Responding to a Friend’s Pregnancy Loss

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When the cramping started in my first pregnancy, I thought it was normal. When the bleeding started, I knew it wasn’t right. I went straight to my doctor. “Bedrest,” he said. And then “you’re probably going to miscarry.”

I was shocked and confused. How will I explain this to everyone? How will I get through this?

Fortunately, I didn’t need to know those answers just yet. After three more periods of bedrest, my pregnancy progressed normally.

But the following year, my cousin miscarried. Then a friend did a few months later. Then it seemed as if every couple of months I heard of someone else’s loss.

The question became “how will I help her get through this?” And there are a multitude of questions that go along with that.

What Do I Say?
There is nothing you can say that will help your friend get over her grief. So, instead of grasping at straws and possibly putting your foot in your mouth, don’t say anything. Just be ready to listen.

Do: Say “I’m here for you.”
Don’t: Say “you’re young; you can try again.”

Where Do I Stand in This?
Can you still talk about your children or pregnancy? Will your friend be able to share in your joys and frustrations? It’s different for everyone. One friend told me “I don’t want to hear about how tired you are. You’re up all night with a baby. I’m up all night crying.” Another said “it helped me get through the loss when I was around my friends’ babies and children.”

Do: Ask how your friend feels about pregnancy/child talk.
Don’t: Ignore the situation or ignore their response.

How Do I Act?
If you’ve miscarried yourself or know someone who has, now is the time to mention it. It will help your friend to know she’s not alone. If not, understand that miscarriage is a loss and needs to be grieved. When a friend recently miscarried I was the only one that grieved with her. It made a huge difference to her that someone did.

Do: Try to understand that, even in early pregnancy, your friend has lost her child.
Don’t: Try to sweep it under the rug or minimalise her loss.

Why Did This Happen?
One in four pregnancies ends in miscarriage. That’s a startling amount. Often there are no answers. At first your friend won’t care why it happened. So don’t ask and don’t offer suggestions like “it was meant to be,” or “you shouldn’t have lifted those boxes/climbed that mountain/etc.”

Do: Be prepared to let your friend ask you why it happened to her.
Don’t: Expect to actually answer why or ask your friend why.

When Will She Get Over It?
Your friend will never “get over” losing her child. She will get through it. Women who have friends and family that support them through the grieving process will get through it a lot easier than those that don’t. There’s no time-frame to follow, but it is a process and she needs to take each step to get through.

Do: Be aware of the stages of grief (Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance) and expect your friend to experience all at some point.
Don’t: Expect her to “get over it” or forget about her loss. She never will.

There are no solutions to grief. With time and understanding, the grief will become a scar instead of a wound. As a friend all you need to do is be there, listen, and accept the loss yourself.

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