How to Deal with the Grief of a Miscarriage

Woman lying on sofa
Be sensitive to a woman who has experienced a miscarriage. Cultura/Sofie Delauw / Getty Images

Losing a baby is difficult for almost all women, even when she’s never held the child in her arms. From the moment she finds out she’s pregnant, she and the baby’s father are typically in nesting mode, getting ready for their little bundle of joy. Her friends might have even had a baby shower for her and her husband. An unexpected miscarriage grinds everything to an abrupt halt.

Trauma of a Miscarriage

When a woman goes through the traumatic experience of having a miscarriage, she’s faced with a myriad of emotions, shifting hormones, and sometimes even psychological pain.

All kinds of things may be running through her mind, and the last thing she needs is someone saying or doing something that will exacerbate the emotional trauma.

There may be a lot of questions that will never be answered. Is the baby a girl or boy? Would the baby take after the mom or dad? What would he or she enjoy? What kind of hobbies would he or she have? What would it have felt like to hold the baby close? And the most painful question of all: Could she have done something to avoid losing the baby? Whether the mother asks herself one or all of these questions, her mind will likely be filled with what-ifs and other painful thoughts.

Say Something or Not?

It’s difficult to know whether or not to say something after a woman suffers a miscarriage. If you decide to say something, choosing the right words to say can be even more difficult because you don’t know what might send her into a worse emotional state.

It’s tempting to avoid her, simply to keep from making a mistake. But that’s not good either.

What Not to Say

There are definitely some things you shouldn’t say to any woman who miscarries a baby. The words might be well intended, but if there’s even a hint of accusation, explanation, or attempt to cheer her up, it might send her into a downward spiral.

It’s best to not take any changes.

As tempting as it may be, don’t fake cheerfulness. It will only make her feel worse. Contrary to all the songs about smiling through the pain and putting on a happy face, it doesn’t work to erase sorrow.

Here are some things you shouldn’t say to a woman who has experienced a miscarriage:

  • At least you have other children.
  • At least it happened early in the pregnancy.
  • It happened for a reason. Maybe there was something wrong with the baby.
  • I’m sure you’ll feel better after a while.
  • It happens to a lot of women, and they usually do just fine.
  • All you have to do is try again. I’m sure you’ll get pregnant and forget all about this.
  • You’re young. You can start over.
  • I wonder what you did (or ate) that might have caused it.
  • It happens. Deal with it.
  • It was God’s will. (Who are you to know God’s will? It’s not your place to tell her that.)

What to Say and Do

Saying the right thing during one of these difficult times can be trying. Even the most gracious of people may find themselves speechless. However, offering emotional, psychological, and physical support can help this mother more than ignoring her.

Remember that you don’t need to ramble on and on with any kind words.

Keep it short, simple, and loving. Then allow her to talk if she feels the need.

Here are some kind things to say:

  • I’m so sorry. I’m here if you need someone to talk to.
  • I know how much you looked forward to the baby coming. Please give me a call if you need to talk.
  • I care about you, and I’d like to help. Please let me know if there’s anything I can do.
  • I don’t want to bother you, but I brought dinner so you don’t have to cook.
  • I know this is painful, and I’m so sorry you’re going through this.
  • Let me help out with the children while you get some rest.
  • I don’t know what to say, except I’m so sorry.

Sometimes it’s not what you say but what you do. Here are some things you can do to provide support:

  • Bring food without asking. Some people have a difficult time saying yes if they think they’re inconveniencing others.
  • Give her a warm hug.
  • Be available to help out around the house.
  • If she has other children, be extra kind to them. They just lost a sibling, and they’re grieving too.
  • Send a sympathy note to let her know you care.

Do your best to be gracious and avoid saying something that upsets the mother. However, if you do slip up, apologize and be careful to not do that again.