What TO say:
-“I am so sorry to hear about Lia” or “I am so sorry for your loss.” Call the baby by its name, if it had one. Use he/she pronouns if possible (unlike the “it” I just called the baby).
-“You will always be that baby’s mother. She won’t be forgotten” If she doesn’t have other children, let her know this baby made her a mother.
-“I had a miscarriage as well, so let me know if you ever need to talk.” It helps to share any pregnancy or infant losses you’ve suffered, if you’re comfortable. But keep in mind not all losses are equal. While every human life has equal intrinsic value, and every pregnancy or infant loss is a tragedy at any stage, a mother’s emotional connection to her child deepens the farther she is in her pregnancy. So a chemical pregnancy, for example, is not the same as losing an infant to SIDS. When I talk to someone who’s had a stillborn, I say something like, “I can’t even fathom your pain, because I was only 13 weeks along, but I lost my daughter too and you are not alone.” This lets her know I am not assuming I know exactly what she’s going through, but that I went through something similar and I am here for her.
What NOT to say:
-“At least now you know you can get pregnant.” This isn’t totally awful… I mean it is somewhat reassuring… but you don’t know whether we’ll be able to conceive again. And finding out you’re fertile by losing a child is far from ideal.
-“You’ll get pregnant again soon.” This is completely dismissing the loss of the miscarried child. A mother can’t simply replace the child and be ok.
-“It wasn’t even a baby yet, so don’t be sad.” Denying the baby’s personhood is the worst possible thing you can say to a bereaved mother. You might as well slap her across the face, as it would be less painful.
“The baby probably had something wrong with it so it was a blessing in disguise.” Great, so you’re insulting my child, plus assuming I’d rather she die than have to raise her.
“At least you have other kids.” Yes, a woman grieving a child is no doubt grateful for her other children. But that doesn’t take away the pain for the child she lost. That child was just as loved, and was her other children’s sibling.
“You were lucky to get pregnant.” This one was contributed by a reader and I can’t imagine how bad she must have wanted to scream at the person who said it. The “luck” of getting pregnant should never have to accompany the heartbreak of losing a child.
Please comment with anything else you’ve heard that was either comforting or hurtful, and I’ll add it to the list! The more people know, the better they can be there for us. Most of them mean well but simply don’t have the words.