I knew the second that an image appeared on the screen that it was not good news. My husband had just gotten called into work so I was alone in the room with my doctor who had spent the past 2 years trying to get me pregnant. He squeezed my hand and said, “I’m so sorry.” Our baby, the product of years of infertility treatments and a very expensive IVF procedure, had stopped growing the week before. We had seen the heartbeat at 6 weeks and we were told there was a 95% chance of survival. We were just in that unlucky 5%.
The miscarriage I suffered was the single worst experience of my life so far. I was left empty, scared and uncertain as to whether I would ever become a mother.
1 in 4 women will suffer this type of loss in their lives. Unlike infertility, miscarriage and infant loss hit even the most fertile and thus unsuspecting among us. Chances are somebody you know has suffered or will suffer this type of loss and you will want to provide support. Here are some ways to comfort your friend.
Treat It Like the Death That It Is
Even an early miscarriage is a real and substantial loss. Mark the occasion of the loss as you would any other death and send over food, flowers or a card – or even just a text message saying “I’m sorry for your loss.” Even before she told anybody she was pregnant, your friend fell in love with that baby and visualized that baby in her life. The loss of a pregnancy is not just symbolic but real and painful.
Flowers, cards, texts and phone calls are extremely helpful, as are wine, chocolate and ice cream. If you are particularly close with the grieving mother, try to mark the date down on your calendar and check on her around the anniversary. That date can be tough for the first several years (and beyond).
Don’t Rationalize It
People have an innate desire to fix things that are troubling the ones that they love. I truly believe it is from this place of wanting to help that so many wrong things are said in the context of miscarriage and infant loss. Here are some ultimately hurtful things that people have said in an effort to help:
- “At least you know you can get pregnant”
- “There was probably something wrong with the baby so you are better off”
- “Better now than later”
- “You want kids….just come and borrow mine!”
- “There are so many children waiting to be adopted, maybe you should look into that”
- “Everything happens for a reason”
- “It just wasn’t in God’s plan”
If you don’t know what to say (and really, who does!) just say “I know there is nothing I can do to make this easier, but please know that I am there for you and I love you.” I felt incredibly supported and loved by my one friend who came over to my house the day after we found out, climbed into bed with me, and said, “This sucks.” Or even just say nothing and give a hug. Being there for your friend is enough and words cannot do much for the pain.
Celebrate the Road Ahead for Them
Chances are, if she wants to be, your friend will be pregnant again. Needless to say, a pregnancy after a loss is very, very different from the first go around. Every symptom (or lack of symptom) can be terrifying and the signal of bad news. Two healthy pregnancies later, I still walk into every ultrasound mentally preparing myself for the worst news ever. Offer to be there for your friend if she’s going solo to a doctor’s appointment and talk with her through any anxiety over symptoms. Tell her to STAY OFF THE INTERNET and instead try to do something to take her mind off what could be. Remember this mantra “Today I am pregnant, today I am with my baby” and remind her to stay in the moment during this scary time. Once she delivers, shower her and that special rainbow baby with all of the love you can!