Miscarriage is a painful and deeply personal event. Unfortunately, grief related to miscarriage can be misunderstood and even seem invisible. If someone you care about has been through this, you can give them the support they aren’t sure how to ask for.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- How to Comfort Someone Who Just Had a Miscarriage
- How to Comfort Someone Who Had a Miscarriage in the Past
- Tips on What to Say (And Not to Say) to Someone Who Had a Miscarriage
Miscarriage is more common than you may think, and you probably know individuals and families who have never spoken about their experiences having one. Grief is part of the picture, but mixed emotions are common. The most important thing you can do is listen.
Everyone's experience with miscarriage is unique, so it's vital to avoid making assumptions. Take some time to understand more about grief and miscarriage, what people really need after loss, and what you can do for someone you care about.
How to Comfort Someone Who’s Had a Miscarriage Recently
When a miscarriage has just happened, your loved one may be in shock. They may not quite know how to adjust or handle their new reality. Offer your support early so they know you’re available.
1. Tune into their language, especially about their baby
One of the most sensitive things you can do after a miscarriage is to honor how they think of their baby. Some people have names picked out for years, often a family name they intend to pass on. Others may not have picked out a formal name but use a nickname. And if they were surprised by the pregnancy or didn't develop an emotional connection yet, it may just be "the baby."
If they use a full name for the baby, ask if it's OK for you to use it. It's a sign of respect to ask for their input on this. It's easy to say, "my Grandpa Joe died." Knowing how to refer to a baby lost to miscarriage isn't as cut and dry, so plan on following their lead.
2. Say something, even if you aren't sure what to say
People who grieve can feel invisible after a while. Everyone around them is carrying on with their life. The loss has happened and most of the attention has faded away. But days or weeks later, they still feel the sting of grief.
And this can be even harder for a miscarriage. Nobody saw a baby, and the pregnancy may not have been noticeable. To an outsider, it may appear that very little has changed.
When you say something caring to your loved one, they feel seen and heard. They feel like someone else understands their pain is real. So even if you aren't sure what to say, don't go silent on them. It's OK to say, "Hey, I know this has been rough and I'm not sure what to say, but I wanted to see how you were doing." That's a good start.
If they're hesitant to talk, respect their need for space. Just be extra kind and caring, invite your loved one to spend time with you, and be a loving presence in their life.
How to Comfort Someone Who Had a Miscarriage in the Past
Miscarriages in the past are still part of a family’s story, even if it remains private. The grief may get easier to live with over time, but the memory ages along with the baby that never grew up.
3. Ask if they want to talk about their miscarriage
Miscarriages can seem like an invisible loss even when it's only been a short time. Time can bury the memories after a while, but they don’t disappear. Most people don’t talk about miscarriage openly, but might be willing to share with someone they trust.
First, ask if they want to talk about their experience or what it means to them now. While a lot of people keep these events private, some families make miscarriage memorials with a picture or special Christmas ornament.
If they don’t want to open up about their experiences, that’s OK. They may reach out another time since they know you’d be supportive. Just allowing them the opportunity to open up may be enough for them to know you care.
4. If your loved one is pregnant again, they may be more emotional
Your loved one may go through several phases of grief throughout their pregnancy. Depending on how far along they were when they miscarried, they may feel extra anxious as they approach the same milestone. Mixed emotions and memories will be part of the process.
Later stages of the pregnancy may trigger sadness all over again. Your loved one may pay close attention to the timing, noting that their miscarried baby didn't make it that far. And their current pregnancy may seem fragile until they deliver.
Everyone's grief experience is unique, even for the same person on different occasions. And going through a pregnancy after miscarriage requires extra patience and courage. Knowing the good and bad possibilities, your friend chooses to walk along the same path anyway. She looks forward with a mix of hope and reminders of the miscarriage.
Tips on What to Say (And Not to Say) to Someone Who Had a Miscarriage
You might not be sure what to say when you first hear of a loved one having a miscarriage. It’s easy to stumble over your words or feel like you’re not being helpful, but it’s important to reach out anyway. Consider these do’s and don’ts when comforting them.
1. Do say, "You're not alone."
Going through a miscarriage may feel like a strange or unusual event for your loved one. If people they know rarely talk about it, they might believe miscarriage a rare problem. Research shows it’s more common than most people think. Between 10-20 percent of known pregnancies end in a miscarriage, but that's not the whole story. A pregnancy lost in the first week or two could easily be mistaken for a heavy menstrual period.
Sometimes it's hard to openly grieve for something that's hard for anyone to see. It's personal to you, but others may not relate well to the loss. Miscarriage has been a taboo subject for a long time. Make this reassuring comment with a recommendation to join a support group. They can connect with others in real life to share experiences and give support.
2. Do say, "I'm so sorry, and I'm here for you."
Pregnancy can bring about mixed feelings, and not every pregnancy is met with joy and excitement. But no matter the expectations, miscarriages can be stressful and scary. They may involve medical procedures and can be very upsetting in later stages. It's a loss and a significant life change. Saying "I'm sorry" is one clear way to acknowledge this.
Your loved one may not be ready or able to ask for support on their own. They might see asking for help as a sign of weakness or feel too embarrassed to approach anyone. That shame and self-consciousness can make a person hesitate when they need emotional support the most. So instead of waiting for your loved one to need you, make yourself available frequently.
Try not to overdo it, but invite your loved one out for lunch or coffee once every week or so. Ask if you can stop by to help them with weekend chores. Tell them you're bringing dinner Tuesday night, and ask if they prefer tacos or a chicken casserole. Show that you're there for your loved one by taking the first step and offering what you know they need.
3. Don't say, "Everything happens for a reason."
This is never a helpful statement when someone experiences loss. If a dear friend or close relative just died, you wouldn't want to hear your misery was part of a grand destiny. This comment shrinks down the deep and complex process of grief into a tidy explanation. That's not an accurate way to look at grief, and it's not comforting.
It is also more than just being dismissive, it's hurtful. Someone who just went through a miscarriage doesn't necessarily feel better off. They're in pain, and this comment can make it worse.
4. Don't say, "Look on the bright side — you can always have another baby."
Fertility is a sensitive topic. Sure, this person did have a pregnancy, but that's no guarantee they will have another full one. And more importantly, babies aren't replaceable like vehicles or clothes.
A miscarriage is the loss of a baby, a life that had an unknown potential for its time on earth. Nobody can be replaced, ever. It's a cruel way of minimizing the loss and should never be mistaken for an appropriate or comforting comment.
Miscarriage and Grief — Giving Comfort
Going through a miscarriage can create a sense of loss that’s hard to describe. It happens much more often than most people think, and many cope with it entirely on their own.
Many people aren’t sure how to help when someone they love grieves for a lost pregnancy. When you want to comfort a loved one through their grief, listen and let compassion be your guide. Just being there is the most important way you can help.
- “Miscarriage - Symptoms and causes.” Mayo Clinic, www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/pregnancy-loss-miscarriage/symptoms-causes/syc-20354298.