This article will show you not only what to avoid when talking with a woman who has had a miscarriage, but it will also show you the one type of message that is helpful.
I began thinking about how to express sympathy for miscarriage several years ago when my friend miscarried. We were pregnant around the same time and when she miscarried I felt guilty. I wasn’t sure how to act around her or what to say. It felt uncomfortable to talk about anything pregnancy related yet I was pregnant so that’s what was on my mind.
A simple “I’m sorry” felt like nothing. I didn’t know what I could do for my friend. I thought she might be sad about this on and off for perhaps the rest of her life. I wondered how she would feel being around me when I had my baby. To be honest, I think my lack of response created a split in our relationship. I didn’t know how to be there for her when it mattered the most.
One thing I discovered from reading miscarriage forums and stories from grieving mothers is that there are a ton a things that people say that make miscarriage grief so much worse. I think this is why we struggle to express sympathy for this kind of loss. We know deep down that there are more hurtful responses than helpful ones. It seems safer to say nothing. Here are some of most common types of messages that have been hurtful.
The “At Least You…” Type of Message
This message can sound like at least you can have more kids or at least now you know that you can get pregnant or at least this happened early on in the pregnancy. This message is so hurtful because it’s dismissive and don’t allow the bereaved mother to feel they way she feels. It’s basically saying you should be happy or grateful right now. It’s reasonable for anyone who had suffered a loss to feel sad and trying to cheer her up is not helpful.
The “The Happens…” Type of Message
This message can sound like this happens to a lot of women (and then quoting how common miscarriage is) or this usually happens because it wasn’t a viable pregnancy so basically it’s a good thing that you miscarried! Like the message above this message is dismissive.
The “It Wasn’t Meant to Be” Type of Message
This message can sound like well it wasn’t meant to be, but when the time is just right I’m sure you’ll get pregnant again. It can even lean towards blaming God with statements like God didn’t have this in the cards for you this time, but when it’s meant to be it’ll happen.
The Most Important Thing to Avoid When Talking with a Woman Who Has Had a Miscarriage
People often resort to cliche or trite expressions. Phrases like: “Everything happens for a reason” or “Time will heal all wounds” or worse “God knows best” are incredibly hurtful. People use these phrases because they are uncomfortable around grief not because they are trying to be hurtful. They just want it to not touch their life…or the life of anyone they know.
Why the Simple “I’m sorry for your loss” Message is Perfect
So, now we’ve talked about what to avoid when talking with a woman who has had a miscarriage, but I want to also explain why you should say something and what the perfect thing to say is. Just saying that you’re sorry and simply acknowledging the loss truly is enough. You might be tempted to think it’s not enough and then do nothing. Please don’t do this.
A simple message like this is perfect because it acknowledges the loss without dismissing it. It doesn’t try to make it all better or downplay the hurt.
It’s also okay to say that you don’t know what to say. That is very honest and it let’s your friend know that you do care about her loss. It’s also honest and helpful to say, “I can’t imagine what you’re going through.”
Something as small as sending a card can make a big difference. It communicates that you care and it acknowledges the loss. The loss warrants a card and that fact only can be helpful for a bereaved mother. It can go a long way it helping her feel that the sense of loss they she is feeling is valid. There are some amazing miscarriage sympathy cards being made however even just a simple blank card with a hand-written message can be helpful. Here are some miscarriage sympathy card messages if you need some ideas for what to write.
Fathers need support too. I’ve mainly focused on what to say to a woman here, but keep in mind that men experience this loss as well.
Grief has no timeline. It doesn’t neatly fit into steps or stages. No matter how much time passes, a mother will always remember the loss of a child
it will stay with her. Internet resources can be invaluable for bereaved parents and you may want to recommend an organization like bereaved parents of the USA or Miscarriage Support.