I miscarried my second pregnancy in January of 2007 at 10.5 weeks. Chances are, you or someone you know has had the painful experience of miscarriage as well. The doctor I saw after I miscarried gave me a statistic similar to this one from the American Pregnancy Association: "anywhere from 10-25% of all clinically recognized pregnancies will end in miscarriage." I believe he told me this in an effort to comfort me, saying that it is not uncommon and there was nothing I could have done to prevent it.
But when you are hurting, hearing that the pain you feel is "common" really doesn't help.
Thankfully, though, there are some things that do. Here is the advice I give to anyone who asks how they can be sensitive to a friend who has just miscarried.
Understand that some people will treat your friend's miscarriage as a statistic.
None of my friends did this, but it did seem like that was how the doctors viewed it. If you think about it, they see it a lot and it is not shocking to them at all. But for the woman experiencing the miscarriage, it can be very shocking going from the excitement and hope over the news of a baby to the grief and despair over having lost it . . . all within a fairly short time. Keep in mind that your friend may be getting this perspective from her doctor or possibly others, and that it is very alienating because it seems they are not understanding her hurt or treating the miscarriage as the loss that it is.
Remember that your friend is specifically grieving the loss of the baby she carried.
Maybe at some point there will be doubts or fears as to whether or not she will have other babies, but realize that more than anything what saddens her right now is that she lost this baby. Your grieving with her over this one pregnancy will mean more to her than trying to encourage her that she will surely get pregnant again someday.
Similarly, if she already has children, they will definitely be a source of comfort (already having Caroline was the greatest comfort to me), but don't feel like you need to point that out to her. While statements like, "At least you have Caroline" or "at least you have other children," are well-meaning, they deflect the attention away from the grief over losing this child and seem to minimize it.
Recognize that you don't have to say that much.
With the above suggestions in mind, don't worry too much about saying just the right thing. In fact, probably the most helpful thing to realize is that you do not need to be the source of comfort with your words, nor do you have to have any answers. Just reaching out when you hear the news means so much. Don't try too hard--just be honest. It's perfectly fine to say, "I am so, so sorry . . . I don't even know what to say," or, "I am so sad to hear about the baby . . . I don't know what to say--I just want you to know I care."
Then follow that up by telling her how much she has been on your mind and ask her how she is feeling. Listen if she wants to talk. Ask her questions to understand where she is coming from. Informed, caring listening is one of the most helpful things you can offer a friend after a miscarriage.
**For more practical suggestions on what you can do to help, read part 2 of this series right here.
If you have experienced a miscarriage and want to share your thoughts, please feel free to email me or leave a comment here. What advice would you give to someone who wants to care for a friend after a miscarriage?