What not to say to someone who had a miscarriage

What NOT to say to someone who had a Miscarriage

It Still HurtsAs many of you know, I’m writing a book about miscarriage.  It’s going to be filled with my own experiences and the voices of other mamas who lost their baby(ies). I sincerely pray that the words help mamas- who find themselves in the middle of a miscarriage- feel less alone.  I also pray that it helps educate the people around us on methods of support.

Support provided by loved ones is one of the ways that people are helped through any grief process. When a family member dies, society rallies around the griever.  Refrigerators are full of casseroles, mailboxes are full of cards, and shoulders are loaned to cry upon.  But the grieving process of a woman losing her unborn child is often lonely. This loneliness might be by choice- she might choose not to tell people.  But sometimes the loneliness is because society as a whole tends to minimize miscarriage.  “Maybe next time” or “It just wasn’t meant to be” are very common phrases uttered.  Unfortunately these comments are often quite hurtful to the woman who has just lost her baby.

Stop and read the end of that sentence again, “lost her baby.”  You see, this is not an abstract concept or a dream-  we are mourning the loss of a baby: a loved baby.  We found out we were pregnant with our baby (we might have been nervous, scared or excited), we used our bodies to nurture our baby (we read books, blogs,  envisioned rocking our baby, stopped drinking coffee, stopped eating deli meat, started planning our nursery), and then we lost our baby. The physicality of this is quite intense; the emotional toil is real.  It might not have been “real” to onlookers, but we know that our bodies were nurturing a human life and even though we shouldn’t- many of us feel misguided guilt that we couldn’t bring the baby to term. It hurts. Our thoughts are invaded by untruths.  And even though we find comfort that our babies are in heaven with God, it still hurts.  At the crux- all we ask is that you don’t minimize our loss and that you don’t offer comments that make us feel any further guilt.   Pregnancy loss shouldn’t be minimized or brushed aside as not being worthy of grief.  The loss of a baby is a grievous situation.

No one intends to be insensitive.  I know you wish to bring comfort. I’m truly touched that you are reading this; it means you want to be helpful. Your heart is in the right place.  I just want to help you with your words.  Grief and death are tricky topics for anyone to address. My hands get sweaty when I walk into a funeral home.  I don’t know quite what to say.  We’ve all been there- in that uncomfortable space where “I’m sorry” just doesn’t seem quite enough.   Although I had a legion of support after my two miscarriages, my feelings were hurt numerous times by well-intentioned people.  All of this is compounded by the hormones a female experiences after a miscarriage. There is a marked increase in risk for depression and anxiety after a pregnancy loss (Lok, I.H & Neugebauer, R. 2007).  It’s not something we can control- it’s a common psychological consequence of miscarriage.

After having my feelings bruised numerous times, I finally accepted that we can never understand someone’s unique life experience;  therefore, we can’t expect someone to understand the physical pain and emotional toil of a miscarriage if they have not had that experience.  I also kept repeating the verse from Romans 3:10, “There is no one righteous; not even one.”  To me, this means that there are no perfect people in the world.  People make mistakes and I can’t hold a grudge for a person’s offhand remarks.  God is the ONLY one I can count on for comfort. 

I did decide that I could help educate people on miscarriage- this includes raising awareness of phrases that evoke more harm than healing.  Here are some commonly said comments you will want to avoid if you desire offering support to a grieving mama.  As you read these, please know that these are compiled by a large group of women.  These are comments we all heard numerous times. I’ve also included, in italics, the voices of some of the women.

Above all, please know- we appreciate that you want to offer us support. Thank you.

PLEASE DON’T TELL ME:  

IT HAPPENED FOR A REASON

SOMETHING WAS PROBABLY WRONG WITH THE BABY

GO and HAVE a DRINK to take the Edge Off

IT WAS GODs WILL

“I feel too often in the Christian community that people want to brush over miscarriage like it’s no big deal saying things like “You’ll have another baby” or “This was the Lord’s plan for your life” without really considering what the mama is going through.”

JUST ADOPT

We know we can adopt. We might one day, but I’m grieving the loss of a specific baby. One that I just lost.” 

AT LEAST YOU HAVE ANOTHER CHILD

“I’m so grateful for my other child, but that doesn’t mean I’m not sad over the loss of this baby.”

YOU CAN ALWAYS HAVE ANOTHER BABY

“I had to have a hysterectomy.  I can’t have another baby.”

“It hurt when people reacted like I’d lost a puppy.  And followed it up by saying I could have another.  I wanted the one I lost.  I feel like people that haven’t experienced the loss unknowingly trivialize it to a degree because we never physically meet our babies.  It made me mad, and still does, but I try to remind myself that I can’t blame people for their reactions if they have never experienced the loss.”

“People would say, “oh, you’ll have more kids one day.”  Realistically I knew that I might not be medically able to have more children.  I wanted to accept that fact and learn to be okay with it.  I didn’t like false hope or people treating it like I had lost a puppy dog, ‘oh, you can get a new puppy again,’  is what it felt like. The doctor told me it would be extremely difficult for me to carry a baby to term.”

AT LEAST IT HAPPENED EARLY

 “Because losing a baby is somehow easier or less painful that way?”

HAVE YOU FOUND OUT WHAT’s WRONG WITH YOU? DID YOU EXERCISE TOO MUCH? IT WAS PROBABLY THAT INSECTICIDE YOU SPRAYED AROUND YOUR HOUSE.  (INSERT ANY AND ALL  “BLAME COMMENTS”)

“This person responded by basically indicating that I should probably “get checked out” because something might be “wrong with me.” It just really bothered me. I know there were good intentions somewhere behind what she said, but all it did was to bring back that flood of guilt that I had been trying so desperately to let go of.”

WELL, YOU SHOULDN’T HAVE ANNOUNCED YOUR PREGNANCY SO EARLY.  YOU KNEW THIS COULD HAVE HAPPENED.  

SO, WHEN ARE YOU GOING TO TRY AGAIN?

Here is a picture of me cradling our second baby.  It was the day I found out I was pregnant.  This  was the first baby I lost.  I’m not showing you this for you to feel sorry for me. I’m really not.   I promise- I am okay now.  I hesitated even posting this picture because I know it will make you uncomfortable. I am showing it to you for you to see the excitement in my eyes so that you realize that I was carrying a baby in my womb.  I had hopes, dreams and fears. Please- don’t minimize our losses and please be careful not to utter any phrases that could lead us to believe that you are blaming us for our loss.

SONY DSC

 

Once again, thank you for caring enough to even read this blog.  Pray, offer a hug, tell us you are sorry.   Give us time, permission, and space to grieve. Really- those simple tokens of love are the most helpful.  We will share when we are ready- just follow our lead.

Best wishes & Much love,

Sarah

Follow my blog and please pray for me as I continue to write this book.

I invite you to join our support group on FB. Follow this link & ask to join our private tribe of women Loved Baby Support & Encouragement Group

About Sarah

Sarah Lewis Philpott, Ph.D lives in the south on a sprawling cattle farm where she raises her two mischievous children (and one little baby!) and is farm wife to her high school sweetheart. It's quite the chaotic household, but she adores the blessings God has provided. Sarah is represented by The Blythe Daniel Literary Agency. Her book, Loved Baby: 31 Devotions for Helping you Grieve and Cherish Your Child After Pregnancy Loss, will be published in October '17 by Broadstreet Publishing. You can go ahead an pre-order it on Amazon, Barnes & Nobles, and at Christian Book. Sarah is a lover of coffee (black), rocking chairs, the outdoors, and Hemingway. Visit with Sarah at her All-American Mom blog where she writes about life on the farm and cherishing life in joy & in sorrow.

20 thoughts on “What not to say to someone who had a miscarriage

  1. Sarah, I did not know you had had miscarriages. I am sorry. I am grateful that you are writing this. Someone very dear to me suffered very seriously after having lost her baby. A doctor friend of mine said that mommas start losing their babies the moment they realize they are pregnant. I know I loved mine from that very first moment. It is wonderful if you to help other women who have experienced thus pain.

    1. Thank you, Mrs. Reedy. I appreciate your kind words. You know a very wise doctor! I agree- your heart is full once you realize you are pregnant.

  2. Sarah, I am sorry for your loss of your beloved children. I lost my first two children, both boys, by miscarriage in the mid 70’s. While the pain and heartbreak has all but disappeared, I still experience feelings of sadness and loss. Thanks be to God, I did have 2 successful pregnancies. I have a son and a daughter that I love beyond words, but I will always wonder about and miss my other two little boys.

    1. Thanks for commenting and sharing, Laura. I am sorry for your losses as well. Wonder is a great way to describe the feelings we all still probably possess. I’m glad to know that I’ll wonder no more when I get to heaven.

  3. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for writing this book. When I had my first miscarriage, I was told by “oh, you’ll get over it.” 18 years later and I am not over it.

    1. Oh, Miriam! I’m so sorry that you had such a hurtful comment was thrown at you. You can’t just, “get over it” and words like that make the healing so much harder. I hope we can all educate people and make the healing process for a woman a bit more manageable. I’m so sorry for your loss.

  4. Im not sure if tpu remember me but i was a student in your first 6th grade class at North City. I just seen your post on Facebook and had to check this out and as I have also suffered a miscarriage I love this. I look forward to your book to come out and will definitely be reading it.
    Best wishes, Kayla

    1. Kayla! Of course I remember you. I can still see you in my sixth grade class–you always had such a shining grin on your face. I’m so sorry sweetheart that you lost a baby. It’s hard. Stay in touch with me.

  5. Sarah,
    I remember my first miscarriage…I remember seeing the doctor’s concerned face when I went to the doctor “to make it official”. The day we started telling everyone, was the day I lost that little one. I remember the pain and stress of it all. I was mentally and physically given out! I knew that the baby was gone, but the doctors made me go through a week of taking blood and checking to see if I was still pregnant. I think at the end of the week I was just shot and at the end of my toleration. I told my doctor that he gets no more blood and walked out of the clinic. Much of it is too painful to tell…When I was pregnant with Madeline, I would not let myself be happy. I was afraid of telling anyone, afraid that we would loose this one too. I didn’t even buy anything special to take her home in or to make her first picture. She did not become real to me until I held her and all I could do was cry, because she was so precious… I had a miscarriage after Tucker too. It was hard to deal with. I wanted you to know that I understand what you went through…

  6. I feel terrible for you, and it really sucks that you we have to tell people what they should and shouldn’t say in situations like these. ARGH! I was always taught that when you’re in doubt, don’t say anything at all… More people should stick to that.

    God be with you and your family, friends. Sending love and blessings.

  7. I remember why my husband’s cousin had a miscarriage. He was so unsure what to say to her. I was too. It’s hard because the grief is real but it’s not easily understood if you’ve never been down that road.

    Thanks for sharing your heart!

  8. It really touched me because I went tru it myself, you put in words all what I felt at that point in my life, feeling like you are worthless is not something you want, thank you for sharing.

    1. Thanks Penelope. It is so common to feel worthless after a pregnancy loss. We want to blame ourselves, but we have done nothing wrong. I’m so sorry for your loss.

  9. I can’t even imagine your pain! But thank you for writing about and having the courage and compassion to share your story. You may never know how many this ministers to!

  10. Thank you for sharing you heart and I’m sorry your loss. I admire your transparency and vulnerability and pray the words flow as you write your book and it brings healing to you and others who suffer similarly.

    1. Oh shoot… Moderator, I need to edit my comment but can’t see how. I meant to say thank you for sharing your heart and I’m sorry for your loss. Yikes. Can you tell me how to edit it? So sorry!

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