I’ve cruised a lot of conversations about miscarriage. There are many, many wrong things people have said to women, who have just survived a miscarriage. I’m surprised by the fact that many of them are the same things I heard, when I told about my first miscarriage. But I thought it wise to try to form a list of responses that would help or, at the very least, not be totally offensive and hideous.
So, what can you say to a person who has experienced a miscarriage and what you should avoid mentioning, even if it’s all well you mean.
1. Do not offer any advice. Whatever you say, she and her spouse already know and have thought about long and hard. Every advice just feels like a huge accusation to her.
2. Do not try to figure out WHY it happened. No matter how tempted you are to ask about stress factors, eating or workouts. Don’t. You think she hasn’t already been through everything she might have done differently? You don’t think she’s already blaming herself enough? Do not add to that whatever your suspections are or what you’ve read or heard could cause it. There is nothing she could have done.
3. Do not in any way refer to the lost child as not fit enough, even if you know that many miscarriages are the result of developmental defects. The facts don’t help here. You are not the one to decide, if she would’ve wanted the child anyway. No one wants to hear that their child was unfit for the world. She is already thinking what is wrong with her and her genes. Don’t add to that.
4. Try to understand that whatever your feelings are about having children, of her and her spouse having children, of money, parenting or the right time, she has just lost her child. Think really hard, if you’d say the same thing to someone whose child has died.
5. Remember that for her it isn’t a new thing like to you. She’s had to feel being pregnant and losing the child in her body. The loss is very tangible no matter how far the pregnancy was. Do not remark on the actual lenght of the pregnancy. It’s no easier earlier on.
6. If the pregnancy had gone on further than 18th week she probably had to give birth to the baby. The labour of a dead baby is in no way different from a normal labour, but it has no happy ending. Please keep that in mind, when you talk about her and her family. She is already a mother in every sense, and she already has a child. She probably had to bury the child too. Try to be sensitive about that.
7. Do not try to play down the meaning of the miscarriage. Especially try to avoid clichés like “miscarriages are really common” or “you’ll have another one”.
8. Do not try to compare the sitatuation to any of your own, if you haven’t experienced a miscarriage yourself.
So what can you say?
What I’ve really wanted to hear is condolences. I want my sorrow to be recognised. Nothing will change what has happened. I want people to listen and to react normally. To be sorry for my loss. That’s not impossible, is it?
And if you have a friend or a friend of your aunt’s who’s been through the same. Think very carefully, how it will sound to someone, who has just lost their kid. It’s not necessarily the best thing to tell at such a time, even if it is the same thing. But I felt relieved, when my friend(s) told me about her mother’s miscarriage before she was born. It was real and tangible. There my friend was, telling the story about a sorrow that had faded since the birth of these two wonderful people. There is hope still.