Several weeks ago I wrote a post about depression and grief after a miscarriage or loss. To be honest, I was actually surprised by how much reaction it got. Having not experienced infant loss myself, it hadn’t really hit me how many women go through it, how deeply affected they are, how it easy it is to say the wrong thing when trying to support them, and how confused they are about where to find the help they need. My eyes were opened.
I just read a piece written by a mom who has already been through postpartum depression and has just recently had a miscarriage. My heart aches for her. Here is a bit of what she wrote:
“I feel like I have this black pit in my insides and it’s slowly consuming more and more of my being. I just want to come out on the other side of this without losing too much of myself. I feel like I’d finally come out of my postpartum issues and I lost a little piece of myself with it, but I also gained. I have Colin. But now I feel like I’m losing all over again and this time I have no reward for survival.”
Ugh. I always feel like I don’t know exactly what to say to a mom who has had a miscarriage or lost her baby. How to show support. How to avoid blowing it by saying the wrong thing. I came across this really helpful post from the Share blog entitled “What Do You Say?”, which describes exactly what NOT to say:
“After each of my miscarriages, I was truly shocked and amazed by the words that came from my friends’ and loved one’s mouths…things like: ‘You’re young, you’ll have more babies!’ ‘At least it happened early.’ ‘There was probably something wrong with ‘it,’ you should think of it as a blessing.’ (Oh, really? A miscarriage is a blessing? How exactly, I wanted to ask.). My favorite, ‘It’s been a MONTH already! You need to get over this!’ …
I am routinely stunned and horrified by what parents who have had later losses tell me…like the mom who was told after her daughter was born still at 20 weeks, ‘At least you hadn’t done a nursery yet.’ Or the mom who shared with me that her grandmother told her after the full term stillbirth of her third child, ‘Oh well…you didn’t need another baby anyway.’ Or the many parents who are told ‘Count your blessings! You have other children!’ as if that makes the death of one okay. Or, ‘It wasn’t meant to be.’ The ‘ors’ could go on and on.
Oh gosh. Have I said something like this to someone who has had a miscarriage? Somewhere along the way? To be perfectly honest, I bet I have, or some milder version of it, while fumbling for the right words and trying to put a good spin on a horrible situation. Why do we feel that we have to put a spin on it at all? Why can’t we just say “I’m sorry. I’m here for you. I love you.”? It’s as if we want to make it go away for the person who is hurting, to brush it aside, to lighten the load. As if by saying the magic words she will be set on the speedy superhighway to recovery.
The Silent Grief website offers an article on how to help a friend who has gone through a pregnancy loss. They suggest doing a lot of the same things I’d suggest when trying to help a friend who has postpartum depression.
1. Offer to do errands or bring a fresh and nutritious meal. I’ve often heard it said that in this situation you shouldn’t take no for an answer, since many feel so uncomfortable accepting help and are likely to say they don’t need any. Say “I’ve made this for you and I’m going to bring it. When would be the best time to drop it by?” rather than “Would you like me to bring some food?”
2. Be a good listener, allowingher to share her story and feelings. Don’t judge. Don’t decide for her when she should get over this or how she should be reacting to it. It’s her loss, not yours.
3. Make sure your support is ongoing, not just during the first few weeks. Fight the urge to move away from her because it’s so hard to see her suffer and it’s so hard to be around such pain. Keep reaching out.
For those of you going through this right now, please check out my piece on the difference between grief and depression after a loss. It includes a list of specific resources that support women who have had miscarriages or stillbirths. Please consider visiting them so that you might be able tointeract with those who truly understand what you are going through. You are not alone.