“When you give birth, you do it with others. When you miscarry, you do it alone,” said writer and teacher Eileen Favorite. She knows from experience.
So how can you help someone you care about feel less alone after a miscarriage?
If you haven’t wondered yet, you probably will. As many as 10 to 25 percent of all pregnancies end in a miscarriage, usually in the first 13 weeks of the pregnancy. That’s why many people wait for the third month before telling anyone they’re pregnant. But miscarriages can happen later, too.
Just because miscarriage is common doesn’t make it minor. It’s a sad – sometimes overwhelming – time. About 10 percent of women are susceptible to depression after a miscarriage. Women who are childless, have inadequate social supports or who have a history of depression are at higher risk for depression.
Because of the sensitivities, we may feel awkward talking about miscarriage, but women are starting to open up about it. And that’s good for so many who might otherwise go through it alone.
Miscarriage means the loss of a child that the mother already loves and may have imagined watching grow. For many women, even the loss of an unwanted fetus is hard. Afterward, the hormones of pregnancy are still there, adding to emotions.
The father or partner can feel just as sad. They might also worry about the mental and physical health of the mother and not know how to help.
You can’t fix the loss of miscarriage. Don’t minimize it: it can be a very big loss no matter what the circumstances. But you can acknowledge and honor it. Listening can be more healing than talking. So make room to listen after you say these words:
I’m so sorry for your loss.
This is something anyone can say, whether you know the person well or not.
I know you must be hurting. I’m here to listen if you want to talk about it.
Acknowledge the pain and be willing to listen but don’t push.
Is there anything I can do?
Even better is to offer something specific. It’s easier for some people to say “yes” than to think of something they need.
It wasn’t your fault.
Many women worry that something they did caused the miscarriage but that’s almost never true.
You are strong. You will get through this, even though it’s so hard.
Reminding her that she has resources to get through hard things is good as long as it doesn’t make it seem easy—and as long as it doesn’t make it seem she should hide or deny her feelings.
I can’t imagine. What are you feeling right now?
Emotions will range from anger to despair. No emotion is wrong. And talking about it can help.
Use no words: just show up with dinner. Or take the siblings away for a fun outing.
She may not feel like doing everyday tasks, and food is comforting. Taking the kids can give her time to grieve in ways she can’t when they’re there.
Expectant mothers and women who plan to become pregnant can get helpful, accurate information about pregnancy from their health care provider — an invaluable partner to help ensure the health of baby, mother and father. It’s never too early to get professional guidance.
Writer Eileen Favorite’s essay On Fertility from The Butter is a touching exploration of trying to get pregnant and losing babies during pregnancy.