How Not to Be an A-hole When…

…You Don’t Know What to Say

My friend told me that she and her husband had a third miscarriage. This time she was into the second trimester. I tried really hard to say the right things but walked away from the conversation feeling like I hadn’t been helpful. What do you say when someone gives you really bad news and you don’t know what to say?

I think there are a couple of different issues here. The main question, of what to say when someone gives you really bad news, and the bigger issue of how U.S. society doesn’t seem to know how to treat parents working through the grief of a miscarriage.

This post might be helpful in terms of what to say to bad news. The TL;DR version: say that you’re sorry, don’t assume you understand or can relate directly unless you’ve experienced it, and don’t try to make them feel better by redirecting their grief (“Maybe it was for the best.” “You’ll have another baby.”). Offer assistance with concrete tasks as appropriate, and don’t assume that if you see them in the future and they are acting ‘like normal,’ that they aren’t still devastated.

I also just recently read There Is No Good Card for This and found it to be full of some fantastic advice about supporting people through grief. I recommend checking it out so you can be better prepared for the next time.

As to the second point, we don’t seem to be good as a society with addressing the grief of parents who miscarry. Some women go through it without sharing it with anyone but their partner, because it happens early enough that they haven’t yet shared the pregnancy. Others have already spread the good news and then have to figure out how to make sure they tell everyone they’ve already told. They are likely dealing with myriad other things I haven’t even thought of because I’ve never been in that position.

I think it is crucial to acknowledge this as a loss. Just because they hadn’t given birth yet doesn’t mean they haven’t lost a child. This was the next member of their family. I found this resource online (thanks New Zealand); it provides some ways to be supportive of people who have miscarried.

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