During the last few weeks our openness about our issues has allowed several others to open up about their own situations and have requested that we provide some guidance on proper etiquette after a miscarriage. I have decided to break it down into 2 sections…Support Is and Support is Not.
- Acknowledging the loss – Though it may be hard for you to understand, a miscarriage is a loss and is the equivalent of the death of a loved one. A pregnant woman has already bonded with that baby and it is a death!
- Expressing your Sympathy from a distance – Sending an email or a card can go a long way. It let’s the couple know that you care without them having to physically face a crowd.
- Listening – If she (they) want to talk be ready to listen quietly and attentively. Don’t try and answer their questions they are generally rhetorical. Remember that it takes courage to share those feelings and they might be relieved to lessen the burden by talking to you.
- Sitting in Silence – Remind her (them) that it is OK to not talk at all. Be there for them and sit in silence with them if that’s what they need. Sometimes gestures can say much more than words.
- Offering to help – Anyone who is grieving after a miscarriage is usually struggling with just getting through the day. I can tell you that my household barely functioned after my miscarriages. It looked like a tornado came through and we basically ate junk for about 4 weeks. Offer to bring a meal, clean the house or take the children for a while if they have more.
- Allowing them to Grieve – Give them time. A couple who has experienced the loss of a child is not going to be back to normal quickly. Allow them to take the time they need to be alone, to avoid get-togethers and deal with their loss on their own time frame.
Support is NOT:
- Fixing it!!! You can not take the pain away from a grieving couple!
- Avoid using clichés like "It was God's will" or "You've already had one healthy child." This does not provide any comfort to someone grieving the loss of their child and is just insensitive!
- Do not tell her that her miscarriage was "a blessing in disguise" and she probably lost the baby because it wasn't healthy. No woman will believe that it was better to have never known her baby because it “may” have been unhealthy!
- Do not suggest she can always have another baby. No future baby will ever “replace” the one that was lost. You also have no way of knowing if she will be able to get pregnant again or carry another child to term.
I received the following email from a friend of mine, Meredith Renuart, who wanted to share a little of her own experience.
When I had a baby die due to chromosomal disease, I had people say "It's just nature's way of ensuring more normal babies." I also had a Dr tell me: "You realize this is what was best for your baby." Another Dr. said, "Everything happened just like we said it would. My condolences." Wow. None of these comments were even remotely helpful. Sometimes I think Dr.'s need classes on bedside manner. This disease would not even have caused my daughter to be mentally challenged. I'm in awe of the things people and doctors say sometimes.
You want to know what people who've had a miscarriage or stillbirth want to hear? "I'm sorry for your loss and I'm praying for you." That's it. Give me a target card to go shopping, give me a hug or bring me dinner. Send a card. Keep your casual thoughts about "nature's way" to yourself. Remember that I am grieving and there is nothing you can say to make the pain ease after a stillbirth or a miscarriage. Be a friend --or at least be a thoughtful acquaintance.