24 answers

What Do I Say to a Friend Who Was Forced to Terminate a Pregancy?

Dear Moms,

I just heard from a dear friend who was thrilled to finally be pregnant at 40 that she found out the fetus had a genetic defect not compatable with life. Her options were to give birth knowing the child would not survive more than a few hours or terminate in what was the 18th week. She chose the second option.
I want to write her a letter of condolance (she lives across the country), but (I am ashamed to admit it) I do not know what to say. I have had three miscarriages myself, and remember how devistating each one was, but nothing of this magnitude. Can any of you who have gone through something like this help me find words of support and comfort? I am out of my league here.

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Featured Answers

Having terminated late in the pregnancy for Genetic reasons I would say just acknowledging is a step forward! Keep things simple and low key. Just let her know you are thinking of her and if she'd like to talk you are there. This was truly the best thing people did for me!

Dear S.,

in addition to what the other responses said, I would like to add that NO, you should not feel ashamed of not knowing what to do. At least you are facing the situation and want to do something about it and that is what counts, instead of choosing to ignore it for lack of knowing what to say.

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I would just send a thinking of you card with a little note inside. Sometimes in these situations less is more. There really are no words to express what she is feeling. I would just tell her she is in your thoughts and when she is ready to talk or if she needs to talk you will be there for her. I went though this myself and I know there are so many emotions she needs to feel as part of the healing process.

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I just went through this with one of my oldest friends about nine months ago. She and her husband (in their 20's) found out that their child had a serious genetic condition and that the baby would not likely survive more than a week. They elected to terminate the pregancy and it was devastating to them. In fact, she told us all in an email b/c she really wasn't ready to talk and was not prepared for the grief that we would all experience.

I went and bought a series of cards, starting with more "serious" and getting gradually more light-hearted and "thinking about you" in nature. I sent them periodically over the course of time. The notes inside were simple- thinking of you... hope your heart smiles today...you are in my thoughts, etc. People tend to pour out all of their wishes in the first month and then move on with their lives. My friend said that it reminded her that someone else was sharing her sorrow and celebrating her little victories to get regular and unexpected notes.

But to answer your specific question, remember that you can tell her that you know that her heart is breaking, but that you know you could never understsand what she is going through. My wording was something like this: "My heart breaks for you and your family. You and (your husband) have a strong marriage and I know that with the stregnth of your family you will find a way through this. Please know that my heart and thoughts are with you."

Around her due date, I sent her a plant with a simple note.

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I agree with the other posts. Just tell her you are thinking of her and her angel. BUT if you knew her due date, mark your calendar, because when the time comes she will remember and be devastated all over again. You could call her then and ask her to lunch or simply tell her you are thinking about her. I know she will appreciate that someone else remembers when she was supposed to welcome her new baby. My DIL had to terminate under the same sort of circumstances, severe spina, and I gave her a little living tree on her due date and she planted it in her yard. She enjoys watching the tree grow.

how about just sending a card for 'good spirits' and that you know she's going through a hard time and that you are there to talk if she'd like. keep it simple.

I am so sorry to hear of your friends loss. You might want her to know that you have heard of that loss, that there really are no words that can ease that pain, and that you are there with her, with yours arms wrapped around her. Let her know that you are ready to listen if she needs to talk. Sometimes it helps to just cry with someone, especially someone who has had a similiar experience. I'm so sorry - I. J.

Dear S.,

in addition to what the other responses said, I would like to add that NO, you should not feel ashamed of not knowing what to do. At least you are facing the situation and want to do something about it and that is what counts, instead of choosing to ignore it for lack of knowing what to say.

How about a small gift?? I just had a friend lose a beloved relative and a few friends chipped in and bought a seeds of life oak tree kit, for their family to plant in memory of their loved one.
You can find it here:

Also, I think just a note letting her know you are so sorry for their loss, and that they are in your thoughts and prayers, and to reach out if they need anything at all.

From my personal experience terminating a pregnancy that late (mine was a little later than that) is awful and heartwrenching. Send a sympathy card, call, ask how she is doing (and her husband). Be available to her. Even when you have been in the exact situation finding the "right" words is impossible. Its always easiest to start with asking how she is physically, then emotionally. Your emotional support and time is what she may want. Maybe you could arrange for a meal for them. My mother in law sent me an angel for my charm bracelet and one for our "holiday" tree. Be there for her, thats all you need to do.

One of my close friends had a still birth in January this year. I have to say I was shocked because we had talked the week before about our girls getting together after the birth. My husband and I sent a beautiful hanging plant with white flowers and a note that said, "you both are in our thoughts and prayers." Sometimes I think people want to say to much and it makes the situation worse... it has to be hard enough without someone over doing it with words. Caring and short, if she wants to open up more about the situation then let her do that.
Also, my friend lives 5 hours away.

If you can, try not to write a long letter explaining what you went through and how you felt. A short note, saying that you are sorry for this sad loss and that you are available to her at any time if she wants to talk. When she's ready, she may ask you about your experiences and then you can share. Until then, just offer your love and support. Similar to what you would write if a friend's parent died. Good luck!

Dear S.,
If you happen to have a conversation with your friend in the near future, ask her if she has been given a copy of a book called "A time to decide, a time to heal". It can be ordered through the publishing group: Pineapple Press.
Most of the book was written by individuals/couples who have personally experienced pregancy termination (either due to fetal anomalies or b/c they are carrying several fetuses and are having a pregnancy reduction). It is a small book and there is usually something inside that everyone mourning such a loss can connect with.

You really don't know how she feels... Each person feels different.. I had miscarraiges and was devasted, my friend had one and she hardly reacted.. . she said i guess it just wasn't meant to be. And that was the end. Me, all I wanted to do was cry and mourn for the babies I lost and needed support. She didn't want anyone to feel bad for her, as she felt that's life and then we go on. My advice would be to write something short.. Like I am thinking of you and your husband, if there is anything I can do for you, even if it's just to talk... call me anytime. I love you and your in our prayers... Love.... I think that should help.. and maybe she'll call you and all you have to do is listen.. and just let her know you are there.. or better yet, call her in a week after you send the note.. Just say that your calling to see how she is.. and let the conversation take off from there. good luck to you and your friend.

So sorry to hear this. All you can do is speak from the heart.

from the experience of loosing a child, there is nothing that you can say to make it easier, just tell her that you know her pain is great and that you want her to know that you are there for her no matter what. If she needs to vent, if she needs to cry, if she needs to talk or just needs you to listen. You are now and always will be there for her, and follow up ever couple of weeks with a note that just says thinking of you, Just to know you are thinking of her now and then to remind her that you have not forgotten will mean the world. I lost a child to sids. when her birthday comes around 23 years later i just go into my own little world of pain, or when the anniversary of her death. When I first lost her I was afraid to tell people that I was hurting because i was told she is "dead gone and buried and to forget about her" so i dealt with it and figured no one else remembered. It hurt pretty badly to feel so alone with my grief and no one to talk to about it. Let her know that even if it is 15 years from now, she can still come to you with her pain, as you won't forget. Just want to tell you Thank You for being such a wonderful friend to a person who is hurting so badly and wanting to do the best thing for her.

how sad. i would simply say that you are so very sorry and that you are thinking of her. most people probably wont acknowledge it at all because people are just unsure of what to say, so im sure she will appreciate hearing from you. a phone call or email to ask how she is doing would probably be nice too if you are comfortable with it. i havent been through this, but i have recently had a horrible tragedy and i know that the ones who made me feel the worst were the ones who just made like it didnt happen. i know its just out of fear or not wanting to upset me or whatever, i dont take it personally at all, ive been on that end of it too, but the friends who did stand out were the ones who took a minute to really ask me how i was doing and made me feel like they really did want to know. you sound like a good friend.

I think just being simple is the best idea. You are feeling for her, you can only imagine how much she is hurting and that if she ever needs anything, you are a strong enough to be her friend through thick and thin. all that is about her and support for her, which is probably what she needs.

S., treat it like any other pregnancy loss. Let her know how sorry you are for the loss of her baby and that you will always carry the memory of this baby. If they gave the baby a name, mention it in your card or letter. So often, when there is a loss, people are afraid to mention the baby, and the parents think that he/she is forgotten.

I don't think anything could be more appropriate than I love you and I'm here for you friend....I love the idea of the tree on the due date!!! We all go through tragedy and loss and knowing you have the support of friends and family is more important than what they "say". God bless to you all!

Your feelings of not knowing what to say are so common, don't feel ashamed. When in doubt, keep it short and simple: "So sorry for your loss. I am thinking about you and I am here for you."

I agree with what everyone else said about a simple note saying I'm so sorry. Can I suggest also sending her a gift card? My husband and I recently lost our baby at 18 weeks. Our friends sent us gift cards to Trader Joe's, pizza places, Dunkin Donuts, Starbucks, Applebee's, Friendly's, etc. Not having to cook dinner one night is one less thing your friend will have to think about. I'm thinking about your friend.

So sad. I agree with what Diane S said. Just a card with a simple "you are in our thoughts & prayers" will give her comfort.

I was in the same situation four years ago and had to terminate my pregnancy. The best card I received was from my girlfriend who simply said she loved me and was there for me and was just sorry for what had happened. There is also a wonderful website called A Heartbreaking Choice...It is GREAT website for support and hearing other women's stories about a really difficult time. Its helps to not feel so alone

Its so nice + caring of u to think of her pain in this circumstance. I think the fact that u had miscarriages makes u understand that she is suffering a great loss. Once u r preggie, u fantasize life w a child so any loss is devastating (whether 2 wks or 2 months in your body). She is lucky to have u for a friend. Tell her you are there for her, understand her pain and do not try to cheer her up. Just let her know you understand this is a very sad loss. She needs to mourn. The worst thing to do is say, it was meant to be or don't worry, it'll happen next time. This isn't the moment for that. Just tell her u love her and she can talk to you anytime.

Having terminated late in the pregnancy for Genetic reasons I would say just acknowledging is a step forward! Keep things simple and low key. Just let her know you are thinking of her and if she'd like to talk you are there. This was truly the best thing people did for me!

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