As a society, we are largely uninformed about pregnancy loss. We think of it as a rare occurrence—something that is unlikely to happen to us or someone we love. The truth is that the rate of miscarriage in the U.S. is not as uncommon as you might think, and the reasons for miscarriage are usually indeterminate or non-existent. Even so, most women who have experienced a pregnancy loss report feeling alone. With an inaccurate perception of its prevalence and a reluctance to talk about this difficult topic, it is no wonder that we’re not very good at helping women who are going through this loss. But with one in four pregnancies ending in miscarriage, chances are you know someone who has lost or will lose a pregnancy. October 15 is National Pregnancy Loss Awareness Day; here are some tips for what to do and what not to do when interacting with those who have experienced such a loss.
- Don’t use platitudes as a means of encouragement. Although intended to help, phrases like “everything happens for a reason” or “it wasn’t meant to be” are not comforting to someone experiencing loss. In fact, it can diminish the very real feelings a person is having and make her hurt seem selfish.
- Don’t try to fix it. Telling a grieving mother that “at least you know you can get pregnant” or “at least you have a child already” or “at least it was early” adds to her guilt. She is likely already feeling at fault for the loss or silly for having such a strong attachment so early. Realize that you cannot fix this for her, and she should not feel like she has to either.
- Don’t push her to move on. Encouraging her to try again or telling her stories of others’ experiences can make her feel like she is not reacting appropriately to the loss. Everyone grieves differently, so allow her to process her feelings in her own way, and try not to impose your own opinions or timeline.
- Don’t say or do nothing. It can be intimidating to look at this “don’t” list. You may be worried that you will do the wrong thing or somehow make things worse, when the truth is that the worst thing you can do is ignore the loss or wait for your friend to reach out to you. Giving a grieving person space is a terrible misconception of what is really needed. Most grieving mothers report feeling isolated as being the worst part. If you don’t know what to say, “I am so sorry for your loss” is enough.
- Do something simple. Send a card, leave a voicemail, do something to let the person know you’re thinking of her and her family. You may live far away or be unable to be physically present, but a simple gesture acknowledging her loss will go a long way.
- Do a task. Bring a meal, take kids to school, walk the dog, or just take out the trash. For a grieving mother, a daily routine or “normal life” can feel overwhelming. Take initiative on this one rather than asking if she needs anything—she does whether she thinks so or not.
- Do run interference. This is especially helpful if you are a close friend or family member. People want to know what is going on and how to help, but these questions and having to recount the story may be too much for a grieving mother. You can help by providing updates (be sure to keep information to only what the family wants shared), setting up a meal train, organizing or limiting visitors, etc.
- Do remember. For a mother who has lost a pregnancy, she has lost a child that she won’t forget. There were plans, dreams, a birthdate, and maybe even a name. Remembering the baby is a wonderful way to show your ongoing support. Call the baby by his or her name. Acknowledge the loss and talk about the baby as a person, regardless of when the pregnancy was lost. You may consider doing something as a lasting tribute like giving a piece of jewelry with the baby’s name or making a donation in her honor.
- Do love and be present. This is the best thing you can do.
If you have lost a pregnancy and are looking for support, or if you have experienced pregnancy complications in the past and are wanting to try again, The Woman’s Clinic can help. We will evaluate your individual situation and help you make a plan for the future. Schedule an appointment with us today!