• Tue, Aug 19 - 2:00 pm ET

10 Things To Never Say To A Friend Who’s Had A Miscarriage

Figuring how to comfort someone who has just suffered a pregnancy loss is not an easy or comfortable thing to do. You may have the best, supportive intentions – but I have to warn you that if any of the following things come out of your mouth, you may want to duck.

I know “lists of things you shouldn’t say” can be tedious – but in this case you may really not know that there is anything wrong with the following statements. All women are different, but as someone who has experienced several miscarriages I can attest to the fact that none of the following statements made me feel better, and some of them even made me feel worse.

 

1. At least you were only a few weeks along.

It’s a good idea to avoid minimizing someone’s pain when they are going through something traumatic – just as a rule.

2. You can always try again.

You have no idea how long someone may have been trying for the pregnancy they just lost, so this will come off as pretty callous.

3. Do you think X/Y/Z caused it?

Why? Why would you ever say this? There’s enough unnecessary guilt involved in the process – do not add to that.

4. Miscarriages are very common.

My ER nurse said this to me while I was bleeding all over a triage room. It did not make me feel better to be told that it was the 8th miscarriage she attended that day.

5. Are you going to get tested to make sure nothing is wrong with you?

You know, they have a test to make sure your uterus can actually successfully host a baby. Huh? Refrain from making medical statements to a grieving friend. Just be a friend – not a doctor.

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  • NotTakenNotAvailable

    How people think anything besides, “I’m sorry. What can I do to help you?” is appropriate after a loss of any sort is beyond me.

    • LiteBrite(UterineDudebro)

      I think a lot of people really do mean well and are trying to think of something else to say that will comfort the person. I know there have been times when I’ve said “I’m sorry” and felt like that really wasn’t enough. A few months ago one a coworker’s FIL died suddenly. Coworker had been out, and when he came back I was like “Hey how was your vacation?” (I did not know of the death.) He told me it sucked and why, and I felt like a complete tool. I told him I was sorry, but he was pretty broken up about it, and I felt like “I’m sorry” didn’t really cut it. (I did keep my mouth shut though.)

      I agree with you though. “I’m sorry” is the safest thing to say.

  • JenH1986

    #7 and #8 made me so pissed off. Like eff you and whatever bullshit reason. And #8? ugh. A friend told me my body knew something was wrong with the baby so my body shut it down. I was like 8 weeks so it barely had fingernails I doubt anything was wrong with it, even if there was it as undetectable. Ugh. So mad.

    • Lilly

      I agree that is a shitty thing to say but what research there has been done does indicate that early miscarriages are often the result of a fetal abnormality (usually on a genetic scale) that basically results in the pregnancy not progressing and the body stopping all the processes related to it.
      Personally i found that info more comforting as it was then so outside my control as to why it happened (aka not my fault).

    • JenH1986

      You know what? That wouldn’t have helped me then either. The ONLY response that didn’t make me want to punch people “I’m sorry.” Since they can’t know if like you it will help, or like me it pisses me off then they should not say anything more than “I am sorry.”

    • Lilly

      I agree that if you don’t know how the person will react “I’m sorry” is the only thing to say.
      I just felt your comment about nothing being wrong jarring as it isn’t the case. I have also found with a friend who was in a state of “what did I do wrong” needed to know that it wasn’t them, just biology is a bitch sometimes, but I knew how they would react. Sorry if I offended you.

    • Kelly

      @JLH1986:disqus literally just said that hearing that thing was upsetting to her, and then you repeated it.

      I understand your intention and I don’t want to be a jerk, but I’m pointing it out because I feel like lots of people think that they are just sharing knowledge, or giving the person having a miscarriage a fact, or trying to find something comforting, and most of the time, it doesn’t come across as intended.

    • whiteroses

      Unless you actually physically cause your baby’s death, it is not your fault. And while it may be comforting for some to talk about the science of it, for others it wouldn’t be.

  • Bleu Cheese Bewbs

    #2 drives me crazy because, in addition to not knowing how long it took someone to get pregnant in the first place, it also seems to suggest that the pregnancy wasn’t important and is easily replaceable.

  • MomOf1+2

    I was lucky that most people were really great when I had my MC. I did hear the “there’s a reason for it”, “something was probably wrong”, blah, blah, bs. I would tell them, “well I’m glad you know that. But my doctors are pretty sure that my PCOS caused my progesterone to drop which caused the miscarriage. Especially since we saw a heartbeat a few hours ago. Thanks for the info though.”

    • Katherine Handcock

      There is a nasty part of me that wishes I could have seen their faces when you told them that.

  • middleofnowheremom

    The one I hated most, was “You’ll get over it.”

    Anyone that ever says that. Should get hit by a truck.

  • LadyClodia the Modest Rat

    I heard #4 a few times from medical professionals, and I know they were trying to be comforting with statistics, but yeah, it didn’t help. And #2 always drove me crazy because in the middle of a miscarriage trying again was the farthest thing from my mind. I heard #7 and #8 a couple of times too.

    • JenH1986

      One friend told me “God always sends that baby back” What? Shut up.

    • Maria Guido

      That is really creepy.

    • JenH1986

      It was very creepy. My brain just couldn’t comprehend what she was saying, I was like so God is recycling my kid? What does that even mean?

  • Personal

    May I please add ‘It wasn’t meant to be.’? That one sucks, too.

    • Maria Guido

      Yes – that is the worst.

  • Ashie

    I love love love love love this. I have had many miscarriages and people can be real big jerks sometimes when things like this happen. I remember my sister saying “Well you know, things happen for a reason.” I could have punched her in the face. I also have a hard time getting pregnant, forget about staying pregnant, so when people say “well at least you can get pregnant” it really is not comforting at all.

  • Foleygirl24

    I’m usually against lists like this, but I actually think this one needed to be made. So many people don’t understand and think that saying things like this are comforting when they are just not. I’ve had two successive miscarriages (the last one being just 2 weeks ago). They were both early, and it took me over a year to get pregnant each time. I have one living child. I have heard ALL of these, sometimes multiple times, from people who are my friends and family. I know they meant well, but each time something like this was uttered it was like a knife to the heart. The only thing that is safe to say in a situation like this is something along the lines of “I’m sorry this is happening to you.” Or bringing cake. Cake is always good.

    • Maria Guido

      I’m so sorry.

    • Foleygirl24

      Thank you, to everyone above, for your kind words. They are appreciated.

    • LiteBrite(UterineDudebro)

      I’m upvoting your comment because I agree cake is always good. But I’m so sorry about your recent loss.

    • Jallun-Keatres

      :( I had two in a row too. I’m sorry for your loss and the crushing feeling of having to lose everything and slide back to square one. :(

  • whiteroses

    This is yet another example of “sometimes not saying anything is the best option”.

  • amyp

    My favorite was my friend who said, “oh good now maybe next time we can get pregnant together” since we were tying at the same time. I got pregnant 2 weeks after and she still isn’t. Karma.

    • Katherine Handcock

      You had a friend whose first words about it were “Oh, good”? Is this person still a friend?

      Let me paraphrase that – is this person still a LIVING friend? Because I imagine if looks could kill…

    • amyp

      She has some jealousy issues….

  • Katherine Handcock

    As part of his training, Sean took several courses about counseling people who were grieving — a variety of things: death, miscarriage, a difficult diagnosis, the loss of a career, they’re all grief of different kinds. The first thing they all said was, “Start with, ‘I am so sorry.’” How the person responds will tell you what else might be appropriate to say.

    If that’s the advice they give people who handle pastoral care for a living, you better believe “I’m so sorry” is the first thing I will say.

  • Eemee

    After my MC, a lot of my friends were good about starting off with “I’m sorry”, but didn’t seem to know what to do after that, and so just didn’t call for a while. It was a little heartbreaking to feel abandoned at that time, but I think a lot of my friends just didn’t know where to go after the initial conversation.

  • LiteBrite(UterineDudebro)

    I had a miscarriage in November of 2006, and I heard 1-8 several times. And yes, I agreed that I wasn’t that far along, I knew I could get pregnant, yadda yadda yadda. And yes, I knew people meant well. But I was excited about being pregnant and was looking forward to having a child, and it really sucked balls to have that taken away, so no, their words weren’t helpful AT ALL.

    But I will say it was strangely comforting to know that miscarriage was common and to hear people I knew (including my crazy ex-boss) confess they too had miscarriages. It made me feel less alone.

    • neighbor57

      No one should have to grieve in silence or shame. No one should be told how to feel. Can you imagine telling the mother of a seven year old who died: “Well, these things happen for a reason. He might have grown up to be a drug dealer, so it’s just as well…”

    • coffeeandshoes

      I totally agree with you in terms of knowing that it’s common has helped. I definitely feel like I can lean on people more than I ever expected to be able to for this kind of thing, and I think others who have had them really just get it in ways that others don’t.

    • LiteBrite(UterineDudebro)

      My husband was wonderful and supportive, but he really was out of his depth with this situation. So I agree with you that talking to people who “got it” made me feel a lot less alone.

    • EX

      After my miscarriage I realized that I had previously had no idea what my friends who miscarried had been through. It’s definitely good to talk to someone who’s been there.

    • ted3553

      My friend had one and I did tell her how common it was especially early on. It was to try to let her know that nothing she did made it happen and that it does happen to lots of other people because she was questioning why she had miscarried. It wasn’t the first thing out of my mouth when she told me however.

    • LiteBrite(UterineDudebro)

      I think it’s normal to question “What did **I** do to make this happen?” I kept thinking of everything I had done, eaten, drank, whatever, that would’ve caused this, and hearing that it happened to so many people I knew made me feel like it was less about me and more about life, if that makes sense.

  • waffre

    #8 is scientifically accurate, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a harsh thing to say to someone who’s grieving.
    I’ve said something similar to #5, but it was more like, at least you’ll be able to find out what’s going on now (she’d had multiple miscarriages and they often don’t test until you’ve had 3). I guess it may have been an insensitive comment (of course I wasn’t thinking of it that way at the time), but I think she understood what I meant.

    • waffre

      Er, well, the “it’s better this way” part of #8 isn’t scientifically accurate. Science doesn’t really make value judgements. I guess what I meant was that the statement is based on scientific information.

  • Jallun-Keatres

    I’ve had 2, in a row no less, and #4 made me feel BETTER. It make me feel wayyyyy less alone. That being said, I’d never say these to anyone. While going through them I was actually guilty of 10 (though it wasn’t someone I knew at all and just part of a bigger story).

    What I ALWAYS say to people I know enough to provide comfort is “Never let anyone make you feel that you’re not entitled to your grief.”

    • ted3553

      I think #4 can be helpful in the way you say it. I did say this to a friend when she told me but I can assure you the conversation wasn’t “so, I had a miscarriage” “Hey, well that happens to lots of peeps, lets go hit up Target”

    • Jallun-Keatres

      Haha yeah it wasn’t like that for me either, thankfully! I was really open about it and I found out a lot of my relatives and friends and people at church have had at least one. Like, out of my mom and her 3 sisters, only one didn’t MC. Some of these other things were said to me too but I didn’t find them to be jerkish because they weren’t just dismissing it off.

    • Foleygirl24

      I’m so sorry for your losses as well. And thanks for your kind words in response to my comment below. As unfortunate as it is that so many of us are in this position, it’s comforting to know that I am not alone.

  • jo

    What I like to do is get the family a gift card to a fun place or restaurant, if they have other kids, because it does really affect the whole family and when they’re ready some fun time might be needed. Even if they don’t have kids, when they are ready to get out of the house, it’s nice to be able to go out for free.

    • lijepa1979

      That is a wonderful idea. My kids took everything pretty hard, and I think they would have loved someone doing something like that for them.

    • coffeeandshoes

      That’s so sweet and very thoughtful. I had co-workers who sent food to our house (since I had to have a D&C and they weren’t sure if I’d feel up to going somewhere quickly) and since my husband and I really love food and talking about food, it gave us something else to discuss and focus on.

  • coffeeandshoes

    I had one in March at around 8.5 weeks or so (late enough that we had seen the heartbeat but nothing further than that). It was a pregnancy that was hard-fought from the beginning (IUI after about a year of trying) and I found that the ‘at least you can get pregnant’ was comforting only from the fertility specialist, since it made him more optimistic about going further. I work at a med school as the assistant to an MD, and my boss knew just what to say – he came into my office and said, “I’m sorry – it just stinks.”

    And one thing I found really awful was trying to find some sort of necklace to wear as a commemoration/memory/ whatever, and a few that I found were downright offensive: “Jesus took the wheel” (um, Jesus, I was doing just fine myself and would’ve preferred to be in control if it meant that my child would have lived) and “too precious for earth” (again, my husband and I would’ve preferred to have made that particular decision). Just…awful. I remember sitting in my office crying while looking at those because they were just upsetting. In the end I found an Etsy seller who allows full quotations on letters (yay for high character limits!) and chose an Avett Brothers lyric that worked for me: “watch us fly as loud as we can, let the heartbeat change what I am now.” Perfect for me :)

  • lijepa1979

    I really hated hearing “It’s God’s will” or anything to do with religion. I had back to back miscarriages, one at 3 months and one at almost 2. I have two children already. It took me a long time to decide that I really did want a third child and really thought it wouldn’t be hard to conceive. Then all of that happened. I ended up having a hard time coping, and people were not very helpful. My sister-in-law said I should just get over it because it wasn’t a real baby, in regards to the one I lost at three months. The baby was real to me. I wanted the baby.
    My mother-in-law called me one day a week after I lost the first one trying to say that she thought it was because of my husband’s job. My husband is an oilfield geologist. Both my mother-in-law and my mother told my son, who is 11 now, that they thought it was my fault and that I obviously did something wrong. That was why I miscarried in their book. My son carried that with him for a long time before telling me. He has had a hard time dealing with things because of that which has sucked.
    My first miscarriage was pretty traumatic in that I was told by one ob/gyn that everything was fine. He did an ultrasound and sent me home saying he thought I had a bladder infection. I lost the baby that night at home while my kids slept and my husband was working thousands of miles away. I went back the next day and saw a different ob/gyn who looked at everything and told me that the baby had already been dead and that you could see the sac was deflated in the ultrasound. While some of my friends tried to be comforting, many just figured I should just get over it. In addition to all of this, I almost lost my business a few months later, and I was really stressed. Because of all of this, I couldn’t be there for all of my friends and all of their problems. Now, a year later, I am finding out that a few of them are talking crap behind my back and pretty much saying what a lousy person I am because I was going through shit and needed to put myself first. Granted, they all wait to come after me when I am vastly pregnant.
    I think the only good thing that has come out of all of this is that I really know who my friends are. I have written a lot on my pregnancy losses in my blog because it has been therapeutic. I hate that it is still a taboo topic. I think it needs to be discussed and that people really need to know what not to say or how to be supportive.

  • The Redhead

    I think a lot of people try, but have no idea what to say so they say something stupid. When I was diagnosed with MS my favorite was “I don’t know why your family is making such a big deal about this, it’s not like you’re dying.”
    This was from one of my very best friends. I tried to just let it go because I doubt she would intentionally say something so insensitive. I try to give people the benefit of the doubt, at least they tried, to me that’s better than the people who just avoid you for a few months after then act like it never happened.

    • ted3553

      This is what throat punches were created for

  • Jem

    My favorite was “oooh it was probably because of that IUD you had! I saw on the internet that those are bad. That’s why *I* will never have one!”

  • http://overthecuckoonest.blogspot.com/ Wicked Prophet Kay Sue

    I really think people need to learn a simple lesson: You don’t always have to fill the silence. You can say, “I’m just so sorry,” with a hug (if you’re on hugging-level) and really mean it and it be perfectly okay….

  • Great Hall Academy

    During difficult times, if you are afraid to say the wrong thing, just say “I’m thinking of you and sending prayers” along with a (hug).

  • CrazyFor Kate

    I would add that you should just consider everything you say, because even if it’s pretty well-intentioned, it doesn’t necessarily come off that way. After my mom had a miscarriage, my grandma (her mother-in-law) said something like “This has never happened in my family before.” She meant it very lovingly, as in “I have no frame of reference on this and hope that I’m saying the right things to you”, but my mother took it as “you’re a failure at babymaking, you failure you”. So…be careful in general.

  • niki

    I’m experiencing a miscarriage as I type this. It was diagnosed Saturday and I have an appointment with the doctor tomorrow to see if it’s completing on its own or if I’ll need a D&C. It has been absolutely devastating. I’ve already heard most of the phrases on this list and none of them have helped in the slightest. How hard is it to just say “I’m sorry”?

    • Williwaw

      I am so sorry for your loss. I hope you have someone close who can support and comfort you right now. You have my sympathy, even though we are just Internet strangers who don’t really know each other (I hope that didn’t sound creepy/weird).

    • LK

      So sorry for what you are going through.

    • Maria Guido

      I’m sorry :(

    • js argh

      I am so sorry. I hope the people around you develop more sensitivity. :(

    • http://twitter.com/jessbakescakes JessBakesCakes

      I am so sorry for your loss. Please know that there are people out there who aren’t insensitive jerkfaces and who truly do care. I hope you can find some of them in your life right now, because you deserve that support.

    • Foleygirl24

      I’m so sorry you are going through this. I just went through one myself two weeks ago. I know there is nothing anyone can say to make you feel any better, but please know that my heart goes out to you and you are not alone.

    • JenH1986

      I’m so sorry. Long distance hugs.

  • Larkin

    A friend of mine went through an ectopic pregnancy several months ago. We would have been due within a month of each other, and had both been so stoked about it… then, suddenly, I was still pregnant and she wasn’t.

    It’s so hard to know what to say… so I just stuck with, “I’m so sorry. I love you. Please let me know if you need anything.” It didn’t really feel like “enough,” but nothing you can say after a loss ever does, I guess. :-(

  • Williwaw

    #6 is horrible: “At least you can get pregnant”. I have a friend who got pregnant five times and miscarried five times. I can’t say this from personal experience, but I think getting pregnant and then miscarrying – repeatedly – might be at least as painful, if not more painful, than never getting pregnant at all, because you would get your hopes up repeatedly, only to have them dashed… and, after the first miscarriage, would have the stress of worrying whether the current pregnancy was going to miscarry (and when). (I don’t want to speak for those who have lost a pregnancy or struggled with infertility though – I am sure both are very difficult.)

    • LK

      Everyone’s different of course, but yeah. I worried that would be true. We dealt with infertility, and early on, I remember telling my husband, “If I get pregnant and then miscarry, that’s it, I’m done.” We’d either have to start down adoption path or just reconcile no kids. I couldn’t imagine getting to the point of being pregnant and losing it. I have a cousin who has dealth with several miscarriages and has been completely shattered by it. So awful.

  • Kathryn Mackenzie

    A friend of mine got this delightful variation of #9 from her husband’s co-worker: “this is God’s way of bringing you closer to him.”
    To which I say, if that’s the kind of being you believe your God is, why the fuck are you worshipping him.

  • Lotus Blossom

    Wow, I’ve heard 8 out of the 10, but #6 “At least you can get pregnant.” had to be the worse for me. Gee – thanks, I know. *sigh*

    • JenH1986

      That always pisses me off. Because I don’t just want to get pregnant, I want to stay pregnant. Getting pregnant isn’t really all that helpful if I can’t get past week 8. Hugs.

  • Evenaar

    I feel like when something bad happens, (like a miscarriage, but it could be anything really.) A lot of people instantly respond by wanting to: 1. get rid of the negative emotions a.s.a.p. and 2. confirm for themselves that this couldn’t happen to them or their loved ones just as easily. I sometimes think that’s where a lot of (unaware) casual victim blaming attitudes come from: just instantly wanting to find a reason for pain, that if you explain it away it will be less painful and most importantly: you feel confirmed again that this will never happen to you because you don’t do A, B or C. Similarly, making a big deal out of something is not always the best course of action either. I mean: some people could even ok with having had a miscarriage because they had an expensive abortion scheduled, for example. I guess we all instantly fill in our own projections on the people we talk to. But often the best way to go is to ask the (somewhat lame) question: how do feel about that? And then go with what they say without judgement. (which is a lot harder than it sounds)

  • Elissa

    Word. When I miscarried, the worst I got was my MIL telling me that it was for the best, and that we “shouldn’t be having more children right now, anyhow.” Our relationship is ok now, but I was angry with her for a long, long time after that.

  • j

    The ER doctor said yes you’re right you did have a miscarriage there’s nothing we can do. At least it was early then walked out of the room. It was the worst day of my life. I was lucky though the nurse came in and hugged me, and acknowledged how awful I felt.

  • Wholockkie Head

    I have heard all of these except 10, because we don’t have any kids. I’ve also heard things like; “oh, I’m super fertile, I’ll have one for you.” or “if I accidentally get knocked up you can have it.” or *while looking at their demon spawn “are you SURE you want kids?” RAGE.

  • Khajit

    I’m about to start fertility treatment when i found out i was pregnant. I then started cramping and bleeding a week after i found out. I had to go to work when i was miscarrying or was at risk of getting suspended due to a “unsustainable level of absence” I was understandably upset and told my boss what was happening and she told me “look on the bright side, at least you know you can get pregnant naturally” four years of trying after my last miscarriage and she says that.