Sorrow is one of life’s greatest teachers. During a season of loss in my life due to having two miscarriages, I learned a lot about myself and a lot about the foolish things people can say after you have lost a baby. Here are six things never to say to a woman who has experienced the sorrow of a miscarriage:
1. “It’s probably for the best.” Really? Miscarriages occur for all sorts of reasons but this sentiment expresses the all-knowing belief that miscarriage is nature’s way of terminating a pregnancy destined for later and greater disaster. How can you possibly know what caused this loss?. And who is this “best” for? The mother? The now dead baby?… It can be particularly hurtful if said when there is a special needs child somewhere in the family. Saying this never makes anyone feel better.
2. “You can always try again.” That might be the right thing to say when someone didn’t qualify for an Olympic event, but is not what to say now. Getting pregnant is not a competition sport. It’s not about winning or losing – it is about having a baby and growing a family.
3. “At least you weren’t further along.” To some extent this may be true. But none of us can truly know the individual grief of another. Diminishing the grief of a hopeful mother based on a time-line can be hurtful and received as dismissive and cold hearted.
4. “At least you didn’t know your baby.” Saying this presumes a mother-to-be does not love her baby from the moment she knows she is pregnant and ignores the root cause of her grief; the sorrow she feels over having a baby she never had the chance to know…
5. “It won’t happen again.” Oh, how we hope and pray this will be true for someone we care about and that everything will be fine in the next pregnancy. But that is not always the case. Building false hopes and expectations can be a set up for an even greater let down if things don’t go well the next time and a prolong the healing process.
6. “I know what you are going through.” As with all of life’s heartaches, don’t ever say this unless you have actually experienced the situation firsthand. Only then do you have the authority to express those words and give them meaningful credibility. Go slowly and tread softly in sharing your experiences. Remember to pass on advice the same way you pass salt – at the dinner table – only when asked for…
So, what should you say? Most often a simple, “I’m so sorry” is best.
The right word spoken at the right time is
“Like apples of gold in a settings of silver.”