Any type of grief or loss is a difficult topic to broach.
People genuinely want to help, but don’t always know what to say or will say things to try to fix the situation - when the situation can’t really be fixed. Everyone’s situation is so different, even though there are similarities, it’s hard to know what to say during times of loss and grief, especially around miscarriage.
I've found many people say very little or nothing as they don’t want to cause more hurt in a hurtful situation or the situation makes them uncomfortable. This can make an isolating experience even more isolating.
I know people mean the best and genuinely care, but most aren’t sure how to respond if they personally haven’t had a miscarriage. Even if your friend or family member has had a miscarriage (and you haven’t), please also realize that it doesn’t make you an expert or really understand the emotions that someone goes through in this situation. HOWEVER, this doesn't mean you shouldn't say anything or ignore your friend (from personal experience that hurts worse.) I've shared some things to say and do to women who have had a miscarriage below.
It’s a touchy and emotional topic. Before going through our own miscarriages, I wouldn’t have had any clue how to respond or talk about it either (and I still probably don’t have the perfect words for others). In fact, in the past I probably said some things that I felt would be helpful, but probably weren’t. It didn’t mean I didn’t care and that I didn’t want to help, I just truly didn’t know what to say. I’m far from perfect.
Grieving from loss isn’t linear, it’s also not a process and NO, it never stops, it just changes. It just becomes a little different as time passes, but it still hurts. It affects people in different ways. It’s similar when someone close to you loses their life, the pain of loss will always be there, it might not always be the strongest, but it’s there. Grief from loss can also come up out of the blue at different points in our lives.
Emotions are hard to harness with any loss. With people that have lived here on earth, we have memories, we grieve, we have a funeral and usually a reason why they passed on. Does this make it any easier, NO - no it doesn’t, not at all.
When losing a baby due to miscarriage, it takes something that is unknown and then creates even more unknowns in life. There's no funeral, no real reason, just an unexplained loss that lingers in your mind, body, life and heart. Blame, guilt and questions galore come up for a really long time.
Why did this happen?
Why did this happen AGAIN?
Why did this happen to us?
What was the reason for the miscarriage?
I’m healthy and taking care of myself, doesn't this help?
Did I do something to harm the baby?
Why is my baby not healthy?
Will I be able to get pregnant again?
Am I too old to have a baby?
Did I start my family too late in life?
Will I ever have a baby?
Will I have another miscarriage?
Will I have a healthy pregnancy?
Will I have a healthy baby?
How come others can have many babies and no miscarriages and I lose my first and second babies?
Is there something wrong with me?
Will others think there is something wrong with me?
Lots of questions are unanswered.
Some are questions you never thought you would ever ponder.
That first positive pregnancy test...
With that first positive pregnancy test, your whole world starts to come together. I remember every single moment of when we first found out we were pregnant. Our first time, we were in Japan, it was 3:00 am and Jordan had just gotten home from working night shift and had picked up a pregnancy test from the Navy Base (I don't even know how to find a pregnancy test in a real Japanese store.) He walked in the door; I had to pee really bad, so I got up to take the test right away… a couple minutes later we found out we were pregnant.
It happened so quickly, yet had been so long awaited. We both went back to bed, but neither of us could sleep as we were now starting to plan our future in a whole new way - with a baby in our life. (More about our story here.) We went shopping for baby clothes and toys while in Japan; everything we did in Japan from that moment on out was with baby in mind - and it was pretty sweet that baby was along for our Japan adventures; Japan is one of our favorite places that we’ve traveled together.
I remembered every single minute for both our pregnancies. The memories are still pretty clear for me. I know the days we found out, both are so vivid in my mind. I also remember both days we found out we lost our babies. I know their estimated due dates. I know how old they will be right now - or how many weeks pregnant I would be. (We lost our second baby the same week our first baby was supposed to be born. Double the heartbreak, crushed dreams and unknowns.)
We never would've imagined (though knowing it happens a lot) a miscarriage with our first baby and definitely not again with our second. No one imagines or wants this to happen to anyone, but the truth is, it happens with one and four pregnancies - and potentially more.
I wasn’t sure if I should share about our loss with others - as we hadn’t even had the opportunity to announce it publicly (I was already planning how to announce our new “adventure” to the world) but we never had the opportunity to share in the excitement - just the sadness, the heartache and the darkness...twice.
Did it help to share about our loss publicly? Yes, for the most part. I would say 80% yes. I’m not good at keeping things in, but I personally know that when things get tough or sad, I don’t want others to feel bad for me or receive attention, so I usually struggle in silence. However, I knew this time it was too big for me to go through on my own - and knowing that this happens to many women, I knew I needed a tribe of women to connect with, share feelings and receive hope, encouragement, love and support.
10 Things to Say to Women Who Have Had a Miscarriage
As promised, here are some things to say or do when a friend or family member has gone through a miscarriage (that were helpful for me). (Many of these are applicable in other very sensitive situations and losses in life.)
1. “I am so sorry for your loss.”
When in doubt and if you can’t relate, and you feel sad for their loss, say “I’m so sorry to hear about your loss.” You really don’t have to say more. It’s always helpful to hear words of support and love when you’re going through a tough time in life.
With the likes of social media - a like, sad face, heart or similar don’t quite express how you feel or really let others know you’ve heard or understand what they’re going through. A separate message, text, phone call, in person visit, letter or at least a short comment on social media can mean the world. (However, it’s ALWAYS BEST to reach out more personally, especially to real life friends and close friends and family.)
2. “You’re not alone.” **
If you've gone through something similar, in this case miscarriage, it always helps to hear that so the person going through their greatest challenge at the moment knows they are not alone. One thing that was helpful for me was when other women reached out to share their stories of loss with me. It was devastating to hear that others have had to go through this, but empowering to know how they flowed through it and how they handled their grief. It helped me process my own and gave me someone to reach out to if I had questions or needed to chat with someone that understands.
**On a separate note, try NOT to start off your sentence with - I‘ve never had a miscarriage, but… that’s not helpful. It makes people that have gone through it feel even more like they’ve failed. Stick with “I’m sorry for your loss, I’ve had friends that have also had miscarriages.” or “I’ve been thinking of you. While I haven’t gone through what you’re going through personally, I want you to know that I care about you and I'm here if and when you need more support.”
3. “Let’s get together to chat and connect in person.”
This is what I needed the most, but living far away from friends and family, it didn’t happen. A month after our first miscarriage is finally when someone came to visit me in person from Minnesota (I live in Washington). It was my sister and her family. It helped a lot and meant so much. Honestly, I didn’t want to reach out and bother friends to get together when I could barely get out of bed. I didn’t want to travel to meet up with anyone. Plus, I was a mess and didn’t want to bring others down.
However, I was returning every single text message and facebook message as a form of connection, but what I really needed was in person time. If you’re going through this, tell people you need in person time (if you do). They don’t know this if you don’t tell them. If you know someone that has gone through something difficult - a miscarriage or something else - reach out to them to get together with them in person. Go to their home to visit them. (If you want to - but mean it if you ask them to get together).
4. “No need to respond, but I want you to know that you’re loved and I’m thinking of you.”
This one is helpful. It takes the pressure off of responding when you’re in a funk, lets you know you’re loved and that people are thinking of you. It also lets those sending their love and thoughts reach out in a simple yet thoughtful way.
While I did my best to respond to everyone, it took time, and by getting these messages, it kept me going day by day, hour by hour. (If you do send a message like this to a grieving friend and they do respond, respond back. It’s hard to open up share your feelings and get the energy to respond to not ever hear back - this happened to me a lot. I know people are busy, but it heightens that feeling of feeling alone and unwanted/undeserving after a loss.)
5. “I’m here to listen when you need me, but I can also distract you if needed.”
Yes to this. It’s an open invite to chat or connect without feeling like you have to chat about your pain - but you can if you want to. We all need a good plot twist from time to time - not to avoid the pain, but to help us flow through it with love and support in all ways.
6. “Let me know how I can support you during this difficult time.”
(You can also ask: What does support look or feel like for you right now?)
Similar to being there to listen, it’s important that if others want to give support, but not sure what type of support you need, to ask the grieving friend. For me, sometimes I wanted to process through everything and then out of the blue, those emotional feelings would come up - even many months later. Support looked different from day to day and month to month.
7. “You are loved. I love you. I’m sorry you’re hurting and for your loss.”
Start with LOVE. If you love and care for this person, reach out directly and tell them they are loved and supported. During times like this, the isolation, feeling of failure and the loss and unknowns of future pregnancies not only create a lot of anger and emotions, but it really feels like the world is crashing down around you.
8. “I don’t have the right words, but I would love to be here to support you and help you on your healing journey.”
Starting with “I don’t have the right words…” and NOT following up with advice on how to fix the person or the situation is also helpful. It prepares the person on the other end that you don’t know what to say, you’re not trying to hurt them or fix them, but that you care.
After going through two miscarriages myself, YES, we have thought of other options and are wondering and researching what is going on in our own situation and working with our health providers, so when others try to fix or suggest obvious options, it’s not the right time for it. I know people are trying to help, but right after a loss is NOT the time to share your opinion or try to fix something.
9. Keep reaching out, checking in and connecting.
Since grief is not linear, emotions can come up at any time. Little things remind you of your loss(es) and take you down, other days are great and forward focused. If you’ve had a close friend go through miscarriage (or other losses), keep checking in. It doesn’t have to be daily or all the time, but if you ARE thinking of them, reach out to let them know and check in. The little things help a lot.
Honestly, I do this for others, but I know I could improve on reaching out to friends that have gone through losses or difficult situations of their own. I’ve learned this from being on the other side of loss. Every time someone checks in, like genuinely checks in helps in the healing journey and makes me feel a little less alone. I know others on similar journeys feel the same. (I feel the presence of social media can keep people from checking in as they feel everything is shared on facebook, it's NOT all shared there and for me, I spend A LOT less time on social media now as it brings up too many triggers.)
10. Be there. Show you care.
Being there and showing you care can look differently in different situations. If you live close, it could be stopping over, making a meal, bringing over flowers or a plant to brighten their day, giving them someone to hug and connect with and a shoulder to cry on, inviting them to an event, workshop or just to get out of the house.
If you live far away, calling on the phone, mailing a letter or something small as a reminder of their baby, sending regular text messages to check in, the list is endless. I received some lovely gifts from friends from afar, which meant the world (though I never expect gifts for anything ever) it was nice to know others were thinking of us.
Most people truly care, but really don’t know what to say or how to say it. Some want to help, but end up just wanting to share their opinions, but those opinions or thoughts can also be hurtful. I could make a list of things not to say, but I don’t feel that’s as productive as creating a list of things to say.
These are my opinions and thoughts. I actually wrote this blog post after our the loss of our first baby, Hasia, but then when we became pregnant with our second baby, I didn’t want to share and bring up the pain of the first loss. Then with another unexpected loss of our second baby, it was a reminder that this message would be helpful to share, as many people told me they didn’t know what to say and didn’t want to be hurtful. I hope this helps those that truly do care, but are just not sure what to say.
If you’ve gone through pregnancy or infant loss or any other loss in your life, what do you feel was helpful or supportive in your personal loss and grief journey?
Nicole Marie is a Holistic Life Wellness Coach, Writer, Traveler, Yoga Teacher and dog momma living in the beautiful Pacific Northwest with her partner, Jordan. She's flowing forward in all of life's journeys (its crazy twists and turns) and guiding women in transition (career, health, family, life) to do the same. When not coaching people from around the world from her home office, you can find her hiking, out in nature with her man and pup, in another country or exploring her local community finding gluten free eats. She's also passionate about foreign and cultural exchange and brings high school foreign exchange students into her local community.