Up to 20% of women who know they are pregnant miscarry, but pregnancy loss is so rarely discussed in our society. The silence surrounding this all-too-common experience leads to stigma, and in turn, feelings of isolation.
Our society is strewn with platitudes that can be tempting to rely on when you’re at a loss for words: “At least you know you can get pregnant.” “It wasn’t meant to be.” “Everything happens for a reason.” “You were ambivalent about having children anyway.” “Time erases pain.” All too often, these trite phrases end up hurting the griever, rather than lifting her up.
If you know someone who’s going through a miscarriage, here are some sentiments that she’ll actually want to hear.
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1. “I’m here for you”
Simple statements that convey your empathy can help turn loved one manage. Let her know you are available to connect days, weeks and maybe even months after her loss. Consistent support is key; grief is circuitous and has a way of popping up when you least expect it. Therefore, checking in with your loved one down the road can be a profound antidote to a mourner’s anguish.
2. “I might not always know the ‘right’ thing to say, but I’m going to try”
It can be incredibly uncomfortable to witness our loved ones going through distressing and transformative life events. Our natural instinct might be to focus on the “bright side” to lessen the severity of the present. Pause, and remind yourself that this situation cannot be “fixed,” nor does it need to be. Support means being with her feelings, not changing them.
Read more: ‘Finding Purpose in The Loss of Our Son’
3. “Grief knows no timeline. Take all the time you need”
Reinforce the idea that grief is something to honor by encouraging your friend to be patient with herself during this time of mourning. Grief doesn’t necessarily have an endpoint. Minimizing or ignoring painful feelings can make them stick around even longer.
4. “You did nothing to deserve this loss”
In a moment of crushing bewilderment, women often scramble to figure out what they did “wrong” or what they may have done to “deserve” this. Some people hope that, if they can identify something they may have done “wrong,” they can do it “right” the next time. This way of conceptualizing pregnancy loss might also serve to stave off fear related to future pregnancies. Let her know she did nothing wrong.
The lack of control one has over losing a pregnancy can be difficult to comprehend, especially because culture tends to teach us that we can successfully achieve something if we try hard enough. This isn’t necessarily the case when it comes to pregnancy, though.
5. “I imagine you feel like sh-t right now, but I just had to remind you how wonderful I think you are”
What a profoundly loving thing to say and to hear after a pregnancy loss. Reminding her of who she is while she’s in the midst of heartache can indelibly change her outlook. It conveys the meaningful message: I see you. Easing the mood ever so slightly with this statement has the power to turn loneliness into togetherness.
Jessica Zucker is a Los Angeles-based psychologist. She is the creator of a line of pregnancy loss cards and the #IHadAMiscarriage campaign.