What You Should NEVER Say To Someone Who's Had A Miscarriage (And What To Say Instead)
One year ago, I had a miscarriage.
It's surreal to be writing about this today, while I'm now 39 weeks pregnant. Feeling the fetal movements of this little one brings me soothing waves of relief that we've made it this far.
Recovering from the miscarriage was a journey that my husband and I are proud to have navigated. But we didn't expect that the hardest part of it all would be the veil of silence.
The reality is that 10 to 25 percent of recognized pregnancies end in a miscarriage. So why does no one talk about it? I guess it's just not something one posts about on Facebook, or hashtags on their Instagram. It's not a selfie occasion — that's for sure. So in our cultivated narcissism on social media, how do we talk about the tough stuff?
Don’t ignore the grief. You could make a big difference with a small gesture.
My husband and I learned it was through intimate conversations. And we noticed that there were certain exchanges that made communication easy. At the same time, there were also those "things people say" that completely shut down any ability to share authentically.
Today is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day. To honor the occasion and promote more understanding, I'd like to share the conversation starters and nonstarters that I heard after my miscarriage. I hope they empower loved ones to reach out to a grieving couple and end the silence around loss.
What NOT to Say After a Miscarriage
I know that each of these sentiments came from an intention of caring — but they just didn't help. At the time, I didn't have the energy or ability to tell the person why. I just quietly nodded my head, hoping it would fill the void.
"It's so common. It happens all the time."
While this is statistically true, it immediately shuts the conversation down. There's no space in which to share sadness. It's a conversation ender because the loss no longer feels personal to you; it's been marginalized.
"You can try again."
Yes, we can, and we did. But when you've just experienced a miscarriage there are a million questions that run through your head. Even if the tests give you a clear scientific answer to how it happened, they might not be able to tell you why. And sadly, for a lot of women, this could be a precursor to long-term fertility issues. Please don't assume that your crystal ball into the future is correct.
"It wasn't meant to be."
No sh*t, Sherlock. Again, this shuts down the conversation. It's a hindsight view of the situation, and when you are in the grips of loss, just staying present can be difficult.
"You're strong — you'll get over this."
That may be true. But being vulnerable — to sit in the sadness and let it wash over you — is often what helps us heal. Being told to "be strong" only encourages a grieving person to shove feelings down, which further delays the mourning process. The body holds these trapped emotions in the muscles and tissues. As a massage therapist, I see this time after time on the table, and it's not a healthy way to cope.
What TO Say After a Miscarriage
Thank goodness for the folks who supported us. Each of these conversations created an opening for us to share. And that authentic exchange is how we began to heal.
"I'm so sorry this happened. [Silence]"
Amazingly, this was the most helpful thing to hear. It immediately brings the conversation into a place that feels available and open to share. It's often hard for people to be OK with silence. But through the vulnerable silence, space is created for whatever needs to emerge. There's no agenda with this communication, and it's massively healing.
"You have every right to grieve."
Sometimes we just need permission to be sad. Life goes on, responsibilities continue, and deep sorrow needs time. If it's early in the pregnancy and not a lot of people know about the loss, it becomes even more vital to create this space. Don’t ignore the grief. Embrace it — you could make a big difference with this small gesture.
"Can I help you acknowledge this loss?"
Helping to mark the loss with a ceremony, a prayer, a poem, a wish, a something helps people to feel "in action." Having a visceral experience to honor the loss in a meaningful way gives context to the situation. It creates a deeper level to experience the pain. Sometimes, you have to hit the depths before you can start to rise.
"It happened to me."
My husband and I were blown away by how many of our friends and family members had suffered a miscarriage or knew someone who had. With every admission of understanding, the light around us got brighter. Intimate bonds were formed with people we didn't expect. I'm so grateful for those brave conversations.
"I don't know what to say, but I'm here for you."
No magic wand required. Just be with the person who is dealing with loss. Let go of trying to make it better. They don't need a silver lining — they need a connection to know it's OK to share their sadness. Just listen without adding anything.
How I Healed After My Miscarriage
There's never a "good" time to experience loss, but I happened to be on a weekend trip with a group of women that I've known for more than a decade. Their ability to create a space in which I could experience any emotion that flooded me was profound. It was as though this little being inside me knew it was OK to let go, because I was safe.
I also felt empowered to reach out to brave women whom I'd stumbled over my own words trying to console. A dear friend that had multiple miscarriages simply listened. Another who'd publicly shared her stillbirth gave me resources that I was struggling to find. They knew better than anyone that time heals, and giving grieving space allows for new growth to develop.
The relationship with my husband deepened in ways that are difficult to express — but we share a more palpable bond. When we found out we were pregnant again, there was a sacredness that hadn't existed before. We've cherished each moment of this pregnancy that much more.
And now, as I enter the last weeks of this pregnancy, I find myself indebted to the little being that came into our lives just long enough to have a huge impact.
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