Supporting someone following miscarriage
Supporting a friend or loved one through a miscarriage can be hard, often because we don’t know what to say or how best to support them. Below are some helpful tips for partners, family and friends as well as workplaces.
Information for partners
For partners, the experience of a miscarriage can be devastating. Many describe feeling the need to be there and provide support to their partner, and, in doing so, putting their own feelings of grief on hold.
Your partner may experience a range of emotions on discovering that she is having a miscarriage or has lost the baby. These may include:
- Shock, disbelief
- Uncontrollable crying
- Feelings that this is so unfair – questioning why me? Why us?
- Extreme sadness and/or symptoms of depression
It can be so hard to know what to do and how to support your partner at this time.
The number one thing she will need right now is for you to be there with her. Nothing you can do or say can fix the situation (although you may have a strong urge to want to make it better). Rather try to just hold her, let her know you are there for her, and reassure her that you will work through this together.
Understand that this may take time
Everyone’s reactions and experience of grief can be different. Some women may cry uncontrollably, whilst others may try to move forward with their lives. There is no right or wrong way to grieve.
It’s important to try and be patient and allow for the grieving process to take place in its own time and at its own pace. Sometimes you may both feel like you are making progress, but then seeing someone pregnant or with a new baby can take you back. This is all part of the grieving process, so try to be patient with yourself and each other.
Talk about it when you are ready
Reading or talking about your experience with others who have experienced a loss can provide you with some reassurance that you are not alone.
Individuals and couples who have experienced a miscarriage often talk about how it is only when they went through the experience themselves, that they became aware of just how common miscarriage is. Sharing experiences can also bring hope to you both as you learn of others who have gone on to have a family or other children following a miscarriage. This can bring feelings of some hope and optimism for you both amidst the pain you may be currently experiencing.
Consider seeking support from others who have been there
There are dedicated support networks in place to help provide you with support. This includes peer support programs and platforms to allow you to both connect with other who have been through a similar experience, and learn what and how they coped. You can find support for miscarriage on the e-COPE directory via the search feature below.
When to seek further professional help
Grieving is a natural process that takes time – and the time it takes can vary depending on the individual and the situation. If after a few weeks you or your partner are finding it difficult to accept the loss and find that it is causing you or your partner ongoing distress which is impacting on your ability to cope form day to day, it may be helpful to speak with a professional counsellor. You can find specialist professionals and services for grief an loss by searching in the e-COPE Directory below.
Information for family, friends and colleagues
When we discover that someone close to us or a colleague has experienced a miscarriage, it can often be difficult to know what to say, and what not to say.
For someone who has not experienced this themselves, there may be a tendency to underestimate the possible impact of grief and distress that the person or couple may experience. It’s important to remember that for the expectant parents, this was their baby, and they’re likely to have already developed hopes, ideal and plans. As a result many grieving parents describe feeling heartbroken.
There is a lifetime of memories already wrapped up in that belly. ~Isabelle Oderberg.
What to say
Whether it be to a friend, family member or a colleague at work, the first and most appropriate thing to do is acknowledge the person’s loss.
This can simply be said with the words ‘I am so sorry for your loss’.
Saying these simple words signifies to the person that you recognise that that have experienced a loss, which is likely to leave them feeling sadness and grief. Too often people feel uncomfortable, and, as they don’t know what to say, will fail to acknowledge what has happened. This can leave the individual or couple feeling even more alone in their experience.
Don’t downplay the experience
Sometimes it can feel awkward and we may unconsciously minimise the event.
Saying things like ‘It happened for a reason’ or ‘It’s probably for the best’ or ‘Focus on what you have’ is likely to come across as being insensitive and even judgmental. You cannot make it better so it’s best to simply acknowledge the person’s loss, and not try to move things on or minimise their experience.
What to do next
It can be helpful to ask the person if they would like to talk about it – and let them know you are there to listen. Again just being listened to, will help the person feel understood and acknowledged in their grief.
Reassure the person that you understand that this can be a difficult time, and that you are there for them should they need to talk about it. Also reassure them that there are support services available for them. If you are in a workplace setting, it can be helpful to remind them of any EAP services that may be available to them, should they need to speak to someone.
If you are pregnant
If you are pregnant, letting the person know in advance of any announcements or celebrations is a sensitive way to give them the space and opportunity to privately learn of your pregnancy, and then make the decision whether they want to be present and prepare themselves. Try to be mindful that it may be difficult for the person to be there and it is likely that this will be triggering and bring feelings of grief and sadness. Don’t take it personally if the person avoids you as they come to terms with their own grief and loss, but rather let them know that you understand it may be difficult for them and that there is no obligation.
Reassure them that help is available
Knowing that there are dedicated services to support individuals and couples going through the loss of a baby can be very helpful. It reassures them that others have been through a similar experience, and that they are not alone.