Unless a woman has been through it herself, it is challenging to understand just how a miscarriage can affect a person. Even if she had a miscarriage, everybody and every circumstance are different, and no two experiences can ever be exactly alike.
This makes supporting someone who has just experienced the loss of an unborn child extremely difficult. It is hard to know what to say and what not to say. Should you be upbeat and perky and try to cheer the woman up? Or should you be quiet and respectful and allow her to dictate the atmosphere?
Things become yet more difficult for the partner of someone who has just lost a pregnancy. Not only are you in a place where you are dealing with your feelings about what has happened but you are also expected to be there for the woman who has experienced the physical loss. What do you do and what do you say in this situation?
Unfortunately, there is no clear-cut answer to this, but there are some things that women the world over, agree are colossal no-no’s when it comes to what to say. Here are some of the verbal pitfalls to avoid and the reasons why nobody wants to hear them.
14 Don’t Worry; We Can Always Have Another Baby
We know you mean well, and you are trying to be positive, looking to the future, but this is not what somebody who has just had a miscarriage wants to hear from their other half. There will probably be a time when she is ready to become pregnant again, although if this is one of some miscarriages, the wish to embark on another pregnancy is by no means certain.
Right now it is about wanting the baby that has been lost. It is not like having a car that was written off by the insurance company after a crash, and you can just go out and get another just like it. This baby was an individual, and when you discover you are pregnant that unborn child is not just a bundle of cells but a bundle of possibilities. All of that potential for that person has been lost, you both need to take time to grieve your loss and not attempt to gloss over it by implying that the lost child is interchangeable with any other.
13 It’s Better It Happened Now And Not Later
Again, a well-meaning comment that on the surface is logically sound and meant to try and give a positive spin on things. However, someone who has just lost a baby does not want to hear that in some way her baby was less of a child or that she was less emotionally invested because it was lost at eight weeks instead of sixteen weeks.
Yes, if you have started to buy baby things, told the world, and planned your maternity leave, there are a lot more practical things to deal with that serve to keep the emotional wound open for longer. Having to tell dozens of people you have lost the baby makes you feel exposed and unable to deal with your grief in private. These things exacerbate and prolong your pain, but there is never really a good time in pregnancy to miscarry.
12 It Wasn’t Even A Baby Yet
At what point does an unborn child become a baby? Well, it depends on how you define baby and whether or not you were carrying it or not. When you are carrying a baby it is a first hand, 24-hour thing that makes changes to your body and your mind. Everything you do, every choice you make, no matter how small, is considered through the lens of “how will that affect the baby?” There is something quite profound about having another, separate life growing inside of you. You are never alone, and you have a responsibility from which you cannot shy away.
If you are not carrying the baby, it is very difficult to understand how what is, according to all of the literature, not much more than a bunch of cells that may or may not have grown into a humanoid-like a shape, but which could definitely not exist on its own, can be a baby.
To the majority of women it is a baby straight away, independently viable or not and they do not want to hear that what they were nurturing wasn’t one.
11 There Must Have Been Something Wrong With It
Suggesting that the lost child was in some way physically viable, you are not helping in any way. Your partner will have already gone through an unbelievable number of scenarios in her head, trying to work out why this has happened to you both, and she will find any way possible to blame herself.
By suggesting that there had been something wrong with the baby you will be feeding her worries that there was something inherently wrong with her, that she had caused your baby to be broken in some way and that it is all her fault.
On top of that, it is highly likely that at this stage your partner would give anything right now to keep the baby she has just lost, no matter what might have been wrong with it.
10 I Understand How You Feel
So very nearly the right thing to say, but not quite. Right now your loved one has no idea about the what or the why or the how of her feelings at this moment and would be hard pushed to work them out for herself. At the same time, you may be hurting, feeling lost and bereft, and trying to connect with your partner.
What would be a better thing to say is something along the lines of “I know you must be hurting very badly right now. I am here for you. Is there anything I can do for you right now that can help you?” Once you have listened, you can also say “ I know we are facing this loss from different perspectives, but I want you to know that I am grieving too.”
9 We Have Other Children
I am not sure what it is, but perhaps when human beings are faced with an emotion they feel uncomfortable with, they try and minimize it or gloss over it quickly. This appears to be a natural inclination in all of us, the “never mind, get up brush yourself off and be grateful for what you have “ mentality that appears when faced with a loss or a disappointment.
You and your other children will always be appreciated and loved, but they do not cancel out the loss of an entirely different child who would have been a new member of your family. It is not like finding out you have not been chosen for that dream job you applied for and there will be other opportunities. Make room for the lost child to be grieved over.
8 Now We Have An Angel
For many, many people, their faith is a great comfort during times of adversity. It gives them the strength to carry on and the courage to move forward from a period in their lives that is inherently painful.
If you and your partner do not share a strong religious faith, then something along the lines of the angel comment is not going to be helpful. It might become comforting at a later date but right here and right now, a short time after the loss of a baby, your partner isn’t going to be able to look favorably on any potential positives you might suggest.
A woman who has just lost a child will likely not want to think about maybe one day seeing her baby again or be comforted by the thought of an angelic version of her lost little one looking down on her.
7 At Least We Didn't Get To Know The Baby
In a similar way to some of the previous comments, saying this just goes to show you and your partner had very different experiences during the pregnancy to date. If the baby hadn’t grown to the stage where kicks were felt from the outside, it is likely you had very little to go on to solidify the existence of your child. Maybe some second-hand experience of morning sickness or the sight of a swollen belly but not much to indicate there was a genuine, albeit very tiny person growing in there.
The woman carrying the baby had already spent hours getting to know him or her and had formed a genuine emotional and physical bond. To say that “we” didn't have the opportunity to get to know the baby may be true for the you-side of the equation, but it is not true for her.
6 Why Did This Happen?
One of the most frustrating elements of miscarriage, especially repeated miscarriages, is that there is often absolutely no explanation whatsoever. Your doctors might be able to float a theory; genetic testing can in some cases pinpoint a hereditary disease or condition that caused the loss. It might be that there is a definite physical cause such as a hormonal issue or a physical anomaly that prevents a woman from carrying a child unassisted.
Mostly, after a first miscarriage, doctors will tell you it is just one of those things and not perform any tests or further investigations. It is standard practice not to look for causes until a second or third miscarriage has been suffered.
Trying to work out, with your partner, why this happened, is an exercise in futility that distracts from the healthy grieving process.
5 Was It Because You…?
When you talk to women, who have suffered the loss of a baby it is an almost universal theme that they are feeling guilty and worry that they are in some way responsible for the miscarriage. Even if you are just asking as a way to start a conversation or to discover if she feels guilty, do not ever, under any circumstances, ask if it could have been anything she had done.
Not only will you be feeding her existing guilt but you will then plant the seeds that will grow into her worrying you hold her responsible. This can lead to a myriad of emotions from yet more guilt to bitterness and resentment if she feels you are blaming her for the miscarriage.
The resulting miscommunications can last for months, even years and drive a wedge between you at a time when you should be trying to remain close.
4 We Could Decide To Not Have Children
Your partner will probably already be fearful that she will never be able to physically carry a child to birth. She will also have no doubt already considered the fact that she may never have a biological child of her own.
This can have a different impact on different people. Some can resign themselves to never having children at all, and although they might never be happy not to have children, they can live with that and build a life different to the one they envisioned. Others might be able to move forward and decide to adopt or foster children to have the family of which they always dreamed. Finally, there are the women who so desperately want a biological child of their own they cannot comprehend how a life without them could be.
If your partner is one of those, who cannot imagine life without a biological child, suggesting you could just not have children will be entirely the wrong thing to do.
3 Let’s Go On Holiday
Another excellent and thoughtful intention that may go completely sideways on you. It seems like a good idea. You have a grieving partner who is physically and emotionally battered at the loss of your child. You think that taking her away from it all to a different environment will give her a chance to recharge and to take her mind off of things, but this can be a bad idea for two reasons.
First of all, she might just not be up to it. Getting ready to go on holiday, the travel the planning might be something she is not able to do. Second of all, she might then always associate that holiday, that place, and all of the things experienced on the break, with the miscarriage. It will become a reminder instead of a welcome break.
2 When Will You Go Back To Work?
The last thing she wants to think about right now is how she is going to go back out into the world and mix with other people. The thought of having to get up in the morning, shower, eat breakfast, get dressed and get out of the house is probably overwhelming for your loved one, and she will need time to get physically and emotionally healthy enough again to go to work. This is especially true if you had already announced the birth or if other people in the workplace are expecting children of their own.
Try not to suggest work as a way of getting over things or make your loved one feel pressured into returning to her regular routine if she is not yet ready to do so.
1 When Are You Going To Get Over It?
Sometimes, a woman who has experienced the loss of a pregnancy is unable to get past the initial pain and remains stuck in that immediate emotional aftermath. Try not to become impatient because that will be entirely counterproductive. If your partner perceives that you are getting frustrated with her, are unsupportive or uncaring this will only increase her feelings of isolation and loneliness.
Do everything you can to assure your loved one that you care and that you are there for her and never suggest that it has been long enough or that it is time to get over it. If her feelings of grief continue for an extended period and you are concerned, consider a doctors visit to assess the possibility she may have slipped from natural grief into depression.