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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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