I feel so alone in this.
Why do I feel guilty for grieving for so long?
Shouldn’t I already be ‘over’ this?
Will perfectly pregnant bellies always bring up this pang and ache in my heart?
 Is there something wrong with me?
Will I ever get to be a mom?

These were just a few of the thoughts and questions that I wrestled with throughout the process of my missed miscarriage. I had no idea what a missed miscarriage was until the nurse told me that had happened with me — the baby had stopped growing, but my body still thought it was pregnant. It would then take anywhere from one to two and half weeks until I would actually miscarry. As if that weren’t awkward and confusing enough, my husband and I were traversing the challenges of telling the news to our family and friends, while also learning how to receive their responses, both good and otherwise.

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As difficult as it is for a woman to experience a miscarriage, it can be just as challenging for those around her during that time. The reality is that not everyone knows what to say to someone who’s going through one. Not everyone has experienced it, and it’s not guaranteed that the ones who have will know the right thing to say in the moment.

During those months of going through unchartered territory and experiencing what seemed like every emotion, I felt like I heard everything under the sun. Some of the responses that I received spoke to my heart and breathed life into an otherwise bleak situation. Others, unfortunately, intensified the pain (even though that was obviously not the messenger’s intent).

Miscarriages are very private experiences; therefore, they have the potential of being sensitive and elusive waters to navigate. I realize that each woman will cope in her own way, so please know that the suggestions below only stem from my own experience. If you find yourself wondering how to best support someone going through a similar situation, here are a few things that I wish others had known when  first approaching me:

Avoid
Saying too much. The situation is already overwhelming enough as it is. There’s little mental or emotional space for us to receive and process the wordiness that often stems from a person feeling the pressure of having to say something and then grasping for anything.

  • Do: Say nothing. Sometimes saying nothing speaks volumes. Just be present with us, and give us space to process however we need to. When we are ready and want to talk, we’ll initiate the conversation.

Avoid
Looking up cliché sympathy quotes or sayings in hopes that they’ll give us comfort. We know that your intentions are good, but these can seem somewhat superficial and trivial as we’re going through a raw and heavy time.

  • Do: Be genuine. Offer an “I’m so sorry. I don’t know what to say.” The honesty there is refreshing. It frees you up from having to make up an elaborate sympathy speech—potentially setting you up for a really awkward interaction. We appreciate that you are there for us even if you don’t know what to say. Heck, half the time we don’t know what to say, and we’re the ones going through it.

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Avoid
Showing up unannounced—even if it’s to bring meals. A lot of the time, we just want to be alone. It feels a bit overwhelming to be around others, so please don’t be offended. We are grateful for you, but we also need some space.

  • Do: Let us know that you’re there for us; ask what we’re in need of. Let that be an opportunity for us to let you know if we’re ready for visitors and if we need anything—like a meal or a hug. When we’re ready, we’ll appreciate your company more than you’ll know.

Avoid
Asking us if we’re “trying” again. Our bodies have to go through some recovery time before they can become pregnant again. This can be a sensitive subject, so better to be safe than sorry—just steer clear, and give it some time.

  • Do: Ask us how we’re doing. This is not intrusive or assuming. This gives us the freedom to be as brief or as thorough as we’d like.

Going through a miscarriage is one thing, but there’s also the reality of balancing the memories and the uncertainties of the future. There are things that will trigger difficult reminders of the miscarriage and kick up the dust of former pains, but through the incredible support of family, friends, and a faith community, one can be continually reminded of the hope that still exists.

The mysterious stigma and silent shame of a miscarriage can vanish in light of the power of sharing. When we open up with our story and receive the care and concern of others, it creates opportunity to experience both restoration and a renewed perspective.

Images via Kathryn McCrary

6 comments

  1. Having just experienced a miscarriage in January this hit straight to my heart. I never realized until going through a miscarriage how isolating it actually is. I feel so bad bringing it up to anyone outside of family for fear of their reactions and that I don’t want to be a martyr. It’s not until you experience one that you realize how many women around you have been impacted and that fact alone gave me hope. I at least I know I’m not alone in my feelings.

  2. Thank you, Liz, and Darling Magazine, for touching on this subject in such a gentle way. As someone who recently experienced my own miscarriage, I was saddened by how little those around me knew how to be there for me when I needed them the most. I think a lot of people assumed that if I didn’t bring it up, then I was doing fine, when in reality, it felt like everyone else had moved on and forgotten what was still very real and painful for me. I can’t agree more with your suggestion to simply ask, “How are you?” This conveys that you haven’t forgotten what we are going through, and lets us know that it’s safe for us to tell you how we’re feeling. If it weren’t for my one or two friends who continued to ask me this for the months following the miscarriage, it would have made it a lot more lonely and difficult to go through.

    1. Hi Kate,

      Thanks so much for sharing; i’m so sorry for your loss. I completely understand what you mean. I think because there’s that feeling that others have moved on–it makes you feel like you should have been ‘over’ it b/c they seemingly were. I learned that it’s not that they’re over it but that they don’t know how to check in with you. I can’t begin to express how much those “how are you” asking friends meant to me during that time. I’m so glad you had those to walk along side you <3

  3. So proud of you Liz. Your writing, your vulnerability; your perspective is so needed. Thank you to Darling for carrying this story, I know many woman will be touched by it.

  4. This is so well expressed. Thank you Liz for sharing such a raw chapter with us and giving readers a practical look on how to support a loved one. Thank you for being so brave.

  5. Oh, sweet Liz… I am so sorry. But I want to thank you for opening up about this… and thank you to Darling magazine for sharing this. So many women deal with this, and feel so alone, because it IS so difficult to talk about. The most common response I have heard is “I never realized how many women go through this until it happened to me”… and I know from experience feeling helpless in regards to supporting those who are going through such a private and painful time. Thank you again. Hug to you, and I hope to see you next time I return to CA.

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