For some, the pain of miscarriage runs deep; I know it does for my husband and I. And for the most part, everyone has been very supportive of our loss. Our family and friends, who were undoubtedly trying to cope with the loss themselves as well, loved on us and prayed for us and supported us – we couldn’t have made it without them! People said the things that they thought would comfort us in our time of grief, and I know without a doubt that they meant well and I love them for it.
However, I’ve found that most people simply do not know what to say in this type of loss; so they end up saying things that could possibly do more harm than good. If someone close to you has had a miscarriage, knowing what to do or say can be a challenge. Here are 11 inadvertently hurtful things people actually said to me or hubby after the miscarriage (and what they probably could have said instead):
- “It must have been Gods will, He makes no mistakes” – or “everything happens for a reason” or “it just wasn’t meant to be right now” or “your baby is in a better place” or “God needed another angel” or any other empty cliché you may be tempted to say when you want to give a reason for something you don’t understand. These are the worst and simply do not bring comfort. I will blog more about this one in particular another day. In the meantime, just be honest and say something like “I don’t understand why these things happen, I’m so sorry”.
- “Miscarriage is just nature’s way of ending a problem pregnancy. There must have been something genetically wrong with the baby” – A pregnant nurse said this to me the morning of my D&C. I just stared at her pregnant belly and wondered how she could be so insensitive. She did not know that I am studying medicine and well aware that this was likely caused by a chromosomal abnormality. But while this may be true, please do not try to minimize the loss by telling me my child probably had a deformity and wouldn’t have made it anyways, because essentially that is what you are saying. It doesn’t make me feel better, it makes me feel worse. If you must speculate on the cause of the miscarriage, it may be better to say something like “You did not cause this, please don’t blame yourself”.
- “You both are still young, there is no reason to get too hung up about this. You will have plenty of happy, healthy kids in due time” – You don’t know what it took for us to conceive this time (for example, parents who have been trying for years and finally become pregnant, only to miscarry) and truthfully you don’t know if I will get pregnant again or not. More importantly, I believe life starts at conception. I believe our baby had its own personality and soul and future that is unique to him only. Even if we do have plenty of happy, healthy kids down the line, to us there will always be one missing. Another child will never replace the little life that was lost. Instead, say “I know you will always hold a special place in your heart for your baby. I pray God gives you more children if that is what you desire”.
- “At least you were only __ weeks pregnant, so you didn’t have time to get attached. It could have been worse.” – No. Just no. I was attached to this baby the moment I found out we were expecting and I loved him every second of his life. We created space in our hearts and in our home for our child. Some parents are even emotionally attached to their children before they even conceive. You picked names, fantasized about what your child would look like, about how it would be when they were born, and then out of nowhere all potential, hopes, and dreams are pulled from beneath you. That sucks, no matter how long the pregnancy lasted. Try “no matter how early the pregnancy ended, a loss is a loss and you have the right to grieve if you need to”.
- “I hope you feel better” – or “I’m glad you’re feeling better”. I know, I know…people genuinely mean well when they say this. Unfortunately, I am not getting over a cold or the flu; I just lost a baby and it isn’t something I am ever going to “feel better” about. Losing a loved one is something you learn to live with, a new normal that you learn to accept. You adjust. You get stronger. You find peace. But you do not “feel better”. Instead, say something like “I am praying for your strength and comfort” or if you notice they are coping say “I’m glad that God is seeing you through this”. Even saying “I’m glad you’re doing better” would be more appropriate.
- “Well, what happened?” – I understand this question, I really do. It’s almost a knee-jerk reaction, especially if you are truly concerned. A lot of people asked me this and it hurt me every time because the pregnancy loss was out of nowhere and doctors can not even give a concrete answer. In medicine a miscarriage is actually called a spontaneous abortion, and for the most part that makes sense because it happens so spontaneously. So answering this question only reminded me of how pissed I was that I had not been given an answer. Even if the parents do know what happened or have had testing done to determine the cause, it may be best to just say “I am sorry that this happened to you”. Because in the grand scheme of things, that’s all that matters anyway, right?
- “At least you know you can get pregnant, just try again” – Getting pregnant is not the goal. Giving birth to a healthy baby is the goal. Don’t say this. *hugs*
- “Miscarriages happen at a rate of 20-25%, it’s common” – So is losing your grandmother or dying from cancer, but you aren’t saying this to people who experience that. I think most people who say this are trying to let you know that you aren’t alone, so I definitely appreciate the sentiment. My opinion – say just that! The fact that it happens to so many other people does not make it hurt any less when it happens to you, it’s tragic. Not to mention, parents tend to not freely discuss their miscarriages so at times it doesn’t feel as common as statistics portray. It is indeed a very lonely loss. Instead, say “You aren’t by yourself. You don’t have to be alone if you don’t want to”.
- “I want you to move forward, I don’t want you to wallow in it” – I truly understand that this was said to me solely out of love and concern, but to be honest, I didn’t hear that at that time. It translated to me as “get up and get over it”. Always remember, you are not on anyone’s time as far as your road to recovery is concerned and people should not pressure you to “get over it” or “feel better” or move on. The truth is, I do not want to move on. I want to hold on to the memory of my pregnancy and the hopes I had for my child forever. God uses time to help heal wounds, but scars last forever and they are there for a reason, too. Grief is not just a feeling of sadness, it is a complicated, emotional journey down the road to acceptance. Grief is necessary and the pressure you’re putting on me to move forward only begets more feelings of anxiety. Having said that, it is possible to dwell on pain, hurt and loss in an obsessive and unhealthy way. If you are concerned about a loved one you should encourage them to get professional help. I had a friend tell me “You have every right to feel however you feel during this time. Whatever you are feeling is valid and I will be here for you for as long as you need”. This helped me tremendously. I look forward to blogging about postpartum depression after miscarriage soon.
- “My best friend had a miscarriage before, I know how you feel” – No, you don’t know how I feel. Everyone feels loss differently and handles grief in their own way. Try saying something like “My best friend had a miscarriage before, if you need someone to talk to about this I can have her call you” or “I can’t imagine how painful this must be, I’m sorry you have to go through this”.
- “Are you pregnant?” – Okay, so in case you have not heard, it is usually not a good idea to ask a woman if she is pregnant. Even if she looks pregnant…Just, no. I was almost 3 months pregnant when we lost our sweet angel; and you could definitely tell, my boobs were huge and I had put on some weight. My cousin asked me if I was pregnant on the day that we found out we were miscarrying, and it was devastating. My uncle asked me too a couple of months later. You don’t know what private battles people are fighting on a daily basis, and you have know clue how much your curiosity pains them. As a rule of thumb, unless someone announces their pregnancy, do not ask them if they are pregnant. Ever.
Now, I’m not saying that you shouldn’t offer words of encouragement to someone who is having a hard time, I’m not saying that at all! What I’m saying is that you don’t have to try and manufacture something profound to say when you don’t have the words. I understand that people are well-intentioned and only say things like this because they are trying to comfort you, but sometimes it’s best just to keep it simple.
I love you.
I’m here for you.
I’m sorry for your loss.
What are some of the crazy, possibly hurtful things people said to you after miscarriage? Do any of these surprise you? I’d love to hear from you! Comment below!