Wednesday, March 28, 2012

what to do when . . . someone you know miscarries

"evening light" from Creature Comforts' photostream on Flickr
I miscarried five years ago in January of 2007 (at 10.5 weeks).   Chances are, you or someone you know has had the painful experience of miscarriage as well.  The doctor I saw after I miscarried gave me a statistic similar to this one from the American Pregnancy Association, "anywhere from 10-25% of all clinically recognized pregnancies will end in miscarriage."  I believe he told me this in an effort to comfort me, saying that it is not at all uncommon and that there was nothing I could have done to prevent it.

But with as "common" as miscarriages are (common in that--sadly--they do happen to people often), there is nothing common about the pain you feel while experiencing it.  And while you are hurting, hearing that it is "common" doesn't really help.

But there are some things that do.  I will share with you what I found comforting (in this post and a few to follow) and hopefully help you as you try to care for someone going through a similar situation.

Over the years I have been asked by close friends and family if I had any advice for them as they were trying to be sensitive to a friend who had just miscarried.  To start off, I think it's helpful to understand that some people may seem to treat your friend's miscarriage as a statistic.  None of my friends did this, but it did seem like that was how the doctors viewed it.  If you think about it, they see it a lot and it is not shocking to them at all.  But for the woman experiencing the miscarriage, it can be very shocking going from the excitement and hope over the news of a baby to the grief  and despair over having lost it . . . all within a fairly short time.  Keep in mind that your friend may be getting this perspective from her doctor or possibly others, and that it is very alienating because it seems they are not understanding her hurt or treating the miscarriage as the loss that it is.

Also, a good thing to keep in mind is that your friend is specifically grieving the loss of the baby she carried.  Maybe at some point there will be doubts or fears as to whether or not she will have other babies, but realize that, more than anything, what saddens her right now is that she lost this baby.  Your grieving with her over this one pregnancy loss will mean more to her than trying to encourage her that she will surely get pregnant again someday.  I think it's just helpful to know what things are encouraging and what things aren't as encouraging, even though we mean well.

Similarly, if she already has children, they will most definitely be a source of comfort (already having Caroline was the greatest comfort to me), but don't feel like you need to point that out to her.  While a  statement like, "At least you have Caroline," is meant to convey a profound blessing, it deflects the attention away from the grief over losing this child and may seem to minimize it.  While no one said these exact words to me, I do know from experience that we may tend to say things like this because we want so badly to offer some comfort in the situation and our minds go to what seems to us like the most obvious of comforting words, "At least you have kids."

While I think these suggestions are all good to consider, don't worry too much about saying just the right thing.  In fact,  I think the most helpful thing to realize is that you do not need to be the source of comfort with your words, nor do you have to have any answers.  Just reaching out when you hear the news means so much.  Don't try too hard--just be honest.  It's perfectly fine to say, "I am so, so sorry . . . I don't even know what to say," or, "I am so sad to hear about the baby . . . I don't know what to say--I just want you to know I care."  Then maybe just follow that up by telling her how much she has been on your mind and ask her how she is feeling.  Listen if she wants to talk.  Ask her questions to understand where she is coming from.  Informed, caring listening is one of the most helpful things there is.

There is more to say on this topic, but I just wanted to start with an overview of sorts.  I hope it offers a helpful perspective.  If you have been through this and want to share your thoughts, please feel free to email me or leave a comment here.  What advice would you have for someone who wants to support a friend dealing with miscarriage?

(See some more practical suggestions in part 2 of this post right here . . . )

8 comments:

  1. Thanks for sharing that Amber. I've never had a miscarriage but it's shocking how many of friends have, often multiple miscarriages. I never know what to say and it's good to hear I don't need to say much.

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    1. You are welcome, Jennifer. :) I am glad it was helpful. Listening and asking sensitive questions/just showing you care is the most meaningful thing!

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  2. Thanks for tackling this topic, Amber! I really feel there is such a ministry to be had in this area as miscarriage can be so isolating and confusing spiritually. I appreciate your bravery to talk about a subject that can seem uncomfortable for some. I was so blessed to have had such a *thoughtful* cousin call me and let me talk through some of my emotions after my miscarriage. Thank you for being a Proverbs 31 woman in my life!

    Proverbs 31:26 She opens her mouth with wisdom, And on her tongue is the law of kindness.

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    1. Oh, Moll, that is very sweet of you. I wish I had done more! I am always here to talk. :) xo

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  3. Thank you for posting, Amber. I can't remember what I said to you when you told me, but I wish I'd had something like this as a guide. What a wonderful post:)

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    1. You were very sympathetic, Gina. I remember unexpectedly crying when I told you, even though I thought I already had a handle on my emotions. You were super sweet and it was good to talk to you about it. Still grateful for that. :)

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  4. Thanks for sharing & tackling such an important topic.

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    1. You are welcome, Shanda. Hugs to you. ♥

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blog comments are thoughtful . . . :)

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