An estimated 15-20% of all pregnancies end in miscarriage, which means 19 million women around the world have experienced a miscarriage. How you feel about your miscarriage matters. Whether you were devastated or relieved, heartbroken or happy—it is your experience.
A 2015 study on the Public Perceptions of Miscarriage, showed that 41% of women who’d miscarried felt like they did something wrong, 47% felt guilty, 41% felt alone, and 28% felt ashamed.
We want to take a moment to assure you of this: if you’ve had a miscarriage, it is not your fault. While the exact cause of miscarriage isn’t known, March of Dimes says it can be a chromosomal or gene issue—which is not in your control.
Maybe you’re thinking about your own miscarriage right now, and how you processed (and are still) processing it. Or maybe you’re wondering what you should say to a friend who just had a miscarriage. Before we begin, know this: nothing you say will take away the loss, but you can help ease the pain and stress by reaching out to her and just letting her know you care.
Here are a couple ways to support women who’ve had a miscarriage:
Tip #1 Remove the stigma.
Society hasn’t talked about miscarriage until recently. No one wanted to upset a grieving woman, so instead of offering comfort and support we stayed silent. Thankfully, this is changing. We are starting to remove the stigma around miscarriages.
“Most people don’t discuss miscarriages because you worry your problems will distance you or reflect upon you—as if you’re defective or did something to cause this. In today’s open and connected world, discussing these issues doesn’t distance us; it brings us together. It creates understanding and tolerance, and it gives us hope,” said pediatrician and philanthropist Priscilla Chan, and her husband, Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook.
Processing a miscarriage can be difficult because there are many emotional and physical complexities that are unique to each woman. Let’s help remove the stigma by speaking up and reaching out to those experiencing miscarriages.
Tip #2 Reach out and check-in.
I know it can be scary—you don’t want to say the wrong thing, you don’t want to upset her. But saying nothing can be worse. Check-in with her by sending a text, calling, sending flowers, bringing over a meal, asking her to coffee, etc. She may not respond to you but just let her know you care.
Tip #3 Say something simple and don’t tell her how she’s feeling.
The best way to follow this is just by saying something short like, “I’m sorry for your loss. I’m here for you.” (See tip #5 for more examples of what to say.)
“If we keep it simple, I think we convey a greater sense of empathy. We leave more room for authentic connection than if we force our own feelings or beliefs on a friend,” Dr. Jessica Zucker, clinical psychologist specializing in women’s reproductive and maternal mental health, told Motherly. Dr. Zucker speaks from experience, because she had a miscarriage at 16-weeks pregnant.
Carrie Underwood revealed to CBS Sunday Morning that she suffered three miscarriages in a row and went through mixed emotions—including anger. “I have this amazing life. Like, really, what can I complain about? I can’t. I have an incredible husband, incredible friends, an incredible job, an incredible kid. Can I be mad? No…but I got mad,” said the 35-year-old singer.
Tip #4 Be respectful.
It’s tempting to share your own miscarriage experience, or a close friend or family member’s experience, but try not to share. Instead, allow her to express how she is feeling. You can ask, “Would you like me to share my experience?”
To ask and respond appropriately is to be respectful. Respect her and respect her experience. Also, respect her right to grieve or process privately. You can offer support and be understanding but let her choose what helps her the most.
“It kind of shook us both and took us into a place that was really dark and difficult. When that happened… I wasn’t able to even talk to anybody about it. That was not easy,” said singer and actress, Mariah Carey.
Tip #5 Be sensitive.
Even with the best intentions, we can say something thoughtless. Here’s a list of what not to say to a woman who has experienced a miscarriage:
- I know exactly how you are feeling.
- Everything happens for a reason. (Avoid clichés like this at all cost)
- I had one, it’s not a big deal.
- At least ________.
(Starting a sentence like this makes it seem like you are trivializing their experience.)
Instead of using the phrases above, just try to be simple and supportive. Some good examples of what to say are:
Remember you are not alone. Be gentle with yourself.
I’m thinking of you.
Your feelings are completely valid.
It is not your fault.
I’m here for you.
In the end, women just want to know they are loved and that someone is checking in on them and actively caring. “Women want to hear basic, simple loving words,” Dr. Zucker said.
Tip #6 Remember the partner.
Though the woman physically experiences the miscarriage, her partner can emotionally experience it with her. We often forget to check-in on her partner, who is most likely trying to remain strong for her.Ask how they are feeling, processing and experiencing the miscarriage. This will not only help the partner, but also help remove stress from the relationship of the couple if they can both express their grief.
Why this matters
We all handle life experiences differently. To one woman, miscarriage may have been a momentary disappointment. But to another woman, this miscarriage could be completely heartbreaking as she was hoping, wishing and praying for this baby. Bottom line: be there for her and show that you care no matter how she feels.
“Miscarriage isn’t going anywhere,” Dr. Zucker said. “Anyone who endeavors to create a family opens themselves up to potential pregnancy loss. We really need to soften up the stigma and the shame and be able to embrace it in a new way.”