Misunderstanding miscarriage

After three miscarriages, I have found that sometimes even my closest friends and family don’t know how to respond when I’ve had one. It’s because as in other situations of trauma, people just don’t always know how to behave.

Often the most well-intentioned comments can make you feel worse or angry or even unsupported. But, really, unless you’ve sat in bed for a week waiting for your dead foetus to be expelled or gone for your 6 week scan to find that there’s no heartbeat, then you don’t really know how it feels.

You don’t need to step on eggshells around your friend, yet it’s a fragile time for someone. So, I’ve put together some pointers, in my opinion, of some things not to say or do when someone has a miscarriage.

What not to say after a miscarriage

  • If the person lets you know what happened first-hand, always acknowledge the loss. A good thing to say is: ‘I am so sorry. I am thinking of you and am here if you need anything.’ Pretending that it never happened is one of the worst things you can do. Drop off a bunch of flowers with a note saying: ‘I am so sorry to hear of your loss. Thinking of you.’ Even if she doesn’t want to see you yet or talk about it, she’ll appreciate the gesture.
  • Never say: ‘Oh well, you can always try again.’ Yes, that’s usually true but this statement minimises the loss that the person has suffered. Plus, if they conceived on fertility treatment, it really isn’t that simplistic as just trying again.   
  • If your friend withdraws, then it is still safe to send them sms's or leave messages of support like: ‘I know you’re not up to talking yet or socialising, but when you’re ready, I am here.’  Even if she wants to be alone right now, it will make her feel better to know that you’re out there thinking of her. Don’t force her to talk about. She will, when she’s ready.
  • Avoid saying, ‘Oh, it’s so common, it happened to my sister’s cousin’s auntie 7 times and now she has 5 children!’ Reiterating how common it is too soon after the miscarriage seems to minimise the loss.
  • Never say, ‘at least it wasn’t far along yet/not a proper baby yet.’ For her, whatever stage of development it may be in from embryo to foetus, its still in her mind, a baby, and it hurts that it’s gone.
  • Avoid saying, ‘There was probably something wrong with it/ wouldn’t you rather have a miscarriage than have a disabled child?’ Again, this may be true but she doesn’t need to hear it now. Although intellectually she might be comforted by the notion that it’s for the best, it still hurts like hell.
  • And, for some women who have been trying for years to conceive, perhaps they’d rather take their chances at having an ‘imperfect’ child rather than never becoming a parent at all.
  • Say anything about it being ‘God’s will’ or ‘Divine intervention’. Unless the person is religious, it’s just an annoying thing to say.
  • A gentle reminder like: ‘Well, at least you have one child.’ If that’s the case, this knowledge can be helpful but maybe not right after the miscarriage. Wanting something that eludes you is painful and no matter how many children you have, miscarriage is still unpleasant.

What should people say to a parent who has suffered a miscarriage?

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