Supporting a Loved One After Miscarriage

1 out of 4 pregnancies end in miscarriage.

That statistic is staggering, and brutal. And it’s a statistic I had never heard until I was sitting in a doctor’s office with my world crashing down around me. 10 minutes earlier I had been picking out names and excitedly awaiting the first glimpse of my baby’s heartbeat on the ultrasound screen. I never expected that I wouldn’t get to hold that baby; that didn’t seem like a plausible reality.

What I didn’t know then, I intimately know now. 3 out of my 5 pregnancies ended in miscarriage so the 1 in 4 statistic feels all too real for me. It might feel very real to someone you love too, and you’re left with the question “How can I help?”

Over the years since our losses, my husband and I have been on the receiving end of this very beautiful question many times and I hope that I can provide some answers based on personal experience and speaking with others who have suffered pregnancy loss. Every individual and every situation is different but I hope that you can take what resonates, leave what doesn’t, offer your own perspective with love, and know that if you need my support, I’m here.

5 ways to support your loved one after pregnancy loss.

Let Her Talk

Miscarriage is not easy to talk about. It is the loss of someone your friend or family member didn’t really know yet but loved so fiercely. You can’t share memories with her about her baby because the memories are all her own. It’s heartbreaking, and uncomfortable, and you may not know what to say.

And that’s okay. Let her talk. Your loved one may have a lot to say about her feelings, and she may just need to sit in silence. And if she is like me, she may need to hide away from everyone for a little while. But if you can get past the discomfort and make yourself available, your loved one will know you are there when she’s ready and that she has a safe space to share her sadness, her fear, her self doubt, and her anger. All normal feelings that may just need a place to live for a moment outside of her own head. She may not need advice right now, but she needs you.

Let Him Talk

Does pregnancy loss impact women in a different way than men? Yes. Absolutely. But do men suffer the pain of miscarriage too as expectant fathers? Yes. Absolutely. All of the above still applies to the man in your life whose life just changed, but not in the way he expected. His grief, his confusion, and his exhaustion is very real, and he needs you too. To listen. To sit. To ask, “how are you doing?” Keep the door open.

Let Them Talk 6 Months From Now

After the loss of any loved one, if you are fortunate, friends and family gather to support you. The warm embrace helps to divide the pain if even just a little bit. And that is wonderful. But slowly, and naturally, that warm embrace starts to recede as life marches onward.

But I would encourage you not to forget, because it is quite likely that your loved one suffering pregnancy loss has not. And at the same time, since miscarriage still feels taboo to talk about, many other people in your loved one’s life may not know about their loss. So ask your friend or family member how he or she is doing right after their miscarriage, and ask again in a month, or three months, or six months. Maybe they are coping remarkably well. But maybe she is waking up realizing that today she should have been 5 months pregnant. Or maybe a coworker announced her pregnancy today and the pain came rushing back uncomfortably and unexpectedly. Today might have been their due date. So please be there. They might need you now more than ever.

Know the Power of Your Words

It’s in our human nature to try to solve problems. In an effort to help your loved one cope with their pain, you may say something like this, and do so with the absolute best intentions:

“At least you could get pregnant.”

“Everything happens for a reason.”

“Next time you get pregnant everything will be fine. Don’t worry.”

There is love in all of these sentiments, but to someone who just lost a baby these words can sting. Let’s talk about why.

“At least you could get pregnant.”

While getting pregnant is absolutely a gift not be to discounted, truthfully, getting pregnant wasn’t what your loved one really wanted. They wanted to bring their baby home; raise their child. They may not be ready to think about the possibility of future pregnancies yet. Please meet them where they are in their grief. And know that the stages of grief after miscarriage may not be linear because there are so many dramatic ups and downs of fertility.

“Everything happens for a reason.”

The majority of miscarriages occur because of chromosomal abnormalities that would prevent the baby from developing. So yes, there is likely a natural reason why this pregnancy did not carry to term.

Yet even after giving birth to my two children here on earth who I love more than I could ever explain, and who would not be here if any of my previous pregnancies carried to term, I still can feel the sting when I hear someone say “everything happens for a reason.” Maybe it’s just that those words are used so commonly in lots of different situations that they feel rote. Maybe it’s that I remember so clearly the confusion miscarriage brought into my life and how I felt cheated and lost and so devoid of reason. Not everyone will feel this way, but I suppose to me “everything happens for a reason” is difficult because it’s so hard to envision what the future will bring, and it feels slightly dismissive of a life that didn’t get to really begin. I completely understand the instinct to put loss into context and the love behind the sentiment, but it may not be time for that yet. Maybe it never really will be.

“Next time you get pregnant everything will be fine. Don’t worry.”

Next time your loved one gets pregnant everything might very well be perfectly fine. I hope so, with all my heart. And I know you do too. Statistically that is true too. Yet, if and when your loved one is able to get pregnant again, she might be very nervous during that pregnancy. I was, the whole time. So, please help your loved one take this journey one step at a time. And let them feel whatever they are feeling, whenever they are feeling it. There is no right or wrong.

My best advice for words to replace these:

“I’m so sorry for your loss.”

“Would you like to talk?”

“How are you feeling today? I’ve been thinking about you.”

My word choice isn’t perfect. I’m sure I say something every single day that I could have said differently. But the intention here is to offer a perspective and some choices to navigate a very painful process.

Make the Connection

Lastly, and I genuinely mean this, if you or someone you love wants to talk to someone who has been through the pain of miscarriage please reach out. I know that for me, I really wanted to talk to people who “got it” after our losses. I had so many questions, I wanted to feel like I wasn’t alone, and honestly I wanted to see some hope at the end of a dark tunnel. Because of my sweet, strong angel babies, now I am one of those people who “get it” and if you need me, I’m here. Any time.

On behalf of the angel parents out there, we thank you. For listening, for asking, for considering, and most importantly, for loving us through heartbreak. We need you, and you are there.

With love,

BeccaHeart_Pencil

Resources:

Resolve: The National Infertility Association

Planned Parenthood Miscarriage Support

American Pregnancy Association – Surviving Emotionally After a Miscarriage

21 thoughts on “Supporting a Loved One After Miscarriage

  1. Beautifully expressed, Bec. Have been thinking of you and your three angels especially often this month. Thank you for transforming some of that pain into wisdom and support for others. Love you.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Beautifully written Becca.
    As one of the lucky ones who never suffered a loss, you have helped me understand what others in my family have experienced in a profound way.
    Thank you.
    I will be better prepared in the future.
    Much love to you and your beautiful family.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I don’t think you know how common it is until it happens to you, and then people who never talked about it before suddenly tell you their story. So many stories. And yes, people say all those well meaning things you mentioned. Even years later!

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  4. Really beautiful post, Becca. I’m sorry for you and all the other mamas who have angel babies. It’s astounding how common miscarriages are and how little it’s talked about. Thank you for sharing your writing!

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  5. I’ll echo the others — beautifully written. After my first miscarriage, my boss told me basically to get over it and get back to work, that I was young and would get pregnant again. (So did not renew that teaching contract.) It was — and is, from what I still see — startling how people treat something so devastating with the amount of importance one would treat a fender bender. I hope people who read this take your advice to heart.

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    • I’m so sorry that you had that experience at work. That must have been incredibly difficult. This was hard to write because I did not want to be preachy in any way, but I hope that the perspective I shared can be helpful to someone.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I am so sorry for your losses, Erin. I hope that your rainbow baby will be on his or her way to meet you, and that you have a good circle of support during a really trying time. If you ever need another listening ear I’m here. ❤ ❤

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  6. I have gained some comfort from this post, I today, have had pretty much this in a nutshell…. I think we need to make this less of a taboo…. Because I must know someone in Preston that has been through this? But I can’t have their support because they didn’t have the right support and couldn’t speak up about it…. I know I won’t be able to tell people until I at least have a child in my arms…. Buy I fully intend to share my experience, even in my anonymous blog currently…. This 1 in 4 statistic needs to be better known about… I’m sorry for your loss but I bet our rainbow humans are playing and causing mayhem!
    Love and hugs, thanks for sharing!

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  7. WHAT A GREAT READ! This is such a great blog for family and friends to understand “how to talk to grieving parents from pregnancy loss” I very much enjoyed everything you had to share! I am very sorry for you loss and I share you pain by 5. I too just started a blog to talk about and share what I have been through over the past 1.5 yrs. Please feel free to check it out http://www.waitingonarainbow.com BIG HUGS Angel Mama!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much for reading and your kind words. My heart goes out to you. Miscarriage is so incredibly painful and hard for people to talk about so I think it is wonderful that you started a blog for yourself and for others. I know other people’s stories have helped me so much. And writing down my own experiences has been very cathartic. I’ll be sure to check out your blog. Big hugs! ❤

      Liked by 1 person

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