Losing a baby is one of the toughest and loneliest events in a woman’s or couple’s life. The sense of loss, sadness, anger and helplessness can be overwhelming. Now take that and add in, long drawn out fertility treatments into the mix and the feeling of loss goes to a whole different level.
Loss is loss, however when a woman or couple spend months, even years on the journey of invasive scans, drugs, painful injections, egg collection surgeries and the emotional roller coaster ride, receiving news that they are pregnant can be the single happiest yet scariest points in their lives.
Now to be told that ray of hope is gone can be devastating. This heartbreak can be further worsened by well-meaning family and friends who try to help but end up saying the completely wrong thing. Here are seven things never to say to someone who has had a miscarriage, particularly those who are on the fertility journey.
Don’t worry you still have time
Although this is clearly meant to make a loved one feel better, it simply doesn’t work. At the point of loss, the last thing someone would be thinking about is the next time! The anguish they feel is in the here and now, and what could have been.
It wasn’t meant to be
When a woman has just suffered what could be the biggest loss in her life, telling them that the baby they have wanted for so long and worked so hard for, is meant be have died. This could potentially push them over the edge.
At least you know you can conceive
Yes, the fact that a woman has conceived at all is great news when going through assisted conception. However, this is cold comfort for a woman who has tasted motherhood only to have it taken away from her. At this point some women or couples may express the preference to not have fallen pregnant at all to begin with.
It’s probably better that it happened now than later
It’s interesting how people respond to miscarriage that happen before the 12-week point. There are lots of scientific studies that define at which point a foetus can be referred to as a baby. This is irrelevant as many people begin to bond with their baby from the moment they learn of their pregnancy. This is further heightened when they are on the fertility journey. It is difficult to know where they are in the grieving process, so it’s more helpful to not make assumptions of where they may be emotionally.
I know how you feel
No two people are the same even those going through the fertility journey. We are different people with different circumstances and different lenses through which we see the world. This makes it impossible to definitively know how someone is feeling at any given time. Instead it might be more comforting to express that you can relate to what they are going through. This isn’t about you, it is about helping them through a difficult time.
At least you have one child already
For women and couples who desire a large family, not being able to conceive following a first child can be devastating. Our wants and desires are what they are, approaching loved ones with compassion for where they are, is the best course of action.
It happens to a lot of people
It’s a fact that many women miscarry during the first trimester. However, pointing this out is likely to irritate and anger your loved one. Each person’s circumstance is their own and will not look to statistics at a time of grief and heartbreak.
I know it’s tough but try to cheer up
This can feel like a slap in the face when a woman is in a dark place following her loss. Being told to cheer up may cause them to supress the way they feel, stopping them from processing their emotions around their loved ones. This can be a very lonely place to be, increasing or prolonging the person’s suffering.
How to be Supportive
I’m so sorry that this happened to you
Showing compassion that comes from place of empathy is likely to be what a loved one needs to hear. It allows them to ‘feel as they are felling’ providing a safe space to process the loss by talking about how they feel.
I’m here for you, just let me know what you need
Often times, your loved one neither wants advice nor a solution, they just need to know that they have a supportive shoulder to cry on. Someone who will listen without judgement. Someone who will sit quietly with them or go out and have some ice cream or whatever they need to do in that moment.
Validate the way they are feeling
One of the most effective ways to offer support is to let your loved one know that given what they are going through, it is totally normal for them to feel the way they’re feeling.
Bringing it all together
I’m so sorry that this happened to you
Every woman, every couple and every person is different. We all experience emotion differently so compassion is the sure-fire way to support a someone who has experienced loss through a miscarriage.
Just be there for them. It’s ok for them to be sad, angry, helpless and whatever they are feeling emotionally. When they are ready, they will pick themselves back up and take a step forward. They know better than anybody what they really need.
In the end, all that someone who has been through this sort of trauma needs is someone to listen, not advice. Offer a supportive shoulder to lean on.