Know What To Do – And What Not To Do – At This Time Of Tremendous Loss

Moms have a deep bond with one another.  We can empathize with each other about the ups-and-downs of parenting — the struggles we face raising our kids, working on our marriages, and trying to take care of ourselves.

Even when your child is throwing a tantrum at the grocery store and you are about to burst into tears, the understanding smile of another mom can give you enough strength to get through.

But there is one situation that not all mothers understand.  It is perhaps the worst thing a woman can experience, and unless you’ve been through it yourself, you may not know what to do or say to comfort a grieving mother.

One in four women will lose a baby to miscarriage, and often what others say – or don’t say – in an attempt at comfort can have an incredible impact on someone who has suffered this terrible loss.

The Guardian reported:

You would think we’d be better at talking to women who have lost a baby. But if you’ve experienced miscarriage – or are close to someone who has – you’ll know how clumsy people can be with their words.

Perhaps it’s because it can be uncomfortable discussing “female” things such as bleeding and cramps. Or maybe it’s because people don’t associate early miscarriage (generally defined as a loss that occurs before the 20th week of pregnancy) with a “real” baby. Whatever the reason, when you experience miscarriage you quickly discover that even the nicest people can say the most insensitive things.

The Miscarriage Association is one support group that helps women cope with this incomprehensible loss.  Their “Simply Say” campaign was started to help teach the dos and dont’s of how to comfort parents who have lost a baby due to miscarriage.

The campaign has brought tremendous comfort to women just looking for a shoulder, but are also shocking in terms of some of the insensitive comments that people think are appropriate to say to a grieving mom.

The Guardian reported on some of the common – and harmful – comments that one can say to someone who has miscarried:

“I don’t want to hear any comment that starts with the words ‘at least,'” a woman named Amy shared. “‘At least you are young,’ ‘At least you can conceive,’ or, for me the worst one, ‘At least it wasn’t a real baby yet.’

“At least you know you can get pregnant… There was probably something wrong with the baby… Just think of all the fun you’ll have trying again…At least you’ve already got a child.”

“All I wanted was for someone to give me a hug and acknowledge what had happened.”

Not only are these comments borne of ignorance and hurtful to those who need support, they may also make the grieving mom feel as if she is somehow lacking by not being able to carry her child to term.

Miscarriage can have long-lasting consequences, including long-term anxiety and depression, decreased self-esteem, and irrational fears for the safety of other loved ones.

Every child is a precious gift, and a baby who is lost was already loved and wanted by their mother.  Just because they may have other children, or may be able to conceive again, does not diminish the importance of the life and loss of that particular child.

This campaign, and others like it around the world, are cathartic for moms who desperately want someone to understand their feelings.  They also provide guidance for how to properly support a friend or loved one who has had a miscarriage.

While it may be difficult to find the right words of comfort, the worst thing to do is stay away or say nothing at all.  During this time, a grieving mom may want nothing more than a loving presence and a shoulder to cry on.  You can’t fix the situation, but you can make a difference to someone in a dark and lonely place.

The Guardian continued with some positive ways you can help:

Picking up the phone or [going] to their home – even when you don’t know what to say – takes guts, but is better than doing nothing at all. Offering to cook, babysit, run errands – or any other practical help – can be enough to show you care.

Acknowledge the loss by asking when the baby was due to be born. If she doesn’t want to share she’ll say so. But steer clear of meaningless platitudes such as “everything happens for a reason” or “you can try again” (she can’t – that baby is gone forever – and that was the baby she wanted). Anything that starts with “at least” will sound like you’re trying to minimize the loss – so don’t go there.

Simply saying, “I am here for you.  What can I do?” may be the best approach.  And remember, dads also suffer the loss of a child following a miscarriage.  They may feel just as lost, but may not show their feelings so they can help their spouse through the physical and emotional trauma they are experiencing.  Offering support to both parents can help with healing, simply by showing you care.

Always keep in mind that a mom who miscarries has lost a child, and with them, all the hopes and dreams they had been thinking of during the pregnancy.  Trying to “comfort” grieving parents with superficial platitudes – or worse, insensitive comments that can come off as cruel –will only make a woman fall deeper into feelings of loneliness and isolation as she copes with her loss.

Have you suffered a miscarriage, only to be faced with insensitive comments?  What advice do you have for someone looking to comfort a mom who is going through this experience?  Leave us your thoughts in the comments.