What to Say, and What Not to Say, to Someone Who’s Experienced Pregnancy Loss

To the friends and loved ones of angel moms, we know you mean well and sometimes just don’t know what to say to us. It’s hard finding the words. We get it! It can even be hard for us sometimes knowing what to say to other loss moms. There’s no manual for helping someone who’s hurting. For that reason I have compiled a list, created by dozens of women in the baby loss community, to help loved ones best support women who’ve lost a child. All of these phrases were actually said to one or more of us. My explanations after each phrase in the “what not to say” section may sound harsh, but I don’t mean them to be — I’m just letting you know how we hear them (whether right or wrong, that’s what we hear). Thank you so much for your love and support — it truly means the world.

What TO say:

I am so sorry to hear about Lia/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). Obviously you can’t do this if the baby wasn’t named yet or the gender wasn’t known yet, but the more personalization the better. It helps validate the existence of her child, and her very real loss.

-I am here for you/You don’t have to go through this alone/I love you. Many times people will try to relate to a bereaved mother by showing they understand what she’s going through. It’s really not necessary for you to relate; in fact it can do even more damage if you try to compare apples to oranges. Just knowing you’re there means everything.

It wasn’t your fault. If the bereaved mother brings up thoughts of guilt or shame, let her know there is absolutely nothing she did wrong. Many women will feel like failures as women and mothers after a loss, and they need reinforcement that they were a good mother and that miscarriage is never the mother’s fault.

It’s ok to be sad/broken. Take all the time you need. Never ever try to rush a woman’s grief process. Let her know it’s ok for her to fall apart, and that you’ll be there to help her pick up the pieces.

The only thing he ever knew was the comfort of your womb — he felt no pain, sadness, discomfort, only your love. This is further reinforcement that she was a wonderful mother and did everything right.

You will always be that baby’s mother/He won’t be forgotten/He’ll always be with you. It is comforting for a mother to know her child had a purpose in this world and that he will always be remembered.

I lost a baby 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 everyone’s experiences are the same and presuming to know what another woman is going through can be hurtful to her (so just be carful with the wording by being as empathetic as possible).

What NOT to say:

Nothing. Sometimes saying nothing can be worse than saying the wrong thing. It hurts when some people ignore us, act like nothing happened, and never acknowledge our loss.

At least now you know you can get pregnant. This might be somewhat reassuring to some women, but you don’t know whether she’ll be able to conceive again or whether she’ll be able to carry to term. No one ever wants to find out she’s fertile by losing a child. You don’t know what she went through to get pregnant or what she’ll have to go through to get/stay pregnant again.

You’ll get pregnant again soon. This is completely dismissing the loss of the 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 her loss 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/Imagine the health issues or disabilities he could have had. You’re assuming the mother would rather the baby die than have to raise him. You’re also adding guilt to her plate, asking her to feel grateful she didn’t have to raise an unhealthy child. And if you’re wrong and the baby didn’t have any health issues, your comments are just a hurtful reminder to the mother that it was HER body that had something wrong with it (which of course isn’t true, but that’s what she hears).

At least you have other kidsYes, 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/Think of those who can’t conceive. The “luck” of getting pregnant should never accompany the heartbreak of losing a child. It’s not fair to say that the trauma of losing a baby is better than the trauma of infertility. Both are awful, and making a woman feel guilty for being able to get pregnant is cruel.

At least it happened early/At least you didn’t hear the heartbeat/At least you weren’t that far along. The loss of a child at any stage is a tragedy and a woman’s pain should never be minimized just because you don’t think it was that bad or it could have been worse.

It just wasn’t meant to happen right now/Maybe you weren’t meant to have children/It happened for a reason. This is extremely frustrating and unhelpful. You’re basically saying that happiness just wasn’t in the cards for her. Or that she wanted something that others get to have but she doesn’t deserve yet. Or that she was being taught some kind of cosmic lesson.

You’re still young/You have plenty of time/You’ll have more children. Being young and having time for other children does not erase the very real heartbreak of losing THIS child.

Why don’t you just get pregnant again?/You can make another/Keep trying ’til one sticks. As if making, growing, and losing a human are so easy.

God needed another angel/God had a plan/He was too precious for Earth. This is very frustrating to hear because it implies God is cruel and selfish.

At least you hadn’t met her/How can you miss someone you never met? If you don’t understand missing someone you’ve never met, then please keep that to yourself. She likely would do anything to have met her child and you’re using the fact that she didn’t get to as a way to minimize her pain. She carried that child in her womb — she didn’t need to meet her to love her.

At least you got to meet her. Getting to hold your child does not take away from the heartbreak of losing her. If anything it just intensifies it.

At least she didn’t suffer too long. So her mother should be glad she’s dead?

At least you didn’t know you were pregnant when you found out you miscarried. This is minimizing a mother’s pain and basically telling her she has no right to be sad. It still hurts very much to find out you lost something you didn’t even get the joy of knowing you had until it was gone.

It will happen when God is ready/when you stop trying. There’s nothing more frustrating to a woman desperately wanting a child than telling her to just stop wanting it.

You would have been a good mom/You’ll be a good mom someday. She IS a mom. Having babies in Heaven doesn’t make her less of a mom.

You can always adopt. Adoption doesn’t cure infertility, heal heartbreak, or replace the lost child. It’s also extremely difficult and emotionally grueling finding a birth mother, but that’s a whole ‘nother blog post. I’m a huge adoption and foster care advocate but there is a time and place for it and this is not it.

Maybe it’s a blessing in disguise – you would have been a single mom, you’re still in school, you didn’t need any more children, now you have time to lose weight first, etc. This is basically saying she’d be better off without the baby and it’s a blessing that she’s dead. You’re also insulting where her life is right now.

It happens all the time. It doesn’t make it any less heartbreaking. You’re basically saying it happens to everyone, they get over it, and so should you.

She’s in a better place now. So she’s better off dead than in her mother’s loving arms?

It will get better with time/You need to move on/Life is for the living. You don’t get to tell a woman when and what she should feel. She may grieve her whole lifetime and that’s ok.

You’ll see your son again if you go to church. This is the wrong time to try to convert someone to your own beliefs. It’s pretty insulting and hurtful to someone struggling to understand what happened to their child.

It’s not that big of a deal/Lots of women have been through it/It’s not the end of the world/The world doesn’t stop just because your baby died. More harsh and insensitive minimizations of her pain.

No one wants to talk about a dead baby. Ouch. Plenty of people want to talk about her baby — just because it makes you uncomfortable doesn’t make it any less of exactly what the mother needs right now.

At least you got to bury him. She should feel lucky she got to bury her own child?!

At least you got to spend time with him and you didn’t have a miscarriage. Comparing losses is extremely hurtful. I’m sure many women wish they would have lost the child sooner, when it was less traumatic on the body and their emotions, and many other women wish they could have carried their child longer and had more time with him. Playing the “at least” game is not fair or helpful.

I know how you feel — my daughter just left for bootcamp. We don’t need you to try to relate to us. We just need you to have empathy. Comparisons like this one will just end up angering and hurting us, because there is no comparison.

Been there, done that. If you’ve been through pregnancy loss and you’ve moved on, that’s wonderful. But it doesn’t mean your loved one has to move according to your own timeline. As a person who’s “been there,” you should know how hurtful this comment is.

At least you didn’t have IVF — imagine how much worse it would have been if you had paid for it. So because she conceived “for free” she should be grateful?!

Miscarriage is hard, but it’s God’s way of removing something that wasn’t perfect. You’re asking a mother to be relieved God took her baby from her. You’re also implying that God is cruel and requires perfection — and that her baby wasn’t good enough.

Some women have it worse. There’s always a “worse” case. That doesn’t make her pain any less real.

At some point you have to be happy with what you have. You are guilting her into being grateful for the things she has and not letting her feel grief for what she has lost. It’s not an either/or — she can feel both.

Angel mamas, 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. Like I said above, most of them mean well but simply don’t have the words. Loved ones of angel mamas, thank you so much for reading!

My biggest comfort, after my husband. She didn’t have to say a single word. She still laid on my belly for a few days after we lost the baby.
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3 comments

  1. I’d say to tiptoe very carefully around sharing your loss experience too because I agree that not all losses or experiences are equal. I had almost everyone I know that gave condolences and shared they had a miscarriage but I did not have a miscarriage, we lost our son at 23 weeks to preterm birth, he was born alive, we held him in our arms. Multiple ppl sharing that they had a miscarriage almost made me feel more alone in my grief because no one could say they had an experience like ours. Agree all are still losing a child, losing hope and very painful but just be sure you don’t say, “I know how you feel.”

    Liked by 1 person

    • Megan, I am so very sorry for your loss! I was trying to convey this in the blog, but may not have worded it the right way. Anytime I hear of someone who’s lost a living infant, had a stillborn, or even a miscarriage at a later stage in pregnancy than mine, I acknowledge that their pain is unimaginable to me. For infant loss and stillborns I tell the mothers I don’t even feel worthy to share their pain, as it was so much greater than mine. How do we raise awareness so that people know how to speak to you to not make you feel alone? How can I word the blog differently so that your message is heard? We all need to be educated so we can be there for each other. Thank you so much for your feedback.

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  2. […] But if we do tell friends and family, they may feel unsure about what to say and what not to say. It is supportive to say: sorry to hear about your loss, I am here for you. Things not to say include nothing, at least you know you can get pregnant, it wasn’t even a baby yet so don’t be sad. There are a number of posts about this – here is one I thought was useful. […]

    Liked by 1 person

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