What Not to Say to Someone After Pregnancy Loss
Consider intention versus impact before you speak to someone who is grieving. Here are a few phrases to avoid, no matter how well-intentioned you may feel when saying them:
- It wasn’t meant to be.
- It’s not your time yet.
- At least you could get pregnant.
- You’ll have another one!
- You can always adopt.
- It was so early, it wasn’t really a baby yet.
- I know people who have had five miscarriages and went on to have a healthy baby.
- You’re going to be fine.
- God wanted this baby home with him. (Step carefully around what God would or wouldn’t have wanted. A person experiencing loss may be having very complicated feelings about God right now. The last thing you want to do is make someone more upset.)
Remember - your words matter.
How to Support Someone Through Pregnancy Loss
Offer something specific instead of asking what they need.
A grieving person often can’t or doesn’t want to focus on mundane things like errands or meals. Use the suggestions below that most make sense for the person you care about, or use these ideas as a jumping off point for your own.
- Offer a listening ear
- Ask if you can come by and visit for a short time
- Let them know you’re available to go out for a walk, a movie or shopping
- Offer to pick up their groceries
- Give them a gift certificate for a massage
- Offer to send a meal from their favorite restaurant
- Ask if you can take their dog for a longer walk that they may not have the energy for
- Let them know you’re available to help manage baby items they may have received
- Ask if they'd like to paint, draw or write about their baby and bring supplies for them
Practicing Radical Self-Acceptance
When you’re grieving the loss of a pregnancy, you may feel like all you want to do is talk about it, and other times, you may feel at a loss for words to convey what you are experiencing.
Your emotions can quickly swing from one side of the pendulum to the other. Loss hurts, often in a visceral, very real way. That pain may come in waves, or it may be constant.
All of it is ok, normal and expected. Try not to judge yourself or set high expectations right now. Grieving is a normal response to loss. This is the time to let yourself be.
My Personal Experience with Pregnancy Loss
With my pregnancy loss, all I could do was curl up in a ball and cry in bed for the first week.
What brought me to my proverbial knees was all the effort, dedication and time invested in something I so desperately wanted, just for it to be so cruelly taken away from me. I could not wrap my brain around it, my heart took over and I just mourned.
Getting out of bed to go back to work and life felt almost impossible. Somehow this momentous thing had happened, and the world went on as if everything was normal. But for me, it was never the same "normal" again. Never.
On Grieving What Might Have Been
To this day, I know how old that baby, who was barely more than an embryo, would have been. This is not a political statement; it is an emotional statement. If you know, you know.
If you don’t know, it goes like this: you may believe that an embryo is NOT a baby, not a child, not what your dreams are made of. It may be engrained in your mind and even your heart, as a political, moral, ethical belief that an embryo is NOT a baby.
Conversely, you may feel the opposite! If your belief is that an embryo is a baby from conception, this is just as complex, confusing and devastating.
But there’s something that happens when egg and sperm join and an embryo begins to develop - we begin to envision our baby. We see ourselves pregnant, we see ourselves giving birth, we see ourselves holding our child, guiding their first steps, watching them lose their first tooth.
We see their future and we see our own.
When that future is lost, we grieve - not just for that embryo or that pregnancy, but for the birth that won’t end with a baby in our arms, and for the child that we won’t be raising.
This is what pregnancy loss is, what it looks like, how momentous the loss is. It is the incredibly heartbreaking, premature end to something that has barely begun.
Ceremonies & Rituals to Honor Your Loss
Acknowledging this momentous loss can feel like a way to honor the life that was not lived. It can help bridge the gap between the loss and readjusting to a new version of life.
Here are a few ways to tangibly honor your pregnancy loss:
Hold a Ceremony
A ceremony could look like a gathering of the people closest to you or it could be just you and another loved one. It could even be entirely private, just for you. It can consist of speaking, reading something meaningful out loud, or be completely silent.
Spend Time Alone
This can consist of time spent in a special place, either outdoor or indoor. You can invite the universe into the moment, feeling your way into a space of connectedness.
Physical Acts of Love
This could involve a symbolic burial of a small token, a picture, or a goodbye letter.
It could be the planting of a tree or flowers. It could be writing something in the sand that the waves then carry into the ocean. It could be stacking stones on top of each other and saying a blessing. It could be as simple as singing or listening to a song.
What feels right to you?
These rituals can happen immediately or a year later. This is your time to heal. Whatever you choose to do, remember to practice radical self-acceptance and self-love.
This is a time to love yourself as you are in this moment, honor your efforts, and grieve your loss. This isn't a time to think about blame and what went wrong - it's about forgiveness and acknowledgement of your effort and dedication.
Do things at your own pace, taking your needs into account and finding what’s best for you, while doing your best to let those who love you be a part of the process and help.
Affirmations for Those Experiencing Pregnancy Loss
Use an affirmation in the present tense. Set a timer for one minute and repeat the affirmation out loud or in your mind’s eye. This is a reminder of what you believe to be true. Use one of the affirmations below or create one that speaks to you.
- I am loved and I am loving
- My body and heart are capable of healing
- My baby lives in my heart and is safe there
- I am alive and I am present in this moment
- My baby will always be remembered
- I forgive myself
Where to Find Grief Support
If you have experienced a pregnancy loss and are suffering, there is help available from support groups, individuals, or advocates like myself. Therapy can also be a good option to explore at this time.
Here are some suggestions:
- Resolve New England's support groups (a trusted organization, open to all)
- Please call me, Lisa Rosenthal, at 203-240-6122 and we can talk one-on-one
- The Mourners' Bill of Rights offers beautiful, compelling statements about grief
- Miscarriage Hurts provides resources for anyone going through loss
- Pregnancy After Loss Support shares a variety of tools, articles and more
One in four women will experience a pregnancy loss. You are not alone in this. We are here for you. Here to listen and offer support. Here to help you process the pain you are feeling.