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How To Help A Friend Through Miscarriage

What Is A Miscarriage?

Miscarriage is the term for a pregnancy that ends on its own within the first twenty weeks of gestation. Miscarriage is the most common type of pregnancy loss, yet one of the most misunderstood and often glossed-over types of loss. An early pregnancy loss is an often viewed as a discounted loss.

It’s time to break down that stigma and talk openly about miscarriages, the loss we feel, and how we can help a friend who is mourning an early pregnancy loss.

Read more clinical information about miscarriage here.

This page isn’t intended to be clinical – it’s how to help yourself – or someone else – cope with a miscarriage.

Miscarriages are a fact of pregnancy. It happens. It’s the most common complication of early pregnancy. Oftentimes nobody knows why. Unfortunately, it’s something that happens to a lot of women.

In fact, between 20 percent and 25 percent of pregnancies end in miscarriage, three percent of them after 16 weeks. One minute someone’s life is filled with expectations of a new baby, a new family member! Someone mom had real hopes and dreams for. Pretty much every waking minute while pregnant is devoted to thinking about their baby, and then the next minute it’s all gone.

It’s tough to know what to say when a friend breaks the news. Traditionally, women wait until they’re three months along before sharing the news, but increasingly, women are telling their big news before then. This, I believe, is a very good thing.

Women originally wanted to wait until they learned the baby made it past the risky first trimester. But what if she does miscarry? She carries her grief alone? The statistics tell us that’s a lot of women carrying a very heavy burden without support. We think telling people about the pregnancy earlier is better. If you do miscarry, you have a support group to help you through something that hasn’t always been recognized as the extremely difficult event that it is.

Women who miscarry haven’t always been offered the same level of sympathy and comfort as a woman who lost a child that’s been born. Most miscarriages happen early in the first trimester, so the mom-to-be doesn’t look pregnant. That, coupled with the fact that there is no body to bury, causes people to forget a woman is actually mourning the very real and very painful loss of a child, not to mention the accompanying guilt that a woman who has had a miscarriage is likely to feel even though it isn’t her fault

How To Help Yourself While Grieving A Miscarriage:

Having a miscarriage or early pregnancy loss may bring about a whole host of emotions – sadness, guilt, anger, feelings of failure. The time following the loss may be incredibly painful, especially if this wasn’t your first pregnancy loss. You may feel withdrawn and unable to sleep. You may feel moody and unpredictable. The emotions you feel after a miscarriage are impossible to predict – each day may bring about new feelings.

Here are some ways to cope with a miscarriage.

There is no right or wrong way to grieve a miscarriage. Some people may be devastated, barely functional for months, while others feel it’s merely a blip on the radar. THAT IS OKAY. It does not mean that you are a “bad person” or that you weren’t meant to be a mother – it simply means that you’re grieving in your own way.

Remember, the miscarriage is not your fault. It is not due to anything you did wrong – miscarriages just happen. And coping with a miscarriage is really hard.

Ask a friend or trusted loved one to share that the pregnancy you’ve announced has ended if it’s too hard for you to talk about. There’s no shame in asking for help.

Allow yourself your feelings. It’s really easy to try to dismiss the early pregnancy loss as “being so early” or “better now than later,” but a loss is a loss. And every loss deserves to be grieved.

There is no timeline for grief. For some people, it’s a couple of days. Others grieve a miscarriage for several months. Some people may be devastated for much, much longer. Whatever your grief timeline is, accept it.

Take all of the time you need to grieve.

Don’t close yourself off from other people. Sometimes, it feels painful to talk about the pregnancy loss, but sharing your story – here on Band Back Together or elsewhere – can make you feel more connected to others who may understand what you are going through.

Take care of yourself. When you’re feeling at your absolute worst, it’s often hard to provide self-care, but that’s when it’s most important.

Don’t feel guilty about failing to meet your obligations. Take some time off work, take some time off from the housework, and give yourself permission to just be. Even if you’re physically well, taking some time to process the loss is very important.

If you feel up to it, do something with your hands. Plant a garden, bake some cookies, knit something. Sometimes, using your hands can free up your mind to process and heal.

Know and watch for the signs of postpartum depression in yourself, especially if this is your first child. Just because the pregnancy ended in miscarriage does not mean you are immune to postpartum issues. Read more about the signs and symptoms of postpartum depression here.

If you feel like you simply cannot cope with the loss of your baby, don’t hesitate to talk to a therapist. There is no shame in seeking help for being unable to cope with such a tragic loss.

If you’d like to, plan a small memorial service for your baby. Invite close friends and relatives and plant a tree or a flower in honor of your lost little one.

Do not expect that your partner will grieve the loss of your baby in the same way. Men and women grieve miscarriages in very different ways. Women look for support and express their feelings openly, while men hold their feelings about the miscarriage inside. Men also may feel as though they need to be “strong” and “brave” for their partner.

If you have older children, don’t be afraid to cry in front of them.  They probably have already picked up on your sadness, and may need reassurance that they are not the cause of it.  If it’s just too painful to let them see you cry, that’s okay, too.  Ask a friend to entertain them while you tend to your needs for a bit.

Find any support groups for pregnancy loss in your area. Your doctor or midwife may be able to suggest local support groups for early pregnancy loss.

Write your feelings down. If it’s in a journal, in a word document, on your blog, or here on Band Back Together, it can help to put all of your feelings down in one place.

How Do I Help A Friend Going Through A Miscarriage?

Remind yourself that a loss is a loss, and everyone grieves their losses differently. Just because you didn’t (or don’t think you would) feel a certain way, everyone is entitled to their feelings – especially when it comes to a loss.

Validate and acknowledge your friend’s feelings. When a baby is lost, all of the dreams parents have for their child are lost too.

Be supportive if the family wants to have a funeral or memorial for their lost child.

If your friend has taken pictures of the baby, be sure to look at them, just as you would any other baby pictures. This, after all, is what your friend has left of his or her child.

Check in on your friend. Call, send a text, email, or visit them every few days. While they may not be able to immediately get back to you, knowing that you are thinking of them will mean an enormous amount to them.

If they’re up for it, take your friend out for a cup of coffee, a movie, anything to get them out of the house. The grief may make leaving the house alone a tremendous burden.

Allow your friend to grieve openly and honestly – we are noneof us alone.

Encourage your friend to take the time she needs to grieve – time off from work, from household chores, and other commitments that may be difficult to handle.

If you see your friend developing signs of postpartum depression, don’t hesitate to let her know what you see, in the most non-judgmental way possible. Hormones can be out of whack, even if the baby didn’t survive. This may be especially shocking when a woman miscarries her first child and doesn’t know if she will have postpartum depression.Read more about the signs, symptoms, and treatment of postpartum depression here.

Frequently ask your friend how she is doing and listen – really listen – to what she has to say. If there are gaps in the conversation, don’t prattle on, just sit and be near her.

There is no time limit on grief and grieving, so don’t expect your friend will “be better in two weeks,” or “two months.” A miscarriage can be a life-changing experience.

Remember that her needs are going to be ever-changing, as is the way it goes with all grief and grieving. Be flexible and remember that what she needs today may not be what she needs tomorrow.

Sometimes, all your friend may want is someone to be near her. If that means sitting quietly and holding her hand while you watch television together, so be it.

Arrange some kind of chore list with her family and friends so that she can have simple chores, like taking her older kids to school or cooking dinner, taken off her hands for a while.

Prepare meals for her and the family that are simply heat and eat. Those who are grieving often forget about eating or are too overwhelmed to think about cooking. Having something simple available will make it easier for her and the family to eat.

Hire someone (or do it yourself) to clean your friend’s house. It may be a chore to even get out of bed in the morning, let alone clean the kitchen.

A couple months after a miscarriage, most of the support will have dropped off, which increases feelings of loneliness and isolation. Make sure that you continue to support your friend.

Buy the family a Christmas ornament (or some keepsake) with the baby’s name on it (if they named the baby). They may never display the ornament, but it will be in a treasured place for them.

Remember to use the baby’s name (if the baby was named) when talking to the family. So many forget that the baby was here – that he or she did exist – and hearing that name will make the parents feel like the baby hasn’t entirely been forgotten.

Help the her return or send back any baby gifts received that she does not want to keep. This is entirely up to the mother’s discretion.

Offer to help pack up any reminders of the baby, if your friend wants them put away. It can be a huge burden for your friend to have to pack those items away.

What Should I NOT Say To My Friend Who Has Suffered A Miscarriage?

Many times, people who are grieving a miscarriage are comforted by those who love them. Unfortunately, certain types of comfort may not actually help the grieving mother.

Here are some things not to say to someone who has just suffered a miscarriage.

Do not say, “It was God’s will.” That sounds an awful lot like, “Your baby is supposed to be dead.” Those words sting more than you can imagine.

Do not say, “Better now than later.” It’s not comforting to anyone but the person who says it.

Do not say, “The baby must’ve had something wrong with it.” Even if it’s true, it’s a hurtful sentiment.

Do not compare grief. Yes, it was tragic that your pet hamster died, and nothing diminishes that, however, it is unhelpful for many people to hear that sort of thing when their loss is so fresh.

Do not say, “I know just how you feel…” and launch into the story of the death of someone you know and love. No two losses are the same. While you may have experienced complicated feelings when you lost someone you love, it is entirely unfair to make the person grieving a fresh loss comfort you.

Be wary of discussing your own miscarriage(s), or someone else you know that suffered miscarriages, especially if the stories end with, “…but went on to have a healthy pregnancy,” or “….and continued having miscarriages.” Some people find these stories comforting, while others will be insulted.

If the baby was lost in the second trimester or beyond, do not use the word “miscarriage,” unless the mother herself uses it.

Don’t offer to help unless you mean it.

Also, if you offer to help, offer to help with specific things.

Do not ask “do you need help?” or “What do you need from me?” because chances are, in the midst of grief, the mother will be unable to tell you what it is that she needs.

Don’t forget the dad. Even if he’s being stoic about the early pregnancy loss, he, too, is grieving. Remember that the mother and father both lost a baby.

If the family has older children, don’t forget about them.  Even if they aren’t old enough to comprehend exactly what has happened, even the youngest toddlers know when their parents are sad. They may be confused and need reassurance that the sadness isn’t their fault.  Offer to spend time with them – take them to a playground, play a board game, let them talk about how they are feeling.

This Is Not Supportive After a Miscarriage:

Giving advice.

Criticizing what you have heard.

Minimizing the miscarriage e.g. “That’s okay, you were only three months.”

Using cliches e.g. “It was God’s will” or “You’ve already had one healthy child.”

Talking about your own story of loss. Some identification may be helpful, but keep it to a minimum. This is not about you.

Not allowing the person to express emotions such as guilt, shame, and anger.

Taking over completely may cause potential feelings of helplessness and powerlessness.

Fixing it (you cannot take the grief away).

If you have more suggestions not listed here, please email and we will add them to our list

Page last audited 8/2018