Thank you for visiting to read my thoughts on What Not to Say When Someone Has a Miscarriage. My words here are based on my own experience with miscarriage, but some points may also fit for those dealing with stillbirth, child loss, or any death of a loved one. Please feel free to add your own thoughts and experiences in the comments section.

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What Not to Say When Someone Has a MiscarriagePhoto: Unsplash 

I’ve seen some pretty shocking things on social media. Friends, there are some terrible people in the world. With all the ugliness I’ve witnessed, I sometimes think I’ve seen it all and it takes a lot to surprise me. Then this week I stumbled upon a thread of tweets that caused some “naughty words” to tumble right out of my mouth.

A woman had tweeted something about the offensive things people said after she had a miscarriage. Other women were also weighing in with their stories. One crazy person went on a tweeting frenzy. She was essentially laughing at the idea that the woman was sad. I can’t give you exact quotes because (thankfully) the tweets were deleted, but the gist of it was that a miscarriage isn’t a big deal like losing an actual baby and that the original tweeter was looking for attention.

The horrible tweets went on and on and were incredibly shocking. I visited the offensive tweeters profile and found she had a following of over 1,200 and her Twitter feed was filled with Bible verses and “advice” for women. Great.

I admit I haven’t always known what to do or say for friends experiencing a miscarriage. It is hard to understand unless you’ve been there. And yet, it’s actually not so difficult to not be a horrible person.

What a Miscarriage is Like

A miscarriage is when a persons child died in the womb before the 20th week of pregnancy. Still birth is when a baby dies before birth in the second half of the pregnancy.

A miscarriage is physically painful.

A miscarriage takes a toll on marriages, a persons health, finances, work life, and friendships.

Miscarriages are expensive, especially without good medical insurance coverage.

Parents never “get over” their children who died.

If you’ve never experienced a miscarriage, read about the experiences of others. You need to be able to understand and empathize. (Here’s my story written a few months after my miscarriage and more recent thoughts on miscarriage aftermath)

What Not to Say When Someone Has a Miscarriage

Everyone deals with their loss in different ways. There are no easy answers. There is no manual to describe exactly what to do and what to say, but here are some suggestions:

Don’t explain away the pain with purpose.
Don’t try to say there must be some purpose for this. What purpose could there possibly be for something so awful? Eventually the person/family can find ways to use the experience to bring about positive change in their lives. But soon after a loss is not a good time to be talking about there being a “purpose.” A parent may express that they want to use the tragedy for good in the future, but let them say those things; you should not.

There’s no “up side” when your baby dies.
Don’t suggest that the parents look at the positive side of things. Let people feel what they need to feel.

My arms is where my baby belongs.
Don’t say anything about the baby being in a better place. That may be true in your eyes, but the family left to grieve the loss is not better off.

One baby doesn’t replace another.
Do not say things like “don’t worry, you’ll have another baby.” Okay, seriously? First of all, you do not know that for sure. Secondly, the baby that was lost was important. It cannot be replaced by any other child. Don’t pretend that a loss can be “fixed” by a different child.

Don’t blame mom.
Do not say anything that sounds like you are blaming the mother. “Were you not eating right, maybe?” “Maybe you were too stressed?” “Do you think it would be good to lose some weight before you try again?” “You know, your body may just be getting too old to carry a child.” Stop. Just STOP. These ignorant statements are so incredibly damaging.

Better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all? (easy for you to say)
“At least now you know you can get pregnant!” I feel more mildly about this one that some of the others. For me, it actually was in my mind (even as I was losing my baby) that I was still relieved that I did get pregnant in the first place. This is because it took six years to get pregnant with our first child. The second pregnancy happened much quicker than the first, which was a surprise. But still, this is not something that someone else should be suggesting to a person who has just lost their baby.

A person is a person, no matter how small…
“At least you weren’t very far along.” I was 11 weeks pregnant when I miscarried. To some, that may not sound like I was “very far” along. But 11 weeks means I was 1/3 of the way through my pregnancy.

11 weeks meant I quite literally went into labor to deliver a dead baby in my bathroom.

11 weeks meant almost three months of connecting with the little life growing in me… months of morning sickness and pregnancy exhaustion… months of thinking of names… moments of excitement sharing the news with family…

11 weeks and then it was over.

It doesn’t matter if a mother is 5 weeks, 11 weeks, or 20 weeks when she loses her baby; her baby has died and she is hurting. We all process grief differently and might have some different feelings depending on how far into the pregnancy we were when it ends. But please do not discount a mother and father’s pain by counting the weeks of their baby’s life.

What Not to Say When Someone Has a Miscarriage

Photo: Unsplash

 

So, What Should We Say?

   “I’m sorry. This sucks. It isn’t fair.”

   “How are you feeling?” This is a good question because depending on how the person is feeling about sharing their feelings they can say very little or they can say a lot. Don’t push it, just listen.

   Think of the father. He is struggling too. Send a text, make a phone call, send a Facebook message and let him know he’s in your thoughts and prayers.

   Scripture and comforting poems can be a little helpful sometimes.

I know this is a tough thing. You may feel like you’re just at a loss for words. That’s okay. Your words, no matter how heart-felt and profound, will never fix what has happened. Mere words will not replace what has been lost. Let that knowledge take the pressure off of you so you can just reach out with love and concern.

What Are Some Helpful Things We Can Do?

Say Something
Send a text, a Facebook message, or maybe even make a phone call to say you love them and are praying for them. No advice. Nothing intrusive. Just reach out. You don’t need to know what to say. Just communicate that you care.

Care for Them
Head to the grocery store and call (maybe call the spouse or close family member if the mother is still suffering physically) or send a text to ask what they need. Toilet paper? Paper towels? Bread, milk, snacks? Don’t ask “can I bring you anything?” Say “I’m out now at the store and am getting some things for you so you don’t have to go out. Any suggestions?”

Feed Them
Make a meal and drop it off. Call first to find out if they have any food preferences. If they already have meals for that day then make a freezer meal for them to use when they need it. When making a meal…
   1. Use disposable containers and let the family know they do not need to return them.
   2. Make a main dish, one or two sides, and dessert.
   3. Consider also making up a nice basket of items for the next morning such as bagels and cream cheese, muffins, biscuits, fruit, a bottle of juice, etc.

Give a Gift
You can send flowers and a card. Some people don’t like flowers, so think of an alternative like a plant, cookie bouquet, box of chocolates, etc.

A friend who lost a baby suggested wind chimes as a thoughtful gift and reminder that even though the little one isn’t present, she continues to make an impact on the lives of her family.

I received a stuffed animal as a reminder of my little one who was lost. This is a sweet gift for a grieving friend. 

Another great idea would be a card with a gift card in it. I received a sympathy card and a spa gift card and that was such a nice surprise for me as I was experiencing a difficult miscarriage.

Listen
Many parents experiencing loss are actually more interested in talking about the loss than some may think. We want to remember our little one. We need to share our feelings. I don’t want to pretend this didn’t happen to me.

Inner Circle Organizing
Encourage mutual friends to reach out. This depends on how public the news of the miscarriage is. If it is appropriate, suggest mutual friends, co-workers, and others do things such as those listed above to show support and love for the grieving parents.

Adjust Your Expectations
Don’t put any pressure on the parents to do anything extra too soon after the loss. Ease up your expectations of them as a friend, boss, co-worker, family member, etc. Put their feelings first.

Don’t Forget About Me
Don’t exclude your friend from social invitations, play dates, etc. They may say no if they’re not emotionally up to participating, but being excluded hurts.

The Pain Lasts a While
Continued support is critical. One thing that most people don’t think about is the grief and sadness that continues. Marking the would-have-been birth month is tough. The miscarriage related medical bills that continue to come in the mail… like a knife to the heart. Offer continued support in any way you can.

Be a Good (Human) Boss
If you are an employer, be aware of your employees financial situation. Help with their medical bills in any way you can. Allow other employees to donate sick time.

 

“I’m pregnant and I don’t know how to tell my friend who had a miscarriage.” I hear this question a lot. DO NOT let your friend hear about your pregnancy from anyone other than you. Take your friend to lunch to talk (or call on the phone if you’re not living close to each other) and share your pregnancy news. Is it awkward? Yes. But if you care about your friend you’ll face the difficult situation and be a good friend. In most cases she will genuinely be very happy for you and really appreciate you telling her personally.

What Not to Say When Someone Has a Miscarriage

Photo: Unsplash

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27 Comments on What Not to Say When Someone Has a Miscarriage

  1. viviene @ thejourneyofawoman
    July 18, 2014 at 10:36 am (3 years ago)

    Reminded me of my friend who had a miscarriage twice within the time 4 of our friends including me.. got pregnant! She was there when I announced my pregnancy to the group and I saw her pain =( I'm hoping she's next in line!

    Reply
  2. Dreamer
    July 18, 2014 at 2:05 pm (3 years ago)

    Even though I haven't experienced it, yet your article really touched me. Sensitivity is so important and empathy as well. Good Read! Thanx:

    http://www.babypregnancycare.com

    Reply
  3. Aimee Fauci
    July 18, 2014 at 2:16 pm (3 years ago)

    I have never known or understood the pain that comes with a miscarriage until my daughter had one. I don't think people realize what a tragic and unforgettable experience it is.. not just because you've lost your child but the actual experience of miscarrying that child. Every one is different but the pain.. not only physically but mentally that my daughter went through was horrible.. My advice is to give condolences and offer an ear.

    Reply
  4. Carolyn
    July 18, 2014 at 2:49 pm (3 years ago)

    Good post! People are so thoughtless when it comes to these types of situation.
    Personally, I hated how no one cared or disregarded my MC cause it happened so early on. :/ That is hurtful as well.

    Reply
  5. Chrissy Mazzocchi
    July 18, 2014 at 3:17 pm (3 years ago)

    This is an amazing post. My Sister lost hers last Summer and I honestly had no idea what to say to her. She is know pregnant and very happy! 🙂

    Reply
  6. Felicias Red Door Life
    July 18, 2014 at 7:16 pm (3 years ago)

    This is such a touching post and I am so sorry you ever had to go through losing a child. It's amazing what people will say when they don't know what to say.

    One other helpful tip, from my mother who had a still born child, don't hand the mother a new born and expect her to be happy or excited that there is a baby in her arms. Someone did this to my mother within a week or two after her Timothy was birthed. IT nearly destroyed her.

    If the mom reaches for a child that's one thing but don't just plop a baby in her arms.

    Reply
  7. Stacey van horn
    July 18, 2014 at 7:24 pm (3 years ago)

    Great tips! It is a hard thing to go through and you need all the help and support you can get.

    Reply
  8. 3citygirlsnyc
    July 19, 2014 at 12:01 am (3 years ago)

    From experience these were really good tips. It's hard trying to comfort a loved one during a difficult time. Thank you for sharing your story and being able to inspire others that don't know what to say or do.

    Reply
  9. Jeanae
    July 19, 2014 at 1:39 am (3 years ago)

    I have to say that I often do not know what to say in this situation, even after standing with friends who have walked through it. I tell them that I am praying for them, & that I love them. After that? I am just a listening ear, and willing to support in any way that I can.

    Thank you for sharing your story. It will bring healing to many.

    Reply
  10. Caroline atFitPinkMom
    July 21, 2014 at 2:47 pm (3 years ago)

    This is such a sweet post… it always surprises me how outrageous some people can be! I'm sure this post will help many people. Thank you for sharing <3

    Reply
  11. Emily Belcher
    July 29, 2014 at 7:53 pm (3 years ago)

    These are very great tips. You are very strong for writing them! It's a topic that I can't bring myself to discuss- which isn't healthy. When I went back to work after mine, I just asked everyone to not talk about it. On the flip side, I never knew what to say to a close friend of mine who also suffered a loss. This definitely helps– thank you for posting!

    Reply
  12. Anonymous
    July 29, 2014 at 10:18 pm (3 years ago)

    I hope this post goes viral. Really. People need to read this, and not just the people outside of the miscarriage, but the ones who are experiencing it first hand. It wasn't until I finally opened up about my miscarriages that I learned so many of my friends and family had gone through it as well.

    Thank you 🙂

    Reply
  13. Tina
    July 30, 2014 at 5:29 pm (3 years ago)

    I think the hardest thing for me is that most people avoided me after I miscarried. Or at least that's how it felt. I actually wanted someone to ask me if I'm okay, or even months later ask how I was. It was all so awkward. Finally when a friend asked me 3 months later how I was, I broke down and finally let it all out and I needed that. I found comfort in talking with other moms who experienced the same.

    Reply
  14. Journeys of The Zoo
    July 30, 2014 at 7:39 pm (3 years ago)

    Sorry to read of your loss. It's never easy. Life isn't fair sometimes.

    I've lost a child and still feel like I never know what to say. My favourite saying is "It Sucks" because that's how I feel about my situation.

    You raise a ton of great points that would apply to me and my journey.

    Besos, Sarah
    Blogger at Journeys of The Zoo

    Reply
  15. Sarah Coggins
    July 30, 2014 at 8:03 pm (3 years ago)

    Having been through 2, I totally agree with your post. It's also a struggle with me now as I, so far, am doing well with my latest pregnancy (lots of finger crossing & prayers there). I know how painful my pregnancy can be for other moms dealing with miscarriage & infertility and do my best to be gentle of them. And every day I still miss the 2 angels I'll never hold in this lifetime. The pain lessens, but the memories & longing are always there. So sorry to know you've been down this road too. It's a "club" none of us want to join. ((HUGS))

    Reply
  16. Rosilind Jukic
    July 31, 2014 at 4:01 pm (3 years ago)

    This is such a great post. I have had 4 miscarriages with babies in between, the pain before and after is not any different. In fact, if I had to be honest, it was almost harder after. I know people unintentionally say hurtful things, but this is a worthy conversation because I think sometimes hurtful things are said because people simply don't know WHAT to say. Thank you for a great post!

    Reply
  17. Anonymous
    August 22, 2014 at 8:11 pm (3 years ago)

    This was wonderful advice, and even tho I'm past the child bearing age I still know women who experience miscarriages. The same advice should be the same to families who experience a birth of a handicapped child. This kind of news has to be just about as bad as the death of a child. The pain never goes away, you just learn to live with it. When my son was diagnosed most of my friends just quietly disappeared. But then there were others who stepped up and became my saving grace. Even my sons Grandmother was very cruel, she told me to put him in an institution and forget him. (which I did not) I was told when you have a child born with a handicap you experience the 5 stages of grief just like if the child had died. My beautiful Matthew died 8 yrs. ago at 19 yrs.old, (I was told at birth to take him home and make him comfortable he wouldn't live to be 1 yr. old) it was a blessing because he had suffered so much the last 3 yrs.of his life. We were fortunate, most people were very kind and supportive when he passed away. But I still feel guilty and wonder if there was anything else I could have to to make his life more comfortable. For all of you ladies who have lost babies, please accept my sincere sympathy for your loss and I will pray that your pain eases with time.

    Reply
  18. Anonymous
    August 29, 2014 at 8:00 pm (3 years ago)

    30+ plus years ago and 3 miscarriages….I still think of my Angels and can't wait to be with them again in Heaven.

    Reply
  19. Cherelynn
    September 3, 2014 at 3:29 am (3 years ago)

    You win for most awesome post ever.

    Reply
  20. Anonymous
    October 4, 2014 at 12:45 pm (3 years ago)

    I experienced a miscarriage in May and I have to say my siblings said everything in what "not" to say lol. I never thought about it as them being insensitive because they had a lot of concern and supported me a lot. My own fiancée asked me did I want to try again 10 minutes after we left the doctors office and my DNC wasn't scheduled yet. The baby was literally still inside of me! YIKES! But I understood eventually he didn't know what to say. This post made me laugh at them a bit but then again I have a crazy sense of humor.

    Reply
  21. Cindy McDowall
    October 13, 2014 at 12:29 am (3 years ago)

    This happened to my cousin and we still talk about Aaron and the things he might have been doing now. It helps her (and I) to cope. You are so right about everything you mentioned in this post.

    Reply
  22. Michelle Medlin
    October 14, 2014 at 1:23 am (3 years ago)

    Great post. I lost a baby 2 years ago, and sometimes it feels like to everyone but me, the baby never existed. You are dead on, and thank you.
    -Michelle @ The Gracious Wife

    Reply
  23. Anonymous
    December 7, 2014 at 4:16 am (3 years ago)

    I miscarried 7 yrs ago and my husband acted like it never bothered him and never would talk about it. I took it really hard, ended up losing my job because of it. A few months after the miscarriage, my brother calls to tell me he and his wife were expecting their first baby and my nephew and his girlfriend were also expecting. Not only that, but my boss was a new grandma, so she had her grand daughter at work a lot and 2 other co-workers was soon to be a new grandmas. I think about my baby all the time, but I now have a soon to be 4yr old daughter to keep me busy and I am very thankful for her. I know I will see him/her in heaven, right now my mom is loving on my baby for me.

    Reply
  24. Anonymous
    April 5, 2015 at 1:47 pm (2 years ago)

    I had an ectopic pregnancy at 10 weeks and almost died, everyone was just glad I made it and didn't really seem to care about the baby I'd lost

    Reply
  25. Beth
    October 3, 2015 at 9:43 pm (2 years ago)

    Oh my goodness, I can't believe this post isn't more widely shared. It is literally the most concrete advice I've seen in the past 2 years about how to relate to a friend who has gone through a loss. I'm pinning this and sharing it on facebook because it covers so many topics most of the "don't say these things to a mom who went through a loss" don't, and has concrete (did I say CONCRETE) ideas for what to do and how to reach out. Thank you!

    Reply
  26. Caroline @ In Due Time
    October 11, 2015 at 2:50 am (2 years ago)

    This is so true (from the infertility) standpoint. The best thing people can do is just BE there! Send a text that they are thinking of you, share bible verses, let them know they are praying, etc etc! Thanks for sharing!

    Reply
  27. Heather Jones
    October 11, 2015 at 3:02 am (2 years ago)

    I've always struggled with knowing what to say to anyone who has gone through this, thank you for sharing!
    -Heather

    Reply

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