A friend just reached out to tell you that they've had a miscarriage.
What do you say? How do you react? What can you do to help?
How can you support your friend through this tragic time in their life?
Above all, it's important to acknowledge that although you may not understand the pain they're feeling or the turmoil they're experiencing, you're there for them.
What is the difference between stillbirth and miscarriage?
A miscarriage is pregnancy loss before 20 weeks, whereas stillbirth is the loss of a pregnancy after 20 weeks, either before or during labor.
Miscarriages affect 1 in 10 pregnancies. They're sadly quite common and sometimes happen before a person even knows they're pregnant.
Stillbirths aren't as common, affecting around 1 in 600 pregnancies, but they're heartbreaking when they happen. The reason for stillbirth is still not fully understood but it's thought to be connected to pregnancy complications and fetal defects.
Recognise their loss
Those who experience a miscarriage or stillbirth may feel the following:
Lonely and isolated
Scared and uncertain of the future
Frustrated and angry
Failure and guilt
Upset with themselves
Stressed and overwhelmed
Envious of others
The act of acknowledging someone's loss alone will help that person feel recognized in their grief.
It's important that your friend is allowed to grieve their loss, no matter how early it happens.
Be thoughtful with your words
When a friend experiences the loss of a pregnancy, you might feel that you don't know what the right thing to say is or what your friend wants to hear.
Avoid unsolicited advice that is opinionated and insensitive such as:
"It's okay, you can always have another baby."
"Everything happens for a reason."
"Don't worry, you'll feel better soon."
"It's for the best. Maybe something was wrong with the baby."
"Don't be sad."
Choose your words carefully. Try rephrasing, and say things like:
"It's never easy losing a baby. Do you want to talk about how you feel?"
"I'm so sorry you're going through this."
"I'm always here for you."
"Would you like me to stay with you for a while?"
"Do you want to talk about your baby?"
Listen and support them
It's important to follow your friend's lead. Some people may not want to receive advice or words of encouragement and may just want you to listen and be there for them.
It's important to allow your friend to feel their feelings and grieve for the loss of their baby in their own way.
Some ways you could support your friend:
Make or order dinner for them
Offer to do their grocery shopping or errands
Send them flowers or a small gift to cheer them up
Deliver a coffee, smoothie, or treat
Spend quality time with them and watch a movie together
Real life scenario
Sam is 8 weeks pregnant and is so excited to share her news with her family! Everyone is so pleased and happy for her.
Unfortunately, at 9 weeks pregnant, she has a miscarriage. Her family reacts by telling her she shouldn't have told people her news yet until it was "safe" to do so.
There's no "right time" to tell your pregnancy news, but health professionals advise announcing it after 12 weeks because the risk of miscarriage decreases after this time.
Sam isn't only upset about the miscarriage but also about her family's reaction.
What could you do to support Sam?
A. Tell Sam her family is unhelpful and not supporting her during this difficult time in her life. She should ignore them and focus on the positives.
B. Tell Sam you understand why she told everyone her news as she was so excited but next time it's perhaps best to wait until after 12 weeks.
C. Tell Sam it was her choice to announce her news and nobody should make her feel guilty for telling others. Acknowledge the hurt she has experienced from her family.
D. Tell Sam that you're so sorry and that she can always get pregnant again.
What could you do to support Sam?
Having a miscarriage or stillbirth is a difficult reality to face. It can be a devastating and isolating experience for both parents. Being a supportive and caring friend is important during these times.