Saturday, June 16, 2012
Things Not to Say to a Friend Who Has Just Experienced A Miscarriage
The road to hurt feelings is paved with good intentions. Maybe that isn't exactly the way that phrase goes but it is pretty accurate. When I had my miscarriage in December 2005 I immediately told my husband and my mom to let everyone know that I did NOT want to talk about it. I didn't want sympathy, I didn't want questions. I wanted to pretend like it didn't happen. At least while I got through Christmas. This is not how everyone will handle it, but at the time we were traveling from place to place celebrating Christmas and I did not want to have to deal with an emotional breakdown at a huge family event. Inevitably, either someone didn't get the message or they thought that what they had to say would somehow make all my pain disappear. Deep down I know that they did not intend to hurt me, but it did. So let me help you out with how to respond to a friend who has just experienced the loss of an unborn baby.
Things not to say:
1. Well at least you weren't that far along. I was 7 weeks pregnant when I lost my dear Jaime. It hurt. It hurt just like I would imagine losing one of my other children who are here with me. Maybe that doesn't seem like it can be true, but it is how it was for me. It does not matter how far along the pregnancy is, losing a child hurts.
2. You can always try again. Maybe. But that still does not make the loss of this one any easier. The idea that my baby can just be replaced by having another is insane. If one of my born children died would you tell me to just have another?
3. You can always borrow mine. Because that is just like bringing my child back from the dead. NOT.
4. It must have been God's plan. Logically we know that, yes, God had a plan for that child and though their life was brief, He reigns and there is a reason for the loss, but it takes weeks, months and sometimes years to be able to acknowledge that out loud.
5. Don't worry you will have another. This is a pie crust promise. Easily made, easily broken. No one but God knows whether this is true and to say it to a woman who is grieving is a painful stab at the heart, because the first question we ask ourselves is "what if we can't".
6. It's been (insert number) weeks/months now. Just let it go. No one has the right to time a mother's grief. I am 5 years post miscarriage and I still have a hard time talking about it without crying. Let us grieve however we need to for as long as we need to.
My best piece of advice would be this: If you wouldn't say it to someone whose born child has just passed, don't say it to someone whose unborn child has just passed.
Things to say:
1. Nothing. Let your friend decide when she is ready to talk about it and when she does, she may only want you to listen. And please, don't give advice unless it is asked for. Just listen.
2. I am sorry. If you feel like you must say something keep it short and sweet.
3. I will pray for you. Another short and simple condolence.
4. What about your husband, how is he? I think most of us can say that during emotional trials that our husbands try to put on the brave front. My husband fielded comments and phone calls, he answered questions and talked to doctors. I was in no mental state to do it, but through it all the only one who acknowledged his pain was my OB/GYN. Not that no one cared, but just that I was so obviously hurt that they were focused on me.
There is no easy way to comfort a friend who has just suffered a pregnancy loss. Be patient, be understanding and be kind. Be ready for crazy emotional outbursts as grief and hormones collide. Everyone is going to handle it differently. Let the parents decide when and how much they want to talk about it. Most of all, think before you speak.