To the friends and family of those who've experienced pregnancy loss, thank you. Thank you for being the listening ear, the shoulder to cry on, the voice of encouragement, or the quiet support. Talking about miscarriage can be uncomfortable. You may not always know what to say, or how to help, and that's okay; we don't always know what we need. Please don't let that keep you from continuing to reach out. Below are some tips and information to consider when approaching your grieving loved ones. However, grief is a process and everyone is different; if you're not sure if what you're doing or saying is okay, the best thing to do is ask.
Physically, a miscarriage does not happen all at once. Often there are tests and procedures involved over several days or weeks, even after a pregnancy is deemed non-viable. During this period, a woman is subjected to constant reminders that her pregnancy did not progress, which can be physically and psychologically traumatic. It also takes time for all the pregnancy hormones to leave a woman's body after a miscarriage which can magnify the emotions she's experiencing.
Every pregnancy is different, and so is every miscarriage. A woman may have very different reactions to different losses depending on the physical nature of the pregnancy, or her current personal circumstances. There is no "right" way to behave or feel after a miscarriage. Treat each loss as a new opportunity to listen, learn, and be compassionate.
The magnitude of sadness after a miscarriage may not make sense to you, particularly if the loss was early. But a woman begins to feel different both physically and emotionally from the moment she learns she's pregnant. Immediately, she begins shifting her perception of herself and imagining a new future. So, even though the pregnancy itself may have been short, the emotional loss can be profound.
After a miscarriage, and particularly after multiple miscarriages, it can be hard to be outwardly enthusiastic or hopeful about another pregnancy. Please don't take this to mean that a woman is not excited; but her excitement may come with some additional baggage. Sometimes she may need you to help hold her hope.
There are many ways to build a family; but something that seems natural for you might not be for someone else. For a variety of personal, religious, financial, or medical reasons people may choose, or choose not to pursue different options. Please be respectful of individual choices. Ask what their plans are, rather than making assumptions.
Grieving takes time and it is not linear process. Feelings of sadness, anger, apathy, guilt and isolation are common after a miscarriage, and emotions can change from day to day or hour to hour. There is also no set timetable for grief. Some women may recover quickly, while others need more time. And even after a long time, certain events or circumstances may re-trigger strong emotions. Please remember that all of this is normal. The most helpful thing you can do is accept your loved one's emotions without trying to change them.
Many if not most women will carry the loss of their pregnancies with them for the rest of their life. Having a child does not negate the pain of loss or erase traumatic memories. Some women will want to continue to recognize their unborn children in addition to their living child(ren).
Sometimes a person is too sad or exhausted to ask for help, but you can offer it. Here are a few suggestions for how you can help support your grieving loved one:
It's National Infertility Awareness Week (NIAW) and we're raising awareness for the 1-2% of couples for who experience recurrent pregnancy loss.
Our goal is to raise $5,000 during NIAW to support our research grant program and we'd love your help.