Sex & Relationships

What To Say To Someone Who's Had A Miscarriage

You don't want to minimize their loss or rush their grieving process.

How to support a friend who's had a miscarriage, without minimizing their grief.
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You and your bestie have been through all of life’s ups and downs together. They grieved with you when you lost your cat, and you celebrated with them when they found the love of their life. You’ve shared so much with each other over the years, and yet, you’ve been staring at your phone for the last 30 minutes trying to figure out what to say after learning they’ve had a miscarriage.

Miscarriages are more common than you might realize. According to a 2021 study published in The Lancet, a medical journal, an estimated 23 million miscarriages occur worldwide each year. One in 10 women have experienced a miscarriage, and one in 50 have experienced two. Despite these numbers, licensed therapist Jennifer Driscoll, LCSW, tells Bustle that many women experience “disenfranchised grief” after a miscarriage — meaning grief that’s minimized or unacknowledged by social norms. Even with high-profile women like Chrissy Teigen and Meghan Markle opening up about their own experiences with pregnancy loss, it’s still hard to know how to react when it happens to someone close to you.

“People and family members may avoid bringing up a miscarriage, assuming that doing so may only hurt the individual more,” Driscoll says. “Simply offering to be someone who they can speak to about the loss can be extremely impactful.”

While you want to acknowledge what happened, you don’t want to say something that diminishes what they’re going through or attempts to rush the grieving process. Sentiments like, “At least you were only two months along,” “This happened for a reason,” or “You can always try again” are examples of toxic positivity, according to Abby Dixon, reproductive and perinatal clinical mental health counselor. Despite being well-intended, statements like this may minimize your friend's feelings of grief over the loss.

So what can you say instead? Here are some therapist-approved sample texts to send your friend who’s had a miscarriage.

“I don’t want to assume what you might need right now. Is there anything I can do for you?”

Of course you want to support your friend after a miscarriage, but you don’t want to make them feel worse by saying the wrong thing either. For instance, Sue English, individual and family therapist, tells Bustle, “Trying to ‘relate’ to their pain by sharing your own struggles can be detrimental to their healing and your relationship.”

Instead of trying to put yourself in their shoes, just support them. Let them know that you don’t want to assume anything about what they’re feeling or what they might need. Then, ask if there’s anything you can do for them. If possible, be specific. For example, “Can I take care of dinner for you tonight?” or “Would you like me to walk your dog?” Offering to handle errands or other little things that need to be done is a kind way to show you’re there for them.

“Would it be OK if we talked about ways I could help you during this time?”

It’s common to go into problem-solving mode when someone is going through a hard time. If your friend is going through a major loss, of course you’ll want to find ways to help them get through it. As Kristin White, a board-certified health and wellness coach who specializes in maternal health and behavior change, tells Bustle, the best thing you can do is to simply listen and just be there for them. But, if you’re someone who gets restless over not doing anything, you can talk to your friend about what kind of support they need from you.

“Chances are, they will be open to advice or help,” White says. “But asking permission to do so first empowers them and lets them know you aren’t dismissing their feelings. Also, they may not be ready to move on or talk about anything. Grief comes in all forms and cannot be pushed, moved, or managed on another person's timeline or expectations.”

“I’m so sorry.”

One thing you can do for your friend is to understand that they’re truly grieving. “They had hopes and dreams, and were filled with love and excitement when that pregnancy test first turned positive,” Dixon says. “Sometimes, people who are grieving a loss of any kind just need to know that people are holding space for them.” Validating their pain with a simple, “I’m sorry” is the kindest thing you can do — it might be just the thing they need to hear in that moment.

“Just checking in. You up for doing something today?”

When someone goes through a miscarriage, the process can often take days, and in rare cases, weeks to complete. According to Dixon, some will opt for the D&C, the dilation and curettage procedure, which clears the uterus of tissue after a miscarriage to move towards closure more quickly. Others will choose to let their body pass the tissue on its own. “Either way, it can be a traumatic experience,” she says. It can also be very lonely. So, check in with your friend and offer some company. An out-of-the-house distraction might help take their mind off things, so you can suggest grabbing some food or taking a walk outside together.

“It’s OK to cry.”

We live in a society where people are applauded for staying strong in times of hardship. Comments like, “Everything happens for a reason,” or “You’re going to be OK,” are meant to help people look on the bright side so they can find the strength to move forward, but can come off as minimizing. As Illiona Okereke, certified grief counseling specialist, tells Bustle, “A miscarriage is a significant loss worthy of grief,” and it’s important to help your friend normalize the grieving period. Let them know it’s OK to cry, be angry, or question why this happened. “This is all normal during the grief process,” Okereke says.

"I wish I had the right words to say.”

When someone experiences loss, it can be tough to find the words to comfort them — you don’t want to say something overly generic and risk coming off impersonal. If you’re at a loss for words, it’s perfectly OK to just say that, according to Okereke. Let your friend know that you wish you had the right words to say, but that you’re also available to help in whatever way you can. “Depending on the closeness of your relationship, it is also helpful to be present because there is so much that your physical presence can say that your words cannot,” she says.

“Did you decide on a name?”

This one may be a little too uncomfortable for some to send, but according to Emily Pardy, LMFT, a licensed therapist who’s certified in perinatal mental health, it may be helpful. “People often think they will make their friend feel more sad if they bring up the topic, but the opposite is true,” Pardy says. Ask your friend if they called the baby anything or named them. You can then respectfully use the baby’s name whenever you talk to your friend about how they’re doing. “Every mother loves to hear her baby’s name, needs to talk about her experience, and wants to feel validated,” Pardy says. Using their chosen baby name during your conversations can help them with the grieving process.

“I can’t imagine how much this must hurt right now. If you need to talk, I’m here.”

When someone close to you is grieving, it’s important to say something that acknowledges their pain. As couples and family therapist Ana De La Cruz, LMFT, tells Bustle, any words of support are welcome. If you’re having trouble with what to say, try putting the focus on their feelings. For instance, “The loss of your son must feel like a deep cut in your heart,” or “I can’t imagine how painful this must be for you.” This lets your friend know that what they’re feeling is valid, and it leaves the door open for them to turn to you if they want to go deeper.

“Do you need some company? We don’t have to talk or do anything. I’m happy to just be there with you.”

Sometimes when someone experiences loss, the last thing they want to do is talk. Maybe they need time to process how they’re truly feeling. Being asked, “How are you?” every five seconds can make them feel more frustrated than anything else. At the same time, a miscarriage can make someone feel very alone. As licensed psychotherapist Skylar Ibarra, LCSW, tells Bustle, some people just need you to “sit with them in their pain.” Let your friend know that you want to be by their side, and you don’t even have to say anything — they’ll appreciate the gesture.

Sources

Jennifer Driscoll, LCSW, licensed therapist at Attentive Psychotherapy & Counseling Center

Sue English, individual and family therapist

Abby Dixon, reproductive and perinatal clinical mental health counselor

Illiona Okereke, certified grief counseling specialist

Emily Pardy, LMFT, licensed therapist, Founder of Ready Nest Counseling

Ana De La Cruz, LMFT, couples and family therapist

Skylar Ibarra, LCSW, licensed psychotherapist

Nicole Zangara, LCSW, therapist and author