As I was looking at the search terms people have used to get to my blog I realized that many of them were related to people looking for ways to understand, comfort or talk to a friend after a miscarriage. I thought I would address that directly. I’m not a mental health professional and I can only draw from my own meandering experience, but I HAVE had a miscarriage and I know what I wanted and needed and (for the most part) didn’t received. So, here is my humble advice –
- Talk about it. It seems simple, but my friends didn’t seem to want to talk to me about my miscarriage. I don’t know if it made them uncomfortable or if they thought talking about it would remind me about it or what, but it was like it never happened. That was really difficult for me. Trust me, if someone you know has recently had a miscarriage they haven’t forgotten. They’re thinking about. All the time. And acknowledging their pain can do them a world of good. You don’t have to understand, you only have to acknowledge and accept. Give them an opening to talk about it if they want to, but don’t be offended or upset if they don’t want to talk. Just saying something along the lines of “I’m so sorry about your pregnancy loss. I can’t understand what that must be like, but I’m here for you if you want to talk.” can be incredibly comforting. **That being said, chose your time wisely. Don’t try to have a heart to heart at a football game or a cocktail party.
- Don’t tell them stories about your friend/aunt/cousin who had a miscarriage and went on to successfully conceive. Many many many women have had miscarriages, but I had never had a miscarriage before. It had never happened to me and it was unlike anything else I had gone through in my life. It was so intensely personal and close to the quick that it felt like no one else could know or understand. I knew that wasn’t true, I had read the statistics, I knew people who had miscarriages. But for a while I needed to be selfish and just feel the way I felt. Just let your friend talk. Resist the urge to reassure them with stories of other people’s pain and/or overcoming of it, which could seem like it’s minimizing their experience.
- Spend time with them. But don’t force it. Just make yourself available. Infertility (and miscarriage) can make people feel very isolated and alone and it’s a huge boost when you know there are people who you can get away and relax with (even if you don’t chose to). Don’t plan a huge weekend getaway. Just lunch, or a movie, or something small. And try not to go to place where there are a lot of kids. This may not hold true for everyone but it was (still is, but getting better) difficult for me to be around children.
- Try to manage your discomfort. Miscarriage is very personal. We as society aren’t used to talking about it openly. It’s normal that you’ll be uncomfortable. Oriah Mountain Dreamer said it better than I could “I want to know if you can sit with pain, mine or your own, without moving to hide it, or fade it, or fix it.” It’s ok to be uncomfortable – your friend will be uncomfortable too. And the experience of sharing their pain might be intense, especially if you’re a very sensitive person. But it could make all the difference to them.
- Remember your “job”. You probably want to comfort your friend, make her/him feel better, happier. That’s very noble and they are lucky to have you. But remember, it’s not your job to fix it. This isn’t something that a few kind words will fix. It’s not your job to make them happy. They will likely feel happier for having talked with you, but probably not happy. It’s your job to listen. To be present. To be with them in their moment of pain. And trust me, that is enough. This is a wound that takes a long time to heal. Talking about it helps take the sting away, it helps suck some of the poison out. But like any wound healing takes time, and it leaves a scar.
A miscarriage is a death, and is often grieved like a death. The child may not have ever lived in the way that we usually think of it, but that child lived in their parents hearts and minds. That small spirit burns with an incredibly bright intensity, and the world seems dim when that light is gone.
If you are looking to comfort a friend after a miscarriage, thank you. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. Just do the best you can, and that will be enough.
**If anyone has anything to add please do – I’m by no means an expert.