Up to 20% of pregnancies end in miscarriage, yet it’s so hard to talk about. If a friend is struggling with miscarriage grief, learn how to help her heal.
As much as we celebrate pregnancy and natural parenting at Mama Natural, we know that it’s not always an easy road. There are so many women who have suffered through miscarriages, myself included. And miscarriage grief is very real.
When miscarriage happens to you, it’s so easy to feel isolated—like there’s something wrong with your body or like nobody understands what you’re going through. But you are never alone.
It’s estimated that anywhere between 15 to 20 percent of pregnancies end in miscarriage, though it’s likely higher since many women miscarry before they even know they’re pregnant.
Still, so many of us freeze when miscarriage enters the conversation. When we don’t know what to say or worry we’ll make the pain worse, we often say nothing at all. But the truth is, acknowledging the loss can be profoundly healing.
If you need a little help talking to a friend or a family member who recently experienced a miscarriage, read on for some facts about miscarriage, plus some gentle ways to broach the subject.
What Is a Miscarriage?
Before you talk to your friend about her miscarriage, educate yourself. This isn’t the time to ask her scientific questions.
A miscarriage is the spontaneous and unplanned loss of a baby before 20 weeks, after which it’s called a stillbirth. Vaginal pain, cramping and bleeding, or fever and chills, often indicate that a miscarriage is taking place. For more information, read my article about the signs of miscarriage.
What to Say to Someone Struggling With Miscarriage Grief
Once you know the facts, the most important thing you can do for a friend or family member dealing with miscarriage grief is to just be there for them. Remember the golden rule: Treat others as you’d want to be treated.
Roughly 80 percent of miscarriages occur in the first trimester, before many women even announce their pregnancy. That’s why miscarriage is an unusual kind of grief because it’s often faced alone.
If a friend has confided in you about a miscarriage, you’re likely in her inner circle so consider it an honor that you know. Sit beside your friend, if you can. Hold her hand, or give her a hug and a shoulder to lean against. Let her talk, or sit in silence. Be sensitive to your friend’s miscarriage grief and hold space for her. You don’t have to understand her grief to support her through it.
Many women don’t talk about the details of their miscarriage but it is a disturbing and heartbreaking process. Some will take medications to promote the release of the budding life. Others will try to pass the loss naturally. Still some will end up in the hospital with a D&C procedure. However the process unfolds, it’s uncomfortable and triggers all sorts of feelings for the mom and partner.
Pay very close attention to how your friend appears to be responding to the miscarriage. Don’t be afraid to ask an open-ended, but leading question like, “How are you doing with everything?” or “Do you want to talk about it?”
Do rather than say
Part of being present is helping out. Ask if you can come clean the house, babysit older kids or pick up her weekly grocery haul, so your friend can take a break. So many of us moms don’t want to ask for help but we need space to process our miscarriage grief.
Keep your personal matters off the table
Focus on your friend right now. Though she may welcome distractions, avoid talking about your kids, if you have them. Hearing about another baby may be too painful so soon after a miscarriage. It’s also not the time to complain about small inconveniences. If your friend could use a distraction, go for a walk together or watch a funny movie.
Choose your words carefully
It depends how well you know the circumstances around the conception and miscarriage, but some comments hurt more than they help.
Avoid statements like:
- You can always try again
- You’re young enough—you have plenty of time
- At least you tend to get pregnant quickly
- You’re lucky to have another child
These comments don’t really help, no matter how well-intentioned. If your friend is still dealing with miscarriage grief, she probably hasn’t even started thinking about trying again. The miscarriage may have happened after expensive fertility treatments and another round might not be affordable. And already having children doesn’t mean you don’t want another one. If in doubt, default to listening.
Reassure her that it wasn’t her fault
Miscarriage grief—or any kind of grief, for that matter—isn’t logical or rational. But, as humans, we often struggle to find a reason something happened. Did I forget to take my prenatal vitamins? Is it because I had a glass of wine before I found I was pregnant?
It’s normal for your friend to cycle through feelings of guilt or to blame herself, but it’s not healthy to stay in that place. Miscarriage isn’t about blaming or focusing on regrets.
While there are some risk factors for miscarriage, including maternal age, smoking, drugs/alcohol, and weight issues, now isn’t the time to bring these up. If your friend has any risk factors, her doctor will talk about them with her. Avoid saying anything that could sound judgmental.
Keep it about her
Miscarriage, loss, and death trigger feelings in everyone. Because miscarriage is so common, you may have experienced it yourself. However, this is her loss and her process. If her miscarriage triggers emotions for you, process them before you offer her support. (The last thing she needs right now is to take care of someone else’s feelings!)
And do know that it’s OK if you simply can’t be a close confidant for a friend during her grieving process because it’s too painful for you. You can send a sympathy card and keep her in your thoughts and prayers. There will be other people who can support your friend with her miscarriage grief while you take care of yourself.
Responding to a friend’s miscarriage grief requires courage, kindness, and tact. Choose your words with care and love in mind, avoid judgment, and just be there for her if you can. ?
How About You?
If you’ve suffered a miscarriage, what helped you heal? Is there anything you wished someone had said or done, but didn’t? Weigh in and share your wisdom with other natural mamas.