Since I’m the local expert, it’s a question I get asked semi-frequently. What do you say? How do you act? What do you do? If you’ve never experienced a miscarriage, it can be hard to know what to do and even harder to know what not to do for your friends. Here are some suggestions. Every woman is different, so be sure to think of your friend’s personality, but here’s what worked and didn’t work for me.
1. What do I say?
This is hard because there’s not much you can say without treading on dangerous ground. Acknowledge her pain and affirm that you are there for her. Simple works best. “I’m so sorry. I love you and I’m here for you.” or “That is rough. I don’t know what to say, but you can always talk to me” are good ones.
Never try to explain it away. Knowing that someone has gone through a miscarriage can make YOU uncomfortable and to ease that discomfort it can be tempting to say things like “everything happens for a reason” or “God has a plan.” Frankly, these sayings can make a bad situation worse. What could be the reasons? I’d be a bad parent? The child would have been sick? I’m not good enough? It’s best not to let her go down that path. “Maybe you weren’t ready” was the worst one I received. I’m sure the person who said it meant no malice, but when crack whores are having babies every day, I had a hard time coping with the sentiment that perhaps I was not ready.
And finally, don’t try to minimize. No “at least”s. There really isn’t much of a silver lining with miscarriage, and if there is, let HER find it (for me it was, “at least I can go on the rides at Disneyland.” I would have much rather have been pregnant, but it was something I could tell myself). Pointing out that “at least” she can drink or “at least” she doesn’t have morning sickness is obnoxious. ESPECIALLY if the person saying it is pregnant. Check your privilege. “At least you know you can get pregnant” is also not a good consolation as there are many fertility problems related to miscarriage that are as permanent and as devastating as straight inability to conceive. Along with not minimizing, don’t get into competitive grief. It’s just not helpful to hear that so and so had a stillborn or you’ve had even more miscarriages. Now is not the time. It is also minimizing to hear “you’ll have a baby someday” or “you can just adopt.” Not all stories have a happy ending. You really, really can’t predict whether this is true, and it’s not helpful to hear.
2. What do I do?
Fortunately, there are a lot of things you can do for your friend. First and foremost, keep being their friend. Keep inviting them to do things with you, but give them an out. “If you’re feeling up to it on Friday, let’s go see a [totally benign, non-pregnancy or kid related] movie.” Keep calling them, sending them facebook messages, and checking in on them. You don’t have to mention the miscarriage specifically. “Hey, I’m thinking about you. Here is a hilarious you-tube video” would have worked wonders for me.
3. Should I give my friend space?
That depends. Has she asked for space? Does she know how to access you again when she needs you? I think some of my loved ones thought I needed space but they never told me explicitly that that is what they were doing. I never had a chance to object and say “No! Don’t leave me here by myself! I’m drowning and I want company!” Space felt a lot like abandonment. And though I’m pretty strong and good at asking for what I need NORMALLY, I was not feeling normal after my miscarriages and did not know how to get what I needed. Why didn’t I reach out to my friends? Because I seriously thought they didn’t love me. I know that’s not true, but it was my mindset at the time. Like I said, not normal.
It gets trickier if you have babies or are pregnant and don’t want to rub your glorious fertility in your friend’s face. Kudos for thinking of it. But don’t necessarily assume she won’t want to be around you, your babies, or your cute pregnant self. Here’s where you give her a tactful out but keep being her friend like you always were. “I’m taking the kids to the pool, you can join us if you’re up to it” or “I’m having a baby shower on Saturday. I know that might be rough right now, so if you’re not feeling it, let’s just hang out later.”
And mean what you say. If you say you want to hang out later, ask her another time, later. If she says she needs space. Give her space, but follow up in an appropriate time OR….
4. Give gifts
My friends who lived far away were AWESOME at giving thoughtful gifts. Gifts were a tangible reminder that my friends really DO love me. And I needed the reminder. One friend sent a beautiful bouquet. I probably cried in bed and stared at it for hours. It was lovely, and I was so happy to have it. Another friend was so freaking faithful about sending gifts (not just for my multiple miscarriages, but for mother’s day, my eventual successful pregnancy, my baby’s birth, etc) she probably could have recouped on her Amazon Prime investment on my stuff alone. These gifts don’t have to be huge (and probably shouldn’t be), but the fact that they’re there is awesome. I loved getting some luxurious bath products. An herbal tea. A thoughtful necklace. A funny TV show.
Anyway, is there any thing I missed? What do you think?