Helping a Friend Survive Miscarriage
In the first 8 weeks of pregnancy, the miscarriage rates are around 15% or more. This is only in clinically recognized pregnancies. Many other women do not even know they are pregnant for various reasons and find themselves with late periods, which in reality were miscarriages. When it happens to you, it is devastating. But when it happens to a friend – it can leave you speechless, not knowing how to help, and broken hearted for her loss.
The first thing you should remember when your friend has a miscarriage is that there are things they are feeling that they will not share with you. Most women feel guilty, ashamed, and washed over with a sense of failure, as if it was their fault. Even common sense, grounded women who have a clear understanding of the ‘ways of the world’ can become completely taken over by the emotions of a miscarriage. Miscarriage is very disappointing on many levels. You will be tempted to say all those things that people say to women who have lost a baby. It wasn’t meant to be; something must have been wrong; God knows what he is doing; at least it happened early on; etc. The thing is that while you are right and trying to be helpful, it won’t necessarily make things better.
When a women miscarries, whether it is one day after they found out they were pregnant or 12 weeks later – the loss is more than fetus. It is more than a union of an egg and sperm that is lost. It is a dream. Even though science and doctors tells each of us that the baby was little more than 12 divided cells, to the mother it represented a lifetime of hopes and dreams; birthday cakes and closets of new clothes; hugs and kisses. As their friend, you probably know how much they wanted the baby and realize that their thoughts about the baby were light years ahead of where they stood according to a prenatal chart.
The best thing you can do is be there for your friend. Give her a hug. Allow her to cry. If she wants to suddenly paint her living room, then help her. If she wants to lie in her room for a few days and feel sorry for herself, bring her cookies and milk and allow her to feel her pain. Your job is to perhaps bring a smile, a bout of laughter, or something encouraging to her life. If she doesn’t seem like herself, remind her who she is. And if she wants to talk about the baby, the way she feels, the way she seems isolated in a world of pregnant people and infants – listen! Nothing you can say or do will make it okay for her, but you can help her to get through the situation and perhaps even have the courage to try again.
Miscarriage in many ways is a mystery. It doesn’t happen for just one reason, and it isn’t something that doctors can always explain. But for the mother (and yes, she was already a mother) it is life changing. It is the adult version of having your heart broken, really broken – for the first time in your life. So be there for her through all of it and help her to recover from the inside out. If you don’t know the words to say, then give her a hug a warm cup of coffee or a glass of red wine to make her feel better.