. Most of those that make it to term have severe heart or digestive issues requiring multiple surgeries. Still, what people don’t realize is that I never think of my son as “broken”. He was my baby, someone I dreamed about meeting from the moment I learned I was pregnant. Had I carried him successfully to term I would have loved him no less than a child that wasn’t “broken”. I am extremely grateful that my son will never know pain or sadness, and will gladly spend the rest of my life with this grief so he didn’t have a moment of suffering, but that doesn’t lessen the harsh impact of such statements. For those that so flippantly suggest that things “happen for a reason”, I often wonder how they would react if I said the same thing to them after the death of someone they loved.

“At least you have other children at home”

A few friends, who have already had successful pregnancies, told me they heard this on more than one occasion. They confided how hurtful the statement was because having children at home did not take away from the love they felt for their miscarried child. If anything I imagine having a child at home would make the loss more profound- I can only imagine what it is like to be a mother- whereas they have the experiences and memories and know exactly the beauty that will be missing.

“It’s not like it was a real baby” or “It’s better that it happened so soon rather than later in the pregnancy”

This is perhaps the cruelest comment someone can make. Fortunately no one said this directly to me, but others I spoke with expressed that they heard this quite a few times- often from women who had successful pregnancies. There has always been a great debate about what constitutes the start of life, and this post isn’t going to wax philosophical about the distinction. What people should consider, before making a statement regarding the “realness” of a baby, is how they (or their spouse) felt when they went for their twelve-week ultrasound. How did they feel knowing they were going to see their child and its beating heart? Did they not love that child then? Well, it was no different for a woman who goes, expecting a happy result, only to be greeted with the awful stillness of a non-moving baby. The gestational date of your loss, whether five, ten, or twenty weeks, does not diminish or change the hopes and dreams someone had for their growing baby. The death of a baby, at any gestational age, is devastating.

I believe that most people have good intentions when offering the “condolences” to a woman who has had a miscarriage. It is still a very taboo topic, and honestly before I had my miscarriage I probably thought or said at least one of the above statements. I didn’t know any better- the subject of miscarriage is largely brushed under the carpet and I had no idea how to react when confronted with the situation. Even recent news of Mark Zuckerberg and his wife’s struggle with infertility and miscarriage disappeared from the headlines relatively fast, and now…nothing but silence.

I wrote this, not to scold others, but in an attempt to educate others in what not to say to a friend or loved one should they suffer such a devastating loss. What you can say, what you should say, is quite simple- I’m sorry for your loss; I’m here for you; I love you. If you don’t know what to say, don’t say anything. Give them a hug, a flower, heck, bake them a cake. Listen if they need to vent or cry. Don’t minimize their loss. Don’t expect them to bounce right back to who they used to be. Understand if they can’t visit you or your small children right away, or if they don’t attend events focused around babies and birthdays for a little while- they just can’t help it. Above all else, just be there for them.

 ———-

As a blogger, I offer all of my readers condolences if you’ve suffered a loss. I have not suffered a loss myself, but my dear friend has, and I wanted to get her story out there. I’ve seen so many of my friends suffer from a miscarriage and it’s so sad. No one deserves that.

Comments

  1. Thank you for this. I was only about 6 weeks along when I miscarried my first pregnancy. my husband and I had not told a lot of people yet that we were pregnant (just our parents) because we wanted to wait out the first trimester, but because of our work and a few others, it got around. When a lady I did not know picked up papers at my work and told me, “I heard you lost the baby. It sucks, but at least you know you can get pregnant and there will be others!” It was like a slap in the face. I left work that day broken.

    I’m so very sorry for your loss….because that’s what it is.

  2. Christine says:

    I’m sorry for your loss too Megan, and so sorry someone said something so thoughtless to you.

  3. What a beautiful to write this story, it brought many memories most not good of how people treat you after a miscarriage. My husband and I suffered through 2,between my oldest and middle daughter. I agree with your friend that people don’t know what to say or say the wrong thing but meaning right. But trust me it does get better a little bit each day, I still remember the feeling but the pain is not as strong, as a footnote my girl’s are now 30and25.

  4. It’s difficult to know what to say in a situation like this. Now I know what not to say when I come in contact with someone who has had such a terrible loss. Thanks for writing this.

  5. Jo-Ann Brightman says:

    I am very sorry for your loss. there are no proper words to express the sorrow one feels when one miscarries. Perhaps this article will help others to better understand the situation.

  6. this is very informative. thank you for posting.

  7. I am so sorry for your friend’s loss!

    My first pregnancy ended in a missed miscarriage and I was devastated. I heard all these comments (minus the “you already have kids!” one) and they are anything but helpful. Upon coming back to work, I had a co-worker say, “Yeah, my husband had a bad week too.” I am sure she just didn’t know what to say to me, but I don’t think I will ever be able to let that one go!

    When my loss sunk in (a few weeks after I found out; I was in shock before that) all I wanted was a hug and for someone to lend an ear.

  8. I am so sorry for your loss. I think this could be an ongoing topic “what not to say” you could do one for women struggling with infertility, women who are pregnant, women who just delivered a baby, women during pms etc. Just a suggestion. I’d be interested in reading it. Some people have no filter and just say the first thing that comes to their minds when they speak and do not consider the other’s feelings.

  9. Good advice. Often times people don’t know what to say. They mean well, but say the wrong thing.

  10. Linda Manns Linneman says:

    I had a miscarriage many years ago and it is a tough thing to go through. I really appreciate this article. You gave us a great suggestion for what to say and do. Thank you so much

  11. I think people say these things in a misguided attempt to make the person feel better. People need to understand that nothing they say will make that person feel better, so all they can really say is I’m sorry for your loss.

  12. Such an awful experience, one that is different for everyone that has gone through it. I agree with the previous person in that people are just trying to help. Failing miserably, but trying. I am not sure there is much one can say to make the pain any less.

  13. It is hard for me to come up with words to comfort such pain. This will help me know things not to say.

  14. Your story brought tears to my eyes and gave me goosebumps. Thank you for sharing and making everyone aware of what not to say to a woman who miscarries. There are no words to express sympathy in this matter, in my opinion.

  15. It’s hard to know what to say to anyone when they are in pain. Saying nothing seems cold. Is it better to remain silent and wait until they want to talk?

  16. Lisa, I had people who waited a few weeks to contact me because they didn’t want to say the wrong thing. I was okay with both of these instances because I was so busy grieving I didn’t realize I hadn’t heard from so-and-so. I appreciated the thought they put into not wanting to hurt me.

  17. Edna Williams says:

    Thank you for your informative advice.

  18. Stine Elise says:

    I’m very sorry for Your loss. Losing a child is devastating no matter when you loose them. We lost our son when he was 10 hours old. The worst comment I ever got was: you Can have another baby, there will be other babies. I didn’t want another baby, I wanted my babyboy Emil..

  19. I was forced to terminate an ectopic pregnancy. Beyond that I was told that it would be unlikely I would be able to conceive naturally due to extensive scarring on my fallopian tubes. Thankfully, they were wrong about that part. The fact that I was forced to terminate it makes it even more painful. It makes me an abortion statistic that I do not want to be. As far as I’m concerned, I would have let the pregnancy continue. if it endangered me, well, that would be as much of “God’s plan” as miscarrying would have been. People will say, “well at least you’re alive and you have 2 (soon to be 3) beautiful children”. It still doesn’t take the pain away from the loss of the first, much less the guilt that I have to live with for terminating it.

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