What to do when someone close to you has a miscarriage

04 October 2015

You were there when she called you to tell you she was pregnant.  You were there when she confided to you how excited yet scared she was to become a mother.  And now you’re there when she calls to tell you she has miscarried.  You know you should be there for her, you WANT to be there for her.  But you don’t know how.

The sad reality is that 10-25% of clinically recognized pregnancies will end in miscarriage.  But because many women do not announce their pregnancies until the second trimester, many miscarriages go unacknowledged resulting in the woman and her partner having to go through both the emotional and physical pain alone.  Along with other types of grief, there isn’t anything you can do to take the pain away but there are ways that you can support someone who has suffered a miscarriage.  

Here are the DO’S

  1. Reach out and let her know you’re there for her when and if she needs you. This may seem obvious, but many times people feel so uncomfortable with miscarriage that they convince themselves that it is better to just stay away from the person.  Even if she isn’t ready to talk and wants to be left alone initially, a simple phone call or text to say that you’re there for her will go a long way.
  1. Offer practical support. Along with the emotional pain, miscarriage also involves physical pain and sometimes a surgical procedure. Offer to bring meals, care for other children in the home, pay for a cleaning service etc. 
  1. Offer emotional support. While there isn’t anything you can do to bring her baby back, be there to listen when she wants to talk, cry, and yell at the world. Acknowledge and recognize that this wasn’t “just a miscarriage” but was indeed a loss of a child.  No matter how early the loss, the moment that pregnancy test showed positive, she envisioned and starting making plans for this baby.
  1. Check in with her often. Even if she seems to be “over it” be sure to ask how she is doing and really be open to hearing her answer.  If you don’t know what to say or how to support her, just ask.  Like with other types of grief, there are many ways to deal with a miscarriage.  Some women will want to talk and talk often.  Others may prefer to not constantly be asked about it, but instead want to initiate discussions on their terms. 

Here are the DON’TS

  1. Do not make comments to try and rationalize the miscarriage. These include “there must have been something wrong with the baby, so it was for the best” Even if that is true, she wanted this baby and to her he/she was perfect. It also implies that she shouldn’t feel sad or angry.
  1. Do not tell her that she “can always try again.”  After healing has begun, looking toward the time that they can try again can bring hope for some women, but in the early days and weeks after a miscarriage these comments feel like their experience and pain is being minimized.  She doesn’t want to have to think or go through “trying again” for another baby. She wanted THIS baby. The baby that was already growing inside her. If she has gone through many months or years to conceive, or undergone fertility treatments, these comments can hurt even more.
  1. If she has other children, do not say “well at least you already have children.” While focusing on her other children can help keep her busy, children can’t be substituted or swapped out.  You wouldn’t tell someone who had lost their mother “well, at least you still have your father.”  Grief just doesn’t work this way.
  1. Do not expect her to be “over it” in any given timeframe. Every woman will have their own timeframe for grieving. And even if they are “over it” the grief can be triggered by things like the baby’s due date, seeing a pregnant woman, passing by the baby section in a store.  Even the holidays can be painful as they serve as a reminder of how she was supposed to have a baby for Christmas, or have a big baby bump at holiday gatherings.

Bina Bird, MA,. LMFT is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist serving Haslet, TX and the surrounding DFW areas.  Learn more about me at http://hasletcounseling.com or call 817.676.8858 for a free phone consultation.  My specialties include couples, preteens/adolescents, and women's issues-infertility, miscarriage, pregnancy loss, postpartum and other life transitions.  

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