5 Ways to Support a Friend Who's Suffered a MIscarriage
In the past few weeks, I've learned of two friends who have suffered from a miscarriage. An absolute horrible thing to go through and something I've personally dealt with multiple times. For some reason, miscarriages are often a topic that isn’t discussed. Women who suffer them tend to keep it and the pain that ensues to themselves. Some may do this because they truly don’t want to discuss it and I can completely understand. However some, I’ve discovered through readings and discussions with others, keep it to themselves because they feel shameful, embarrassed or that it was something they did. I can definitely relate to those feelings as I experienced them with each one of my miscarriages.
Part of the reason I feel that we as women experience those feelings is because miscarriage has always been such a hush, hush topic. Like many others, up until I had one, I thought miscarriages very rarely happened. The truth is, it happens more frequently than we think. In fact, it’s estimated that 10% – 20% of women who know they are pregnant will miscarry before 20 weeks. Since many miscarriage occur without some women even knowing, that number is most likely even higher. Unfortunately most of those that do know will experience a roller coaster of emotions associated with that loss.
I like to think of myself as a fairly strong individual. Especially when faced with tough situations. However, I definitely experienced some unpleasant emotions during each of my pregnancy losses. Sometimes I felt immense sadness. Sometimes I felt anger, guilt, isolation and often times frustration. Everyone handles their emotions differently and for family and friends around who have never experienced the same loss, this can be a very confusing time. While they may want to be there for you to help you through this time, you might need space and time alone to process your emotions. During my journey with miscarriage, there were times I wanted to be alone, and times I wanted a shoulder to cry on. I was lucky enough to have a great support system of friends to read my emotions and help me through those difficult times of my life.
Since this is such a hush hush topic, I wanted to repost a few tips I shared years ago for anyone who has loved one who goes through a pregnancy loss. Being there for them during this time is so important but there are many different ways to do so while allowing them time to heal.
1. Be there for them but don’t over do it – After my third miscarriage I was feeling so down, alone, sad and depressed that I didn’t necessarily want to see anyone or even talk to anyone. A good friend sensed that, so rather than bombarding me with phone calls or texts asking if I was okay, she dropped off a thoughtful card, comforting meal, pint of ice cream and batch of homemade cookies. That simple gesture made me feel so loved and was exactly what I needed at the time. Reading what type of support your friend needs is key. If they seem like they want a friend to sit with them while they cry, be that friend. If you’re getting the vibe they need some space, give it to them but let them know you still care. Just letting them know you’re there can make the world of difference.
2. Don’t ignore the situation – No one wants to have a white elephant in the room. Unfortunately I’ve been in a few situations where friends of mine have literally ignored the fact that I’ve just suffered a loss. I definitely understand how it can be a difficult thing to bring up or talk about but it’s even more difficult to ignore it. In my case, there were times it was ignored and I felt that they were dismissing it because I had suffered so many. Which in turn would make me feel as if it wasn’t a problem worth discussing. So I would bottle it up and feel worse about myself. The last thing you want any woman who’s suffered a miscarriage to feel is worse about themselves. So acknowledge the situation especially if you already know what’s going on. Ask them how they are doing, if they need anything or if they want to talk about it. If not you can always drop it or change the subject. A much better way than dealing with it rather than ignoring it or leaving it up to them to bring up
3. If you are pregnant or if you get pregnant, don’t pull away from them – This one is tricky because I’ll be honest, it isn’t easy to see others getting exactly what you want while you don’t. However, I know that anyone going through a miscarriage would hate to lose a friendship especially when friends are what they need. So if you find yourself with a friend who’s suffered a loss while you are celebrating a new pregnancy or birth, don’t pull away. Still be there for them but be cautious about sharing about what you’re going through especially at first. Yes they are most likely excited for you but may have a hard time showing it at first as the loss of their own pregnancy may still be too fresh.
4. Try to avoid saying things like… We all want to say the right thing when a friend or family member is suffering. Having gone through a handful of miscarriages and a year of struggling to get pregnant, I’ve had lots of people trying to offer words of support. While I know it’s all coming from a good place, there are certain comments that can strike a painful chord. A few things you should avoid saying include;
- It happened for a reason – it could have been there was something wrong with the baby. Definitely. However, women will agonize over what that reason is for months after the loss. - - Did you drink alcohol or coffee – Trust me, she’s already thought about this. AND this is the last thing she wants to hear from a friend. She’s probably already brought it up with her doctor and has been reassured that it wasn’t anything she ate or did.
- At least it happened early – It doesn’t matter how far along you are when it happens, it still hurts. Yes, you may experience less pain earlier on than losing a baby at 6 months. However, it’s still a lost life that was most likely prayed for, hoped for and dreamed about for months if not years before.
- At least you can get pregnant – For me this was an actual thought after trying for a year to conceive. However, many women will take this and then think about the flip side. BUT now I know I can lose a pregnancy too…
- Don’t worry, it will happen again soon – Maybe. However, maybe this woman has been trying to conceive for years and this was a huge blessing. Maybe she’s undergoing infertility treatments and just spent thousands of dollars on a pregnancy that didn’t work. While this might seem like the best thing to say, it might also bring out emotions she doesn’t need to add to everything else she’s feeling.
5. Really listen when they say they want to talk – If your friend is willing to open up about something so personal, please listen and let her know her emotions are valid. Sure it may be hard to connect with what she is going through if you’ve never been there before and yes, it’s not an easy subject to talk about but a listening ear might be exactly what she needs. Sometimes just getting all those emotions and frustrations out in the open can help so much. So offer to be that friend then listen with care and intention.
The aftermath of a miscarriage can be very difficult but having the support of friends and loved ones can help make it easier. There are many other suggestions on helping a friend through this painful time but these are just a few. If you find yourself in a situation where someone you know has lost a baby, ask yourself how you can help based on that person. Each individual is different and has different needs. Whatever you do, don’t give up on them. They need friends and family more than ever when dealing with that loss.