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How to Support Someone Who Had a Miscarriage

October 9, 2023
Ahma & Co Team
Image Credit: Liza Summer

When you first find out that you’re pregnant, it’s commonplace to share the news with only a few, if at all. One generally waits until the first trimester (~12 weeks) to break the news because the chances of a miscarriage drop substantially; in fact, 80% of miscarriages occur within the first trimester. While this practice of waiting to share the news saves families and friends from “getting their hopes up” about a new baby, it can also be isolating to the families that experience loss in those first 12 weeks and consequently grieve alone. 

My friend was ecstatic to share the news of her pregnancy with me as we had always envisioned raising our kids together. At the time, I was a few months ahead with my second child and I was ready to give her all the insights on pregnancy and motherhood. We strategized the fun things we’d do together on maternity leave since we’d have two months overlapped. I started a list of all the bulky, big, baby supplies I could pass down to her. I even told her the first doctor’s appointment to confirm the pregnancy was going to be magical; we talked about our pregnancies every day leading up to the date, so I knew something was wrong when she didn’t update me post appointment. She delivered the news later that evening and I had trouble finding the right words. I struggled to find a balance in frequency to ask how she was doing, each message a small sting of remembering the silence in the ultrasound room.

I couldn’t rely on my network to get ideas of what to do, because no one really talks about miscarriages and how to support someone who had a miscarriage. I turned to Facebook mommy groups and Google and did the best I could to minimize my pregnancy updates in conversation. Years later, even with a healthy baby now, this experience still makes our hearts heavy; so after reflection, my friend was gracious enough to help me put together the following list of ways to support our loved ones going through a miscarriage.

How you can help: 

When it comes to supporting your loved one through a miscarriage, it’s important to take their lead, as some women choose to grieve alone, and others seek support. Once you have an idea of how they prefer to navigate their loss, you can support them appropriately. Here are some ideas:

  • Acknowledge their loss. It’s difficult to know what to say to someone who had a miscarriage, or what to do in order to be helpful; but even a simple “I’m so sorry for your loss” is more meaningful than saying nothing at all out of fear that you may say the wrong thing. 
  • Lend a sympathetic ear. Listen and validate their feelings. The key here is to let them talk when they’re ready, and to actively listen and sympathize when they do. 
  • Continue to reiterate that it’s not their fault. Mothers often blame themselves and overanalyze the actions they should or shouldn’t have taken. Let them know that it’s not their fault, and remind them often. 
  • Take their mind off of it. Create distractions by inviting them to a casual outing (ex. meals, hiking, yoga class); the goal is to get them out of their head. 
  • Check in - but with moderation. Though well-intentioned, reaching out too often is a constant reminder of the loss. Be mindful of how frequently you’re checking in, and adjust as needed. 
  • Send flowers, food, and/or cleaning services: These are great ways to let them know you’re thinking of them while still giving them some space. Create convenience and help address necessary chores when the last thing they’re thinking about is taking care of themselves.
  • Help them connect with others who’ve undergone miscarriages. If they’re comfortable, connect them with willing close contacts who also experienced loss. Or, offer to look up local support groups so that they know they’re not alone. 

Things you should avoid:

It’s also essential to consider what not to say to someone who had a miscarriage, as well as things to avoid doing as it may only exacerbate the pain of the loss. Try to refrain from the following:

  • Saying clichés, or downplaying their loss. Any phrase suggesting the miscarriage was “meant to be” or “for the best,” or saying “I know how you feel” aren’t helpful, especially if you haven’t experienced it firsthand.
  • Talking about the future. Let the family grieve this loss; avoid saying things like “you can try again” or asking them when they’re going to try again. 
  • Offering unsolicited advice. Unhelpful, unsolicited advice that tells them what to do may have the effect of making them feel even more guilty or worse. 
  • Overt exposure to others’ pregnancy news or children. For some, it’s hard to be around others’ children or those who are pregnant at this time. If your loved one is still grieving, be sensitive to this - extend an invitation to make clear that you welcome their company, but with the understanding that they may choose not to attend. 

When a mother chooses to share the news of her pregnancy is her personal choice. She may be more reluctant to celebrate her pregnancy if she has previously experienced loss, and this should be respected. A friend once told me that the people you share the news with “early” in the pregnancy should be the people you would bring into your support system in the event of a loss. If you know a friend or family member who has let you into this circle and has had a miscarriage, I hope this article helps you hold a space for them. 

In honor of Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month, two moms shared their experience with pregnancy loss; to hear their stories, tune into our podcast Ahma Need a Minute - available on Spotify and Apple Podcasts.

Ahma & Co Team

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