Supporting someone who has had a miscarriage
Here are a few things you might want to do to show you’re there for them.
Acknowledge their loss
Many women and couples feel isolated and alone in their grief after losing a baby. Some may feel that, somehow, they aren’t allowed to grieve, perhaps because they miscarried early or never met their baby.
Nothing should stop anyone from grieving for their baby and the future they had imagined.
You may worry that you don’t know what to say or think that it’s best not to say anything. However, the simple act of acknowledging someone’s loss can really help. Just let them know that you’re sorry for what has happened and that you are there for them.
“Other than the comfort of my husband and family it was my best friend that really helped me to talk about things. She was straight to the point and asked me outright what had happened. I instantly felt like a weight has been lifted.”
“The text messages saying, ‘thinking of you’ and people actually acknowledging our loss and asking about it, rather than being too scared to cause upset and staying quiet helped.”
“Every single call, text and email counted. Just knowing someone was thinking of us really helped, even if it was just ‘I'm so sorry’.”
“I was so confused as to why my husband wasn't showing his grief the same way I did. Later, he told me he used to cry in the toilets at work or in the car on the driveway, as he was so heartbroken but felt he had to be strong for me... That really upsets me even now.”
The importance of asking ‘How are you doing?’
Sometimes, it can be very difficult to know if someone wants to talk about a painful event. If they don’t want to talk about it, they will let you know, but try not to let this fear stop you from asking.
“This simple question meant the world. It acknowledged the significance of what I had been through and made me feel less alone. Being asked felt like validation that something happened.”
Choose your words carefully
There are some things that are commonly said to someone after a miscarriage that aren’t very helpful.
It’s natural to want to make someone feel better and try to be encouraging about the future and their chances of having a healthy baby. However, things like “everything happens for a reason”, “you can always try for another one” or “at least you weren’t too far along” can be really upsetting.
You may be trying to say something comforting or positive, but sometimes comments like this can sound cliché and dismissive, as though you’re not taking what’s happened seriously.
“The worst two things I heard from family, friends and doctors were ‘You're still young’ and ‘At least you can get pregnant’.”
“When I had my miscarriage the one thing that upset me most was when people would say ‘Well you weren't that far gone so really it wasn’t a fully formed baby’.”
“You don't have to know what to say. We just ask that you be there for us, and let us talk about it if we need to. A hug is always welcome.”
Sarah's story. Read more...
Send flowers or a gift
If you don’t know what to say, or are worried about calling at a bad time, you could try sending a gift to let someone know you’re thinking of them.
“From a very thoughtful friend I'd get surprise deliveries like a bunch of flowers on the doorstep, a cup of homemade soup and baguette just before lunch. Just wee gestures to let me know she was thinking of me.”
“You don't have to know what to say. We just ask that you be there for us and let us talk about it if we need to. A hug is always welcome.”
Sarah's story. Read more...
“Sometimes the thing I want most is just to have a friend give me a cuddle.”
Be there to sit and listen
When someone is in emotional pain, we all feel tempted to offer encouraging words, or even possible solutions, because we want to help. You may even have been through similar experiences of pregnancy and loss and want to offer some advice based on how you coped.
This can be helpful, but bear in mind that everyone is different and it’s important to let people grieve the way they want to. Sometimes people aren’t looking for advice about what they can do. They just need someone to listen to how they feel.
Try to give them space to say everything they want to say to someone who is really listening.
“If someone just takes the time to let you speak about it, and REALLY listens to you, then that's the best thing anyone can do.”
Don’t forget the physical aspect of losing a baby
Having a miscarriage affects a woman’s physical health as well as causing emotional pain. For example, they may have been to hospital for an operation. They may be feeling overwhelmed by irregular hormones or exhausted after losing blood or the trauma of miscarrying.
Offering practical support can help. For example, you could offer to do the shopping, cook dinner or simply offer to keep them company.
“My friend sent me a box of cooked meals I could shove in the oven. It was such a relief not to have to think about going shopping or cooking and washing up. But, more than anything, I felt so loved and looked after.”
Be sensitive about pregnancy
Try to bear in mind that it can be difficult for people who have lost a baby when someone they know gets pregnant or has a baby.
There’s no need for you to feel guilty about sharing happy news, just try to be sensitive to your friend or family member’s feelings. They are probably struggling to be sensitive to your feelings too.
“Miscarriage brings out the worst in you, you can’t bear seeing other people’s happiness. I couldn’t find joy in anything; and I hated the jealousy I felt towards other pregnant women.”
Remember significant dates
Many women and couples remember the date that they found out they were pregnant and the date they lost their baby. Some people find these days particularly difficult, while others actively commemorate their baby every year.
Whatever the situation, it may be helpful for you to remember these dates and ask your friend or family member how they are. They may want a distraction or need to talk.
The pain doesn’t stop at the miscarriage, for some people it helps if friends remember important dates or times of year.
“My sister texts me on what would have been the birthdays of each of my babies.”
Help them find the support they need
We all try to be there for the people we love, but sometimes people need more than what we can offer. If your loved one is struggling and you feel that they may need more support, you could try to help them find what they need.
For example, some people find it helpful to talk to other people who have been through a similar experience. Others may find it helpful to talk to a professional.
“I found a blog that helped me reach out and find others going through similar things. It helped just having someone listen to or read what I had to say.”
Find out more about getting more support after a miscarriage.