7 tips on supporting a friend after a miscarriage

The loss of a child is one of the deepest pains that a couple can experience, irrespective of the age of the child. But the most difficult pain to embrace and work through is that of what would have been – the pain that is caused by a miscarriage. Family members and friends typically start feeling helpless when someone close to them experiences a miscarriage. This is because they have no control over the situation and can’t do anything as such to stop it from happening.

In most societies, the ‘perfect’ response to a miscarriage is to refrain from talking about it for the fear that it may upset the grieving parents. But what needs to be mentioned here is that not talking about a miscarriage only makes it harder for the couple, particularly the mom, to move on, thereby leaving her in a state of emotional and physical readiness for a baby that has passed away. Grief is a fairly natural process that every woman who goes through a miscarriage experiences. Supporting a grieving person in no way means that you can take away the pain, but it can definitely help lighten their stressed. If you know someone who has just had a miscarriage, here are a few tips on how you can support her:

7 Encourage her to express stress and pain

The process of grief and healing will initiate once your friend has worked through feelings such as doubt, anger, sadness, frustration and guilt etc. For this purpose, it is highly recommended for you to encourage her to communicate with you, or anyone else that she is comfortable with. With that, you need to bear in mind the fact that grief is a rather ‘individual’ experience that cannot be bound by time limits. All through this period of time, you need to support your friend in finding ways of dealing with her pain and getting to live with memories.

As a friend, you should allow the grieving mother to feel upset and mourn the loss of her child. If anything, you need to offer a listening ear to her, while acknowledging and feeling her emotions with her. Remember, when a baby is lost, the dreams her parents have for her are lost too and dealing with this pain is extremely difficult.

Acknowledge their loss

Most people have no idea how to react when someone they love and care so much about goes through a miscarriage. Although you may fear saying anything for the simple reason that it may be too painful or because you’re scared of saying something hurtful, it is highly recommended for you to talk to your friend about her pain and acknowledge it. Remember, saying nothing at all to your friend at such a time can be far more hurtful than saying something wrong. You need to acknowledge her loss by talking about it, even if you do so briefly.

6 You can’t expect everyone to have the same reaction

When you reach out to your friend, you may find that she isn’t as upset by her loss as you expected her to be – she may even go out of her way and grieve very loudly and openly. She may even start acting very differently and develop habits like wanting to go out all the time or wanting to stay in the whole day. On the other hand, she may just want to hide herself away from everyone, stop socializing and cut off her contacts. All of these are natural reactions to grief and you shouldn’t have a negative feeling towards them. Every human out there has a different reaction to grief and it is a truly individual experience. Even if you’ve had a miscarriage yourself, there is no reason for you to expect your friend to grieve in the same way.

Suppose you have a friend who had a miscarriage a few years back and grieves for her unborn baby by commemorating every anniversary of her loss. This in no way means that your friend who has just had a miscarriage should or would want to do the same thing. Her reaction to the pain and sadness she feels can be completely different and you should not push her into doing stuff by using phrases like, “It will make you feel better” or “It’s the best way for you” – only she knows what is best for her.

She may have both emotional and physical reactions to her grief

The physical reactions that she may have include things like disturbed sleep patterns, poor appetite, low energy, and restlessness etc. On the other hand, she may have emotional reactions like nervousness, nightmares, persistent fears and panic etc. To help her out, encourage her to call you up if she finds it hard to keep up with these feelings.

5 Let her take all the time in the world to grieve over her loss

You can’t allot a timeframe within which your friend should grieve over her loss and move on with life. Yes, you may expect that she will start feeling better and become ‘normal’ in a few weeks, but she may take much longer than this to mourn after her miscarriage. Many women grieve for months after having a miscarriage, and most of them feel the loss far more intensely around their baby’s due date. It is at times like these that they expect and appreciate their friends and family members remembering and asking how they are feeling, so make sure that you get in touch with her at times when you feel she will be most emotional.

At times you may feel like your friend has been grieving over her miscarriage for too long. But irrespective of how short her pregnancy was, you need to know that the sense of grief and sadness can be rather overwhelming. This particularly holds true for women who were particular excited or hopeful for their baby. Just bear in mind that we all grieve differently and even if you feel that her pain should have subsided by now, it is vital for you to refrain from judging your friend for taking a long time to recover from her grief.

Don’t tell her to have another child to get over her pain

This is probably the worst advice that you can give to a friend who has just had a miscarriage. Having another child is not going to remove the sense of loss of this child in any way possible. There is always going to be a slight sense of grief and sadness – and this is completely natural so you should look down upon your friend’s emotions. 

4 Make sure she knows there’s an open door for her

If your friend has just been through a miscarriage, it is highly recommended for you to make it clear to her that there is an open door for her to talk whenever she is ready and wants to do so. However, it is also recommended for you to wait for her to bring up the topic. The reason why it is so important for her to initiate this conversation on her own time is because there may be times when she’d be unwilling to speak about it – and if you initiate this conversation at such a time, it may just devastate her even more. Also, when she does start talking about it, give her a hug, wipe away her tears and just give her a friendly ear ready to listen to what she has to say.

The thing is that there is no way on Earth for anyone to know exactly what a parent will need or want as she continues to deal with her grief. She may not want to hold this conversation at the moment or she may want to talk it all out right away. If you have suffered such a loss yourself, she may be interested in listening to your experience or she may just want you to hear her out. What you need to do here is to follow her lead and let her set the pace of conversation. While you are at it, make it known to her that you are available at all times for whatever she may need.

Let her feel whatever she’s feeling

Grief, in most cases, tends to come in waves. At times it may come in the form of anger or sadness, and at times it may appear in a questioning phase. Your friend needs to learn how to make her way through those waves, and trust me, doing so isn’t easy. No matter what she is feeling, you should let her know that it is normal.

3 Don’t give her answers based on religious clichés or pat answers

A grieving parent has a lot on her mind and doesn’t really need to hear things like, “Well you now have an angel waiting for you in heaven” or “at least you know you aren’t infertile”, “God will never give you more than you can handle”, or “God will give you a baby when He thinks it’s the right time”. Remember, grieving for a baby IS more than what most parents can handle and this is why you, as a friend, need to help her carry on. She cannot do it by herself because it is too hard and it is too much.

Parents who are grieving their baby don’t really want an angel waiting for them in heaven – they want a baby snuggled close in their arms. Yes, you may bring up heaven if the two of you share a common faith, but when doing so, make sure that you maintain a high level of sensitivity. Remember, although every woman out there is different, most need to grieve the loss of their baby before being able to face her fears and take interesting in trying for another one. Give her all the encouragement she needs to move on with her life, but refrain from saying things like, “time heals all wounds” etc. You may have good intentions here, but words like these can devastate a grieving parent.

Pray for her if you are a person of faith

For people of faith, prayer is powerful and can bring life, change, encouragement, comfort, and healing. If the two of you share a faith, offer a prayer for the grieving parents and make sure they know that they are in your prayers. 

2 Don’t attempt to minimize her loss

Believe it or not, but most of the things that people end up saying in such a situation are wrong and should not be said to a grieving parent. This typically happens in cases where the person saying all these things has not experienced such grief before. The best thing that you can do in this regard is to avoid passing any comments that may minimize the sense of loss that is being experienced by your friend and her partner at the moment. Don’t say anything that may downplay the situation or make it sound like just another bump in the road. Such comments are never helpful – just keep that in mind.

Amongst all the wrong things that you can say to a grieving parent, the worst is, “you can always try for another baby”. The reason why you should totally ignore saying such a thing is that the notion of replacing the baby she has lost with another one isn’t really going to ease her. If anything, it may just add to her discomfort and sadness. The same also applies to statements like, “At least you have other children – don’t be so upset” – don’t bother going down that road with your friend. Your friend doesn’t want another baby right now; she doesn’t want her other children right now, she wants the baby she was carrying.

A few other statements to avoid

Apart from the statements mentioned above, you should also refrain from saying things like, “You were hardly pregnant – it wasn’t even a real baby”, “At least you didn’t have a chance to get too attached to the baby”. 

1 Dad needs support too

Although it is very different to the way a woman grieves for her lost child, men go through an entire process on their own after losing a baby. He may often be busy with work and supporting his wife emotionally as she grieves, which may make you think that he is perfectly fine and doesn’t really need any support. But the fact of the matter is that he is working hard to appear fine as he attempts to maintain the status quo for the well-being of his family.

Amidst all the chaos, the one thing that you need to bear in mind is that he is grieving too. Believe it or not, but things like hugs, a heart-felt prayer and gestures of generosity like dropping by a coffee or a snack at his workplace can truly help him get over his grief. While you look after the mother, ask yourself if there are ways in which you can help dad feel better too and demonstrate your support to him in a personal way – he needs to have his pain validated as well.

His pain is no less

Even if you think dad isn’t experiencing the same level of pain and sadness, there’s no denying the fact that he is grieving over the loss of his child. Just because a dad does not experience the symptoms of a pregnancy or the side-effects of a miscarriage doesn’t mean that he is not upset at this ordeal – he is grieving even though he won’t grieve as long as the mother. Remember, the gain that once was is now a loss for both mom and dad, so make sure that you offer him all the support possible too.

More in Incredible