While miscarriage is such a normal part of pregnancy journeys, it doesn’t mean it feels normal… because people have been shamed into silence about it. Since I knew that miscarrying could be part of the process, I had tried to prepare myself for it. But I soon realized that it wasn’t possible because the thing I need to not be attached to was LITERALLY attached to me. And I was amazed how such a tiny thing — just the size of a chocolate chip I was told — could make me feel such a vast emptiness when it was gone. I felt like I was going insane and could barely sleep some nights for fretting about everything, plus, you know, the continual physical discomfort.
If you’re not sure what that “discomfort” may involve, let me tell you some of the things my body and brain were going through, because it’s important for you to know what your loved one may be experiencing:
- LOTS of bleeding. I was eternally diapered in thick AF maxi pads and I longed to feel fresh air on my netherparts again.
- Horribly painful cramping. A week after miscarried I still had cramps that were almost as painful as the first day. I spent hours in bed crying out in pain and trying to pass out and sleep through the worst of it. That amount of pain was a total surprise to me.
- A hormonal rollercoaster. One minute I’d feel like I was starting to move past it, and the next I’m crying uncontrollably on the bathroom floor of a cafe. One minute I’m laughing and the next I’m uncontrollably raging because someone was rude to my dog.
And all through this I experienced everything from the most amazing support to shocking insensitivity.
So I’d like to tell you how to help someone after a miscarriage in these 5 simple ways:
1. Ask how they want your support
I didn’t want to see anyone in person when I was deep in my pain. But I did cherish every supportive text message from friends. And while everyone offered to come by and be by my side, I declined every time. That’s not what I was comfortable with.
But I would suggest reaching out via text first and offering things ranging from hugs to food delivery, to being by their side and holding their hand while they nap or cry or watch dumb movies, or talking on the phone whenever. Then they can tell you in what form they want your support.
2. Realize that the healing process may take longer than you’d expect
Days and weeks will pass, and it may feel like a long time since it happened, and the shock and sadness has moved on FOR YOU. But your friend may still be deeply hurting both physically and mentally. There’s a lot to recover from that you, or even they, may not even realize. So with that in mind…
3. Be patient with them
While trying to force myself to be a regular and productive member of society I had a mental breakdown. Assumptions that enough time had passed for me to be “normal” again ended up causing a lot of emotional damage.
As mentioned, the healing process may take a long time. We can only heal as fast as our bodies and minds let us. So let the person who’s experienced a miscarriage dictate how much they want to engage in any one activity without any added pressure.
4. Tell them that they’re a good person who didn’t deserve this
One morning I was wide awake and very sad. My husband just pulled me into his arms, and without me prompting it he told me how well I handled the news of my sister’s pregnancy. And then he said, “You’re a good person.”
And I didn’t even know, until the tears just popped out of my eyes, that was EXACTLY what I needed to hear. As my friend put it…
“God I love those simple truths that cut to the core wounds. Because of course you know in your head that it’s dumb to think ‘I had a miscarriage because I did something wrong / am a bad person / deserve it’ … but that doesn’t mean those feelings aren’t there, and that it isn’t deeply healing to have someone tell you that you’re a good person.”
How my husband knew to say that, I have NO idea. But I’m so proud of him for it. If you ever get the opportunity to sneak a “you’re a good person / you don’t deserve this to happen to you / it’s not your fault in any way” into the conversation, go for it. It’s always nice to hear.
5. Offer them all the things they can enjoy again now that they’re not pregnant
Soft cheeses, hard alcohol, mercury-laden fish, hot tubs, rollercoasters, cat litter… offer to gift them or take them to do all the things they may have been avoiding when pregnant.
I’ll tell you that a meal that consisted mostly of unpasteurized cheese and whiskey drinks helped make me truly deeply happy for the first time since miscarrying. A sushi dinner with friends was also a great way to distract myself. I called it the “silver lining tour” and was a nice reprieve from the big grieve.
None of these things “fixed” me or made me all better, but they all helped chip away at my pain, and comforted me on my healing journey.