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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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.

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