It's thought that as many as one in five known pregnancies end in miscarriage.
This number is even higher if pregnancies that are not yet known about (before a woman’s period was due) are included.
Though they are considered to be quite common, miscarriage and loss is still seen as a taboo subject.
If you haven't experienced miscarriage or loss, it can be difficult to find the right words to say when someone informs you of their loss.
You may find yourself blurting out cliches in a desperate attempt to say something.
To the person coming to terms with the loss, however, your words could unintentionally cause more harm than good.
Here are some things that people who have suffered from a miscarriage or loss simply do not want to hear:
#1: It Was God's Will
You may be religious, but that doesn't mean everyone is. For someone who doesn't believe in God, it can be upsetting when you try to dismiss the tragedy as “God's will”. Even if the person is religious, that doesn't mean they will be accepting of the idea that their loss was a part of God's plan. Loss is heartbreaking, soul-destroying and difficult to terms with. Simply explaining it away with religion does not help, and it could actually leave the person feeling angry, at either yourself or God.
#2: It Wasn’t Meant To Be / Was For The Best
If there's one thing any person who has suffered a loss or miscarriage will tell you, it's that it was not meant to be. And there is no way that the person feels that the miscarriage was for the best, so you shouldn't even think about letting those words cross your lips.
#3: Your Baby Is In A Better Place Now
You may believe in heaven, but not everybody does. Not everyone finds comfort in the afterlife. Chances are, your friend probably believes very strongly that the best place for her baby was right inside her uterus. Don't talk about angels or spirits or anything along those lines, because your friend may not share the same spiritual beliefs as you. Listening to someone else's spiritual belief system offers little comfort during times of need.
#4: Time Heals All Wounds
In one sense, this one is sort of true. Emotional pain does get easier to live with over time, the edges feel less sharp, and you find yourself crying less as time goes on. This is true for relationship breakdowns, the death of a loved one, and the loss of a much-wanted baby. But – and it's a big but – it doesn't even help to hear that at the time. Nobody has ever felt better by hearing that one day, in the distant future, they may feel slightly less upset that they do today.
#5: I Know How You Feel
Unless you yourself have experienced a miscarriage or loss, then you simply cannot know how she feels. Even if your sister or best friend has suffered a miscarriage, you still will not know exactly how she is feeling. So, unless you have been through it, please don't claim to understand it. Even if you have experienced a miscarriage or loss, you may not understand the full range of emotions being experienced. Each loss is different, and you may not share all the same feelings about your different experiences.
#6: It's Time To Get On With Your Life
Getting on with your life isn't something that happens because someone else demands it. Learning to cope with the loss, and struggle through each day, is something that happens when a person is ready. You cannot say when a person should be ‘over' such a loss. There is no standard time frame for grief, everyone is different. If you are worried that your friend may be suffering from more than just grief, there are better (and kinder) ways to suggest this.
“Don't ever put a time limit on when the person should feel better, it is different for everyone.” — Erin
#7: At Least You Have/Can Have More Children
Your friend isn't even thinking about those things right now. All she's thinking about is how much she wanted this baby. By talking about other children, you are essentially sweeping her pain under the carpet and implying that this baby was not important. It's also important to remember that some women may not be able to have more children. Unless you have the mother’s medical notes in front of you, you simply cannot know the full details of the situation.
“Something I heard a lot was ‘at least you still have 3 healthy children.’ This is true, but that doesn’t mean I’m not going to grieve the loss of others.” — BellyBelly Fan
#8: It Could Have Been Worse
It couldn't, not to the grieving parent. To your friend, losing this baby was the absolute worse thing that could have happened. In this moment, nothing else matters. Don't start talking about other miscarriages, once you deem to be ‘worse', because there is no such thing. Grief is a personal experience, and there is no need to make comparisons between different tragedies.
“We have had 3 and we most often get, ’you’re still young, enjoy life while you can.’ We sure would enjoy life with little ones alongside us!” — BellyBelly Fan
#9: I'll Give You Some Time
Please do not stay away unless specifically asked (some parents do like privacy and space). Often the bereaved parents need your support – you may even like to ask how you can best support them if you’re not sure. Shying away from the subject does not lessen the feelings of loss, and can make the parents feel like no-one understands them or can handle their difficult emotions. What your friend really needs is for you to be there for her – or him. Nothing you say will ever upset the bereaved parent as much as the loss of the child. Stay close, be there for the parents, and offer them a safe space to grieve. It is usually just the simple little things you say or do that mean so much.
“The worst was for me when people acted like it never happened. My baby was real and did exist… mine and my husbands pain is real.” — BellyBelly Fan
Don’t forget that it’s not just a mother that is grieving, but a father too. Often fathers speak of not having the support they need – miscarriage and loss is not really something men bring up with workmates or others, leaving them coping with difficult feelings all alone. Whatever you do, don’t forget to check in with dad.
Other Things Not To Say
Below are some comments from our members and fans.
“The worst for me was people constantly asking if I knew what caused it, people don’t understand that majority of the time the doctors can’t even answer that for you.” — BellyBelly Fan
“[I was told] ‘at least it was early on and you didn’t have a real baby that died.’ That was like a knife to my heart. Yes I was only 2 months along but my baby was as real to me as any newborn – and the loss was devastating.” — BellyBelly Fan
“I was told, ‘hopefully it was a boy since you wanted a girl’ … those words hurt more than they know.” — BellyBelly Fan
“I was told by someone just after losing my baby that I had too many kids anyway. Some people can be so harsh and cruel.” — BellyBelly Fan
“When I had a miscarriage, my own sister said, ’I’m glad, because honestly I didn’t think you’re ready to be somebodies mother.” — BellyBelly Fan
“The worst for me was people constantly asking if I knew what caused it. People don’t understand that majority of the time the doctors can’t even answer that for you.” — BellyBelly Fan