How to Support a Woman After a Miscarriage

Photo credit: Jonathan Fitch
Photo credit: Jonathan Fitch | Source

Grief When A Pregnancy Has Ended

For many women, a miscarriage is a devastating experience of loss. Her deep sense of grief is compounded exponentially when loved ones feel unable to help a woman cope. Feelings of emptiness, longing, sadness, loneliness, and confusion following a miscarriage are much more difficult to navigate when a woman feels alone in her suffering.

I experienced such a loss when a much anticipated pregnancy ended in miscarriage. As with many painful experiences in life, perhaps the best we can take from our sorrows is what we learned by moving through them. After a time of grief, I was able to move on and find hope again. I did not forget my pregnancy or my baby. I still think about that time with a mixture of happiness for having known the wonder of the pregnancy, and sadness for having lost that dream. I hope that these tips will help another woman benefit from what I learned about grieving a miscarriage.

I Can Make Life: Poems about Infertility and Miscarriage, Pregnancy and Birth

I Can Make Life addresses the impact of fertility treatments, pregnancy, miscarriage and birth as it re-traces the poet's long journey to her son -- and finally, to peace.
I Can Make Life addresses the impact of fertility treatments, pregnancy, miscarriage and birth as it re-traces the poet's long journey to her son -- and finally, to peace. | Source

10 Ways to Help a Woman Cope After a Miscarriage

1. Acknowledge the loss. If you know someone who is having a difficult time coping with a recent miscarriage, understand that it is an equivalent, if not more difficult, sorrow to grieve than any other death of a loved one.

When we lose a family member or close friend, we have established rituals, appropriate language and expectations of how to communicate our sympathies. When a woman loses her chance at motherhood, there is no universally understood etiquette for how to respond. On the contrary, miscarriage is typically shrouded in silence.

Expressing your sympathy about a miscarriage in person, over the phone, by email, or a sympathy card can go a long way to helping your loved one feel comforted and less alone - and that her baby was important to someone else.

2. Listen. Ask if she wants to talk about the miscarriage, and be ready to listen quietly and attentively as she shares what has happened and her feelings. This takes courage, and courage is exactly what a grieving mother needs from you.

For the first few weeks after my pregnancy loss, I felt, in addition to many other feelings, a sense of disbelief. I needed to retell the story over and over again to try to understand what had happened to me and my baby, and to try to make peace with it.

On the other hand, remind her that if she doesn't wish to talk, that is OK, too. You will be there whenever she is ready, and for however long she needs you to listen. I was most moved by friends who had the bravery to call me and ask how I was doing. Often the instinct of our friends and family is to give us space, but too much space can leave us feeling even more alone in our grief.

3. Tell the mother that what happened is not her fault. A woman who has suffered a miscarriage will ask herself over and over again what she may have done to cause the loss of her baby.

Miscarriages are very common; estimates of how often a pregnancy ends in loss are in the 1 to 3 or 1 to 4 range. Some women endure multiple miscarriages (this is a common enough occurrence that many doctors will not run tests until a woman has suffered three or more pregnancy losses). The truth is that pregnancies can end suddenly for a number of reasons, and while it may not bring comfort to a woman to never know exactly what caused a miscarriage, it will help her immensely to be able to let go of any feelings of guilt.

Tell her as many times as she needs to hear it that the loss wasn't because of something she did or didn't do.

How to Help Someone Who Has Had a Miscarriage

Books on Miscarriage, Infant Loss and Grief

Baby Dust
Baby Dust

"Baby Dust sheds a light on the all-too taboo subject of miscarriage in a raw, compelling, and incredibly realistic way. Women who have experienced a loss themselves will surely resonate with the characters in the book."

- Kristin Cook, Founder, Faces of Loss, Faces of Hope

 
Miscarriage: Women Sharing from the Heart
Miscarriage: Women Sharing from the Heart

In contrast to the comprehensive psychological, medical, and social services approach presented to parents by Ingrid Kahn and Perry-Lynn Maffit's A Silent Sorrow: Pregnancy Loss ( LJ 1/93), this handbook by two bereaved mothers focuses on helping mothers to acknowledge and grieve the death of their unborn child.

- Kathryn Hammell Carpenter, Univ. of Illinois, Chicago

 
Avoiding Miscarriage: Everything You Need To Know To Feel More Confident In Pregnancy
Avoiding Miscarriage: Everything You Need To Know To Feel More Confident In Pregnancy

Written in the warm and accessible manner of a knowledgeable girlfriend, this highly unique book is the first to enable women to evaluate their own risk of miscarriage and take steps to reduce that risk.

 
I Never Held You: Miscarriage, Grief, Healing and Recovery
I Never Held You: Miscarriage, Grief, Healing and Recovery

I Never Held You validates the grief experienced after miscarriage and assures you that although your baby was never held, your baby was loved. Find miscarriage support in this touching, helpful book.

--Ellen M. DuBois, Author

 
Trying Again: A Guide to Pregnancy After Miscarriage, Stillbirth, and Infant Loss
Trying Again: A Guide to Pregnancy After Miscarriage, Stillbirth, and Infant Loss

Trying Again lessens the uncertainties about pregnancy after miscarriage, stillbirth, or infant loss by providing the facts to help you determine if you and your partner are emotionally ready for another pregnancy. It also imparts essential advice about preparing and planning for another baby when you decide the time is right.

 
Shadow Child: An Apprenticeship in Love and Loss
Shadow Child: An Apprenticeship in Love and Loss

"My sons lived at different times in the same womb, and their lives spiral around one another, as flexed and fluid as the self-embracing curl of an embryo." In finely wrought prose, Powning (Home: Chronicle of a North Country Life) looks back on the birth of Tate, her first child, who was stillborn nearly 25 years ago. Anyone who has experienced the loss of a child will relate to Powning's painful and healing search for meaning in his death. Agent, Aaron Milrad. (Feb.)

 

4. Do not tell her that her miscarriage was "a blessing in disguise" - that she probably lost the baby because it wasn't healthy.

No woman who wants to be a mother, who has already fallen in love with her baby, and who has hopes and dreams for her beloved child wants to think there is any reason she is better off that she had a miscarriage. A potential illness would not have been a reason for me to think it was better not to have known my baby.

This is also not the time to suggest she can always have another baby. Another pregnancy or future baby is not a comfort to a woman grieving her current loss. From experience, having a baby after a miscarriage does not "replace" the one who was lost.

5. Let her rest. Encourage her to sleep and take care of herself. Do more around the house so she can recover from her grief. Make her load lighter in any way you can. Cook healthy meals and leave them in her fridge or at her door. In a week, do it again.

Anyone who is grieving after losing a baby could use extra help getting through the day. My household did not function while my partner and I were in the early weeks of shock and grief. It was a blessing to have friends offer to bring by complete meals, to save us from night after night of having to figure out what to eat, or to order unhealthy take out. Delivering a care package specific to her needs at this time is a thoughtful gesture can encourage relaxation and healing.

6. Allow her to feel comfortable in asking for whatever she needs. When friends and family enable a woman to ask for help - something that is difficult for many of us at the best of times - a doorway opens. Feeling able to ask my friends and family to drop by with food, to babysit my three year old, or to just spend time with me was wonderful.

Knowing there were people there for me, on standby day or night, made me feel loved and cared for, and took away a share of the pain.


7. Encourage healing touch. Make an appointment for your loved one at a spa or with a registered massage therapist. Being treated gently by someone's warm, healing hands can do wonders to release the sadness, grief and tension that we hold in our bodies. Pampering someone who is physically and emotionally in pain can only help.

After my miscarriage, I made myself an appointment for a hot stone massage one day, and a manicure the next. I would not have been able to have the hot stone massage if I was pregnant, and I was grateful to be able to indulge myself in this way. To be treated gently by the maternal woman who soaked my hands, massaged them and called me "sweetie" as she painted my nails was like a gift from the universe.

8. Tell her that she should take as much time as she needs to heal. Losing a pregnancy can leave a woman feeling physically ill for days, and emotionally and psychologically drained for much longer. Rest is important, and taking the time to stay home from work should be encouraged. Any good doctor will be willing to write a note to an employer stating that bed rest is needed under these circumstances

9. Offer to attend counselling with her. Not only can counselling help a woman move through the stages of grief, a good counsellor can offer helpful suggestions about how to deal specifically with grief after a miscarriage.

My counsellor helped immensely by suggesting books and websites that might help. She also suggested rituals including building a strength totem, naming the baby, writing the baby a letter, and memorializing the baby in a way that felt right to me. I am to this day indebted to the counsellor whose treatment of my loss was gentle and solemn, kind and wise.

10. Ask whether you might participate in a memorial to the baby. There are many websites that offer suggestions of how you might do this. There are jewelers who make personalized pendants, necklaces and key chains for women who have miscarried, with their baby's name and due date. There are online virtual memorials devoted to "angels" who are dearly loved and missed by their families. There are organizations devoted to supporting women who have suffered a miscarriage, which take donations in the name of a lost baby.

Encourage her to take the time to think about what might feel right to her, and to talk to you about whether she would like to include you in a memorial. Respect her wishes if she would prefer to do this alone, or not at all.

I hope these tips are of use to anyone who wishes to support a woman who needs help coping with a miscarriage. My warmest wishes and gratitude to all of you who do.

About Nicole Breit

Nicole Breit is an award winning essayist and poet. Her debut poetry collection, I Can Make Life, explores the physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual impact of fertility treatments, pregnancy, pregnancy loss, and birth. I Can Make Life was a finalist for the 2012 Mary Ballard Poetry competition, and has been described as a "gorgeous memoir in verse". Her essay, “For Tristan: A Meditation on Loss, Grief and Healing” was published in The Sound of Silence: Journeys Through Miscarriage (Wombat Books, 2011). She is also the author of a number of online pregnancy loss resources.

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Comments 13 comments

Deanna 5 years ago

I'm delighted to read an article that sensitively addresses the very common, but usually secret, challenge of grieving a pregnancy loss and how to help a loved one who has suffered a loss. These practical, specific suggestions and explanations are just what a loved one watching helplessly from the sidelines, wanting to comfort and help, would want to hear. Great article.


Nicole Breit profile image

Nicole Breit 5 years ago from The Pacific Northwest Author

Thank you, Deanna. I really appreciate your message and am glad you enjoyed my article.


ggenda profile image

ggenda 5 years ago from USA

This is excellent. I really don't think most people know how to comfort someone who has suffered a miscarriage, and all of your points are spot on. When I had my miscarriage at 5 weeks, even my doctor was unfeeling and did not understand. She treated me as if I were experiencing a negative pregnancy result, rather than the loss of an actual baby - no matter how early in the pregnancy it was. That made it especially upsetting and confusing.

Thanks for the hub. Well done and very helpful!


Nicole Breit profile image

Nicole Breit 5 years ago from The Pacific Northwest Author

Thank you for your comments, ggenda. It is gratifying to hear I have written something helpful to other women who have been through a pregnancy loss. Mine was in the first trimester, too. I truly wish that some people wouldn't assume that because a loss happens early in a pregnancy that grief somehow isn't valid - that attitude places miscarriage survivors in a kind of hierarchy of emotional pain. It is hurtful when others, including medical personnel, treat a loss so casually. I'm so sorry to hear of yours, and again, thank you for your kind words.


artofself 5 years ago

Did you tell your "mate"? Why does something so interpersonally related seem best of kept as a secret? I opened up to my ex about this issue and he responded with he didn't believe me, and then sympathy, and now I realize that I wish I didn't tell anyone. However, there is nothing life family. My mom and I talked about it as she picked me up from prison and drove me back home. How I got there is unprobable, but the point is. I found out who really loves me. Hope you know who loves you.


stayingalivemoma profile image

stayingalivemoma 5 years ago from Tempe, Arizona

Your article brought back some memories for me. Miscarriage is such a devastating event. I know I asked myself millions of times what did I do wrong? I would have had six kids instead of five. Thanks for this hub.voted up.


Yvette Rautenbach 4 years ago

Hi there

This is not a question, but rather I wanted to let you know about a song written, titled ‘Unborn’ that you are free to use as you like particularly for ladies who have had a miscarriage.

This song may bring healing to many ladies and so there is no cost or copyright to the song. You can freely copy, and use.

For a link to the song: http://www.reverbnation.com/c/fr5/artist_210655?ei...

To read the background on this song: http://triune-echo.com/unborn-new-soaking-song/

I hope that ladies who hear it may be helped and that this will be able to make a difference to their situation.

Kind regards

Yvette


Ismelda Peralta profile image

Ismelda Peralta 4 years ago from Boston, Massachusetts

Because today is Mother's Day, I wanted to find a way to grief about what happened to me 5 years ago. Thanks for this article. My plan is to try again in two years and I will find the support I need for my next pregnancy.


Nicole Breit profile image

Nicole Breit 4 years ago from The Pacific Northwest Author

Thanks Ismelda. I'm glad you found my article and hope it helped with your healing on Mother's Day. I wish you the best of luck with your next pregnancy. Warm regards, Nicole


Ismelda Peralta profile image

Ismelda Peralta 4 years ago from Boston, Massachusetts

Thanks Nicole. That means a lot. I am getting ready for that time to come.


jpcmc profile image

jpcmc 4 years ago from Quezon CIty, Phlippines

Emotional support is very important. Just being there and reassuring the person does wonders. Voted Up!


Sharkye11 profile image

Sharkye11 4 years ago from Oklahoma

Beautiful hub. You gave wonderful suggestions that will not only help the mother with her grief, but also help friends and family who may be feeling unsure of how to react.


peachpower profile image

peachpower 4 years ago from Florida

I loved this. So much so, that I linked it to my Hub about miscarriage. I hope that's ok with you- I found this to be something that will be extremely helpful for people that just don't know what to say, which is usually everyone. Sad but true. Well written and a pleasure to read. Thanks!

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