So far, I have not had a miscarriage or stillbirth, so I [thankfully] don’t have any personal experience with this. But I’ve heard some doozies of what other people have said to women who have lost babies. I’m sure others can add to this list:
- “It was meant to be.” Yeah, okay, even if so — HOW DOES THAT HELP??
- “You can always try again.” But she can never have this baby. Or, maybe she can’t just try again. What about that?
- “It wasn’t really a baby.” Perhaps said with an early miscarriage; perhaps said about an ectopic pregnancy; perhaps said about a baby that was lost due to genetic problems. But even if said about a “blighted ovum” pregnancy… IT STILL HURTS. The pregnancy, the baby, was very real to her, even if only in imagination and anticipation. That loss is not diminished by thinking or knowing that there was a problem with the baby, nor by there not actually being a baby. Perhaps the hurt may even be made worse by this kind of statement, if the woman begins to feel bad for feeling grief over this very real sadness that others minimize!
- “Well, at least you’re okay.” Maybe she’s not “okay.” Maybe she’s “okay” physically, but tormented mentally and emotionally. Did you ever ask her if she is “okay” or did you just assume it?
- “It was just a miscarriage. It happens all the time. Get over it, already!” I can’t even think of a comment after this, because I just want to punch somebody in the face, and I’m not usually given to violence.
- “Shouldn’t you be over this by now?” A milder variation of the above statement. Everyone grieves differently. Some people need more time and space than others.
- “At least it was early, before you really got attached to it.” Ever hear of the process of pregnancy — fertilized egg burrows into the uterine lining, part of that becomes the placenta, the rest becomes the baby, joined by the umbilical cord — by definition it is an attachment! Again, why assume that the mother was not attached to her baby? Many women plan pregnancies even months in advance, so perhaps have been “attached” to the idea of a baby for longer than some women are even pregnant, and then lose not just the baby and those few weeks and months of pregnancy, but lose all those months of anticipation and hope as well!
- “God had a reason for this.” I will say that I agree with this statement, but not with the timing. It may help some people to hear this, but quite honestly when it was said after I lost my father in a car wreck I wanted to smack the speaker. Not because I didn’t believe it, but because it just plain hurt, and hearing this did not help.
- “This is because you…” or “If only you hadn’t…” Even if correct, it’s probably not the right time, and you’re probably not the right person to say it. Wait until a better moment, and also think before you speak. Think first of how accurate your statement likely is (because you know one glass of wine is probably not going to cause a miscarriage), and secondly, if your statement is correct (“shooting up with cocaine was a dumb idea while pregnant”), make sure the person can hear you and also make sure that the person hasn’t already come to that conclusion on her own. Because if you tell her that she caused her miscarriage when she already knows it, you’ll be rubbing salt in her wound. Now, if you lovingly say that and keep her from future miscarriage and pain… then that may be okay, if said in the right way, at the right time, and with the right spirit.
- Any comment about somebody you know or heard of having an abortion, or anything you read about somebody abusing a child. This also applies to women who are struggling with fertility. I still remember clearly one blog I read, when I first started reading blogs a year and a half ago, written by some L&D nurse who had to take care of some teenager having her second child (or perhaps after-care for a second abortion), when the nurse herself couldn’t get pregnant. It was all she could do to maintain a minimum of care and good attitude, because she really just wanted to throttle the girl, because this girl was throwing away that which the nurse desperately wanted and couldn’t have.
What others can you think of to add to the list?
What can you think of that would be helpful to say? The only thing I can think of is, “I’m so sorry for your loss. I’ll be praying for you.” Perhaps also, “What can I do to help?” or “Can I make supper for you tonight/tomorrow?” or “If you need to talk, I’m here.”