Thinking of my miscarriages I did a usenet search from back when I was active in misc.kids.pregnancy, and I found this wonderful post, written just three weeks after my first miscarriage, where I wrote about how my friends had helped me and hurt me. It’s a really good post. People seem to be better at helping friends through breakups than through miscarriages – I think because breakups are less taboo, and so many of us have actually experienced them.

From: Jill Walker (jill@hsr.no)
Subject: Re: question: what 2say?
Newsgroups: misc.kids.pregnancy
Date: 1995/05/18

Here’s what you SHOULDN’T tell your friend:

– Well, I guess it was for the best.
– Maybe it wasn’t the best time to have a baby, anyway.
– Well, it was very early.
– You’ll get over it soon.
– It looks as if you’re taking it well.

And don’t talk about the intricacies of the tiny jumper you were knitting for her
baby – she probably doesn’t really want to hear about that.

Oh, there are heaps more, but I can’t remember them all. I miscarried three
weeks ago, and almost everybody managed to hurt me by saying well-meaning things. Even though I knew all these people meant well, what they said still hurt.

What did help was people just listening to me. So many comments seemed to either minimize my grief, or to tell me how I should feel. I know that its very hard to know what to say, especially knowing that “everything” hurts. What helped me was friends who told me they didn’t know what to tell me, but that they cared, and that they would listen to anything I wanted to say. One friend told me to phone her if I wanted someone to scream at or cry to. Although I didn’t end up screaming at her, I felt better knowing I could.

Another thing – at first I didn’t want to talk about it with more than a few
people, it hurt too much to explain everything all over again. I cut people off
when they started talking about it, or saying how sorry they were (that didn’t
hurt, by the way). But now, when I’m ready to talk about it, nobody asks – and
how do you say “lets talk aboout my miscarriage?” Those few people who still ask me how I am when I meet them mean a lot to me.

The main thing is not to push ready-made ideas of how she should feel on to her. That was what I hated most – whether people told me I’d get over it in a matter of days or if they seemed surprised I wasn’t drowning in tears. Everyone’s grief is different, so let her tell you how she feels, not vice versa.

Jill

6 thoughts on “what to do if a friend has a miscarriage

  1. fivecats

    We’ve had 4 miscarriages of our own. I won’t pretend to know your pain, but I would imagine it’s in some ways similar to ours.

    Our last miscarriage was almost 8 years ago and there are still times when we’re overwhelmed by it.

    For us, we have learned to survive and continue, remember and continue, and say that it’s okay to have the grief come over us out of nowhere from time to time.

    If nothing else, I hope you’ve given yourself the same permission.

  2. Dennis G. Jerz

    Every few months I get a student (male or female) come to my office to ask for an extension or for feedback on a draft, and then just break down. I’m very conscious of the power differential, and thus never prod for details. After all, most of these students haven’t come to me in order to get my sage advice, they merely want to know that I’ll accept their paper late, or something else. But during those terribly uncomfortable moments while the student is trying to pull him/herself back together, one feels obligated to say something, if only to acknowledge the sudden, forced intimacy with another human being. So I say something like, “I wish I had the perfect pithy quotation that would make it all better, but I know there aren’t any.” And then, if the student wants to talk further, I will listen. I usually feel competely lame and ineffectual when I say that, but in retrospect it always seems to be the right thing.

  3. Nemo

    Sometimes a hug, a kiss, just letting her know how you feel without words, is better than anything you can say. The important role for words lies in her knowing you’re always ready to listen; you empathise with her situation; and she can feel comfortable talking to you.

  4. Rory

    In a way, when you hope that people refrain from meaningless or inappropriate comments in these sorts of situations and just listen, you’re asking that they lurk.

    Readers who don’t comment are still listening.

  5. fivecats

    In response to Jerz: In all of my years in college (1 BA, 2 MAs) there was *always* a point in each semister when Real Life and School conflicted to the point that one or the other was going to have to give way, at least temporarily. I was taking a full course load, had TA hours and, on top of that, worked around 30 hours a week. Add in a house, financee and family all in town and you get the idea.

    In every instance I always chose Real Life over school. I knew there were possibly consequences for my decision, but I was willing to live with that choice. Real Life simply had the more long-lasting influence in the rest of my life.

    Hopefully, demonstrating understanding of how Real Life and school don’t always mix well, and simply stating as much to those students who come to you asking for an extension of time, will be all that’s needed.

  6. Rach

    me and my best friend are 14 and she had a miscarriage – shes relieved so she doesnt have 2 tell her mum but i think shes maybe also upset at the fact her baby has inevitably died. I think you shouldnt talk 2 much about the miscarriage and concentrate ur energy on something more positive.

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