29 answers

How to Comfort Someone Who's Had a Miscarriage

Hi, all - I'm 25 weeks pregnant with my first child, and my cousin, with whom I'm prettyy close even though she lives in 400 miles away, just had a miscarriage in her third month. She's going in for a D&C later this week, but I was wondering if anyone had ideas about what I could do or say to comfort her. I'm trying not to feel guilty that my pregnancy is going so well (knock on wood) and that I'm excited for my own experience, and I guess it's really making me feel extremely grateful for that. I hurt for her, though, because I can only imagine what she must be feeling. Any suggestions or ideas? Thank you so much!

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This is very hard on both of you. My best friend had her first child the day I found out I had my second miscarriage. For a few months, we thought we would have kids just months apart! I know it was hard on her to share all about the pregnancy and her new baby when she knew what I was going through. But now I have a wonderful son and she has been a great mommy mentor to me because she has been through it! In the end, just continue to be there for each other and be respectful of each others feelings.

16 years ago, I had my son. The next day, my sister-in-law lost the baby girl she was carrying. She was 4 and a half months along. It was very hard for her. We were in the same hospital and she had to go through labor. The baby lived for 1 second. The next day,I went down to see her in her room. We embraced and cried. I told her how sorry I was. We talked. I was just there for her. That's all she needed. It took her a few weeks before she could come see my son, and I totally understood. About a year later, she had a baby boy. Time mostly heals. Just be there for her.

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E., this is so thoughtful for you to think of your cousin, and to reach out for ways to comfort her. I belong to an online community of women who have lost children and gone on to be blessed by living ones. One of the best things I saw posted on our site was this letter written by a woman about loss, and the things that she wished people would say/not say during this difficult time. I am sharing it below as I think everyone has a friend who has suffered a loss, and most don't know how to relate or comfort that person.

What we wish you knew about pregnancy loss: A letter from women to their friends and family By: Elizabeth Soutter Schwarzer

When women experience the loss of a child, one of the first things they discover they have in common is a list of things they wish no one had ever said to them. The lists tend to be remarkably similar. The comments are rarely malicious - just misguided attempts to soothe.

This list was compiled as a way of helping other people understand pregnancy loss. While generated by mothers for mothers, it may also apply similarly to the fathers who have endured this loss.

When trying to help a woman who has lost a baby, the best rule of thumb is a matter of manners: don't offer your personal opinion of her life, her choices, her prospects for children. No woman is looking to poll her acquaintances for their opinions on why it happened or how she should cope.

*Don't say, ""It's God's Will."" Even if we are members of the same congregation, unless you are a cleric and I am seeking your spiritual counseling, please don't presume to tell me what God wants for me. Besides, many terrible things are God's Will, that doesn't make them less terrible.

*Don't say, ""It was for the best - there was probably something wrong with your baby."" The fact that something was wrong with the baby is what is making me so sad. My poor baby never had a chance. Please don't try to comfort me by pointing that out.

*Don't say, ""You can always have another one."" Or "You’re still young." This baby was never disposable. If had been given the choice between losing this child or stabbing my eye out with a fork, I would have said, ""Where's the fork?"" I would have died for this baby, just as you would die for your children.

*Don't say, ""Be grateful for the children you have."" If your mother died in a terrible wreck and you grieved, would that make you less grateful to have your father?

*Don't say, ""At least you weren’t further along."" I loved my son or daughter. Whether I lost the baby after two weeks of pregnancy or just after birth, I loved him or her.

*Don't say, ""Isn't it time you got over this and moved on?"" It's not something I enjoy, being grief-stricken. I wish it had never happened. But it did and it's a part of me forever. The grief will ease on its own timeline, not mine - or yours.

*Don't say, ""Now you have an angel watching over you."" I didn't want her to be my angel. I wanted her to bury me in my old age.

*Don't say, ""I understand how you feel."" Unless you've lost a child, you really don't understand how I feel. And even if you have lost a child, everyone experiences grief differently.

*Don't tell me horror stories of your neighbor or cousin or mother who had it worse. The last thing I need to hear right now is that it is possible to have this happen six times, or that I could carry until two days before my due-date and labor 20 hours for a dead baby. These stories frighten and horrify me and leave me up at night weeping in despair. Even if they have a happy ending, do not share these stories with me.

*Don't pretend it didn't happen and don't change the subject when I bring it up. If I say, ""Before the baby died"" or ""when I was pregnant"" don't get scared. If I'm talking about it, it means I want to. Please let me. Pretending it didn't happen will only make me feel utterly alone.

*Don't say, ""It's not your fault."" It may not have been my fault, but it was my responsibility and I failed. The fact that I never stood a chance of succeeding only makes me feel worse. This tiny little being depended upon me to bring him safely into the world and I couldn't do it. I was supposed to care for him for a lifetime, but I couldn't even give him a childhood. I am so angry at my body you just can't imagine.

*Don't say, "Well, you weren't too sure about this baby, anyway." I already feel so guilty about ever having complained about morning sickness, or a child I wasn't prepared for, or another mouth to feed that we couldn't afford. I already fear that this baby died because I didn't take the vitamins, or drank too much coffee, or had alcohol in the first few weeks when I didn't know I was pregnant. I hate myself for any minute that I had reservations about this baby. Being unsure of my pregnancy isn't the same as wanting my child to die - I never would have chosen for this to happen.

~Do say, "I am so sorry." That's enough. You don't need to be eloquent. Say it and mean it and it will matter.

~Do say, "You're going to be wonderful parents some day," or "You're wonderful parents and that baby was lucky to have you." We both need to hear that.

~Do say, "I have lighted a candle for your baby," or "I have said a prayer for your baby." Do send flowers or a kind note - every one I receive makes me feel as though my baby was loved. Don't resent it if I don't respond. Don't call more than once and don't be angry if the machine is on and I don't return your call. If we're close friends and I am not responding to your attempts to help me, please don't resent that, either. Help me by not needing anything from me for a while.

If you're my boss or my co-worker:

~Do recognize that I have suffered a death in my family - not a medical condition.

~Do recognize that in addition to the physical after effects I may experience, I'm going to be grieving for quite some time. Please treat me as you would any person who has endured the tragic death of a loved one - I need time and space.

Please don't bring your baby or toddler into the workplace. If your niece is pregnant, or your daughter just had a baby, please don't share that with me right now. It's not that I can't be happy for anyone else, it's that every smiling, cooing baby, every glowing new mother makes me ache so deep in my heart I can barely stand it. I may look okay to you, but there's a good chance that I'm still crying every day. It may be weeks before I can go a whole hour without thinking about it. You'll know when I'm ready - I'll be the one to say, "Did your daughter have her baby?" or, "How is that precious little boy of yours? I haven't seen him around the office in a while."

Above all, please remember that this is the worst thing that ever happened to me. The word "miscarriage" is small and easy. But my baby's death is monolithic and awful. It's going to take me a while to figure out how to live with it. Bear with me

2 moms found this helpful

My cousin and I experienced this. I was pregnant with my first and she with her second when she miscarried at 5 months. I was overwhelmed with emotions for her loss and worried for myself. She was a constant supporter for me. We used a lot of e-mail to stay in touch with my pregnancy and she was in the delivery room for my daughter's birth. We then asked her to be the baby's Godmother.

I had two miscarriages in between my second and third children. And though I felt disappointed and sad, I wasn't distraught. Let your cousin know you are there for her to talk if she wants. I think my cousin and I grew closer from her miscarriage and now we share all sorts of parenting info. It's nice to be connected to family and neither one of us has a sister, so we have each other. We too, are now separated by three states but use e-mail and the phone to stay in touch.

1 mom found this helpful

16 years ago, I had my son. The next day, my sister-in-law lost the baby girl she was carrying. She was 4 and a half months along. It was very hard for her. We were in the same hospital and she had to go through labor. The baby lived for 1 second. The next day,I went down to see her in her room. We embraced and cried. I told her how sorry I was. We talked. I was just there for her. That's all she needed. It took her a few weeks before she could come see my son, and I totally understood. About a year later, she had a baby boy. Time mostly heals. Just be there for her.

HI, congrats on your pregnancy...best wishes...I am a mother of 5 boys..24,17,12,9,6..between boy 2 and three I had a miscarriage in my 6th month (A GIRL)..had to give birth and watch her die in my arms...it took a LONG time to getter over the emotional trauma...the best thing you can do for your friend is...Let her cry, cry, cry, scream, scream ,scream...and reassure her that it is normal and you would feel and do the same thing...worst thing you can do is make her feel like she is bothering you or you are tired of hearing it...she wil slowly get over it and slowly stop talking about it(never will she forget though)...PATIENCE with her...is all I can say....good luck S.

E.,

Having had three miscarriages myself, there are somethings that really helped and somethings that didn't. I am not sure if this is your cousin's first child or not but the bottom line is that it doesn't matter. I already had three children when I had my first miscarriage and some people actually said that it must not be that big of deal since I already had kids. They were dead wrong. Secondly, don't be afraid to ask her how she is doing. She can let you know if she doesn't want to talk about it. Many people don't know how to respond so they don't say anything. That feels like others don't care and "I am the only one in the world going through this." Don't take it personally if your cousin has a hard time with the birth of your own son. For me, even walking through the store and seeing all the baby things, which I had to do regularly because I still had kids in diapers, seeing pregnant mama's and so forth was really hard, as was attending baby showers--especially those whose babies were born near the time my babies would have been born. I eventually ended up getting pregnant with a girl, then had two miscarriages (one that almost killed me) and then two healthy pregnancies. Yes, your math is right--I have 6 kiddos here on earth and three in heaven that I miscarried.

Please feel free to email me if you have more questions.

Hey E.,

I have been pregnant 5 times. My 1st and 3rd were miscarriages at 3 and 5 months. My second was my daughter (10), my 4th and 5th pregnancies were my sons (3 and 7). The first miscarriage was hard because I had no other children and the 2nd was hard because I did have a child and was far enough along to start planning. It is hard period... we mourn the loss of what could have been. I did feel jealous and sometimes bitter when others were pregnant or had babies. That got better. Just tell your cousin that you are sorry. If she doesn't share your excitement for your pregnancy... she probably does... but, it is too hard to show it. Just don't cease contact. Be yourself! And congrats... I had my first child at 30 and my 3rd at 37. It is a fun ride!

Hi E.,
I haven't read all of the responses, so I don't know if this is a repeat approach... my advice is to let her control the topic. Let her cry, don't say anything, just be there for her. Let her know that she is not alone.

2 years ago, I found out that I was pregnant,unplanned, and started having complications almost immediately. I ended up miscarrying at 10 weeks. I was devistated. What made it more difficult, was that my husband had been so happy he had gone out and told the world about the pregnancy, but not about the loss. For weeks I had people coming up to give me congrats. I already had a child so I had to keep functioning, but would cry in my private time. To top it off, shortly afterward, we attended a family reunion where there were 2 new babies. It was the hardest thing to go through. I sat as far away from them as possible, but it was still hard becuase everyone's focus was on the new babies. My doctor told me to be patient, and that this happened becuase the baby just wasn't right. Sure enough, a few months later I was pregnant again, but this time we didn't tell a sole until after the first sonogram results.

My advice for you is to enjoy your pregnancy, they truely are fragile miracles. However, when talking to your cousin, do not bring the topic up. Let her bring it up, and then keep your response short. Let her set comfort limits. Don't be offended if she's stand-offish or doesn't want to talk about certain things. Its actually harder then it sounds. When we are pregnant, its all we want to talk about, and when we are hurting, the last thing we want to talk about.

When women at work found out, I was amazed at the # of them that stopped by to tell me their stories of loss.
Some advice that they gave me.
1. At 3 months, she may have already bought things. She could put them in a keepsake box.
2. She could write a letter to the baby.
3. She could use your baby as a 'recipient' baby. What that means is that whenever she gets the urge to just go buy something for the baby, she could by it for your baby. This one helped me. I joined Operation Top Knot, they supply baby things for military moms.

Just some thoughts.Best Wishes.
M.

Hi E.,

Listen to what she has to say and allow her to verbalize her grief over the loss.

A listening ear is the best medicine.

You are a kind person to care about your cousin's feelings.

God Bless you. D.

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