Before I became a member of The Worst Club of Women™ who have suffered pregnancy loss, I had several friends who miscarried. I always empathized with them, but never knew the extent of physical and emotional pain caused by a pregnancy loss until it happened to me. If you’re reading this, I hope you’re on the outside of the club and feel clueless about the specific feelings associated with miscarriage. And if you are, I’d like to offer some things to consider on how to best care for your friends as they join this club that no one wants to be part of.
The first thing that I want you to know is that miscarriage is not simply a terrible period or minor injury. It is the death of a person dreamt up and hoped for. No matter the point in time in which someone experiences a pregnancy loss, it can be heartbreaking and traumatic. I was once naive to think that a miscarriage, though sad, had a rather quick recovery time (emotionally and physically) because I had no idea what it entailed.
If you are a manager or supervisor, please have empathy for your subordinates who might ask for a week off or who seem mentally absent for weeks (months?) after her loss. I could barely sit up straight for five days and there was absolutely no way I could have sat at a desk or walked around a salon or interacted with co-workers. This was just the physical side. I couldn’t stop crying for several days and I’m not sure how I could have talked to people face-to-face. I am so thankful that my boss allowed me to work from home and showed grace and understanding for my situation even though he didn’t know exactly what I was going through.
If you are a friend, please speak up without feeling awkward the first time you see your friend in person. You don’t have to have the right thing to say, and it doesn’t have to turn into a long conversation if you’re not sure how to handle that, but not mentioning it at all makes it seem like you’re not willing to talk about her dirty little secret. No amount of time can pass to make it officially long enough for everything to be okay again and therefore unnecessary to bring up. Maybe you’re seeing her for the first time four weeks after you received her original text about the loss. She’s still processing it, I promise. If you were in a circle of friends close enough to learn the news first-hand, you should gladly be willing to acknowledge it when you see her face-to-face.
If you are following Jesus and your friend is, too, remind her of the person of Jesus and the hope we have in Heaven, but also let her know that it’s okay if it’s hard for her to believe those things right now. Let her know that it’s okay for her to feel mad or numb or discouraged. Let her know that Jesus isn’t scared of her emotions, and when she’s ready, she can work them out with him. I think we either tend to scrub away someone’s “negative” emotions with quick encouragement of the gospel or encourage someone to sit in their “negative” emotions without any hope at all. Try to find the balance (pray and ask the holy spirit for guidance if you’re not sure how to find it) of validating her emotions without leaving her alone in them. Even in my saddest moments, I was holding on to hope that Jesus was mourning with me.
INSTEAD OF BRINGING IT UP IN FRONT OF OTHER PEOPLE, TRY TEXTING HER BEFORE TO SEE IF SHE’S READY TO TALK ABOUT IT.
You should never assume that other people know the news, but it could feel hurtful if everyone does know the news and no one brings it up. If you’re planning to spend time with your grieving friend and a couple other people, you could text her beforehand and say “Do [friends names] know about what happened? Is it something you’d like to talk about today, or would you prefer to wait until another time?” If she responds by letting you know she’s not ready to talk, respect her wishes and say “Of course. I won’t mention anything today, but I’ve been thinking about you and praying for you. I’d love to listen whenever you’re ready to process.”
INSTEAD OF NOT RESPONDING TO THE NEWS, TRY SAYING “I AM SO SORRY. I DON’T EVEN KNOW WHAT TO SAY.”
I never needed my friends or family to say the right thing. I received a lot of simple texts sharing my sadness and admitting that they didn’t have words, and that was absolutely okay. After a loss, it’s easy to feel alone. A response of any kind acknowledges the feelings and makes the grieving friend know she’s heard and thought about.
INSTEAD OF SAYING “IT’S SAD FOR EVERYONE,” TRY SAYING “I AM SO SAD WITH YOU.”
Generalizing her grief might feel dismissive, but letting her know that you’re sharing in her sadness shows empathy and care.
Be careful not to make it about you, though. It’s okay if you’re grieving her loss, but extended family and friends will not share in the depth of pain and heartache that the husband and wife (and maybe kids) will. Experiencing a loss first-hand is far different than learning about it after the fact. Acknowledging her heartbreak without adding a burden of needing to care for your sadness over the news honors her emotions rather than dismissing them.
INSTEAD OF SAYING “LET ME KNOW IF THERE’S ANYTHING I CAN DO,” TRY BEING SPECIFIC AND OFFERING TO DROP OFF DINNER OR A TREAT.
Asking your grieving friend to let you know if there’s anything you can do is coming from the right place of generosity and care, but in reality, doesn’t leave most people with permission to follow up. You’re unknowingly putting the burden of asking for a favor on them, which feels awkward. Instead, texting “I’d love to make you dinner this week and drop it off. Let me know which night works best.” or “What’s your order from Starbucks? I’m going to drop coffee on your porch tomorrow morning.” opens up a space for the grieving friend to know that you’re serious about your offer without putting the burden on her to figure out what she needs.
INSTEAD OF PLANNING TO STAY AND CHAT WHEN YOU DROP SOMETHING OFF, TRY HAVING THE EXPECTATION OF LEAVING YOUR GIFT WITHOUT SEEING HER.
Sometimes, a grieving friend might want you to stay to talk, but let her invite you in. I was incredibly sad, sore, and ashamed during the first week of recovery and didn’t want to see anyone. It felt rude to send Danny to the door, but I knew it was emotionally best for me at the time. Remember that your generosity in dropping off food or a gift isn’t about you, but about meeting your friend in her grievance. Ask ahead of time if you’re not sure, but do whatever you can to take yourself out of the picture and make sure she feels safe and loved by the way you deliver your gift.
- I had a small handful of friends who texted me every day for the first week to see how I was doing and I felt safe to respond with honest answers. I had a couple friends who continued to text me every couple of days for several weeks following my loss. Months later, those same friends still sporadically check in about it all. These are the best kind of friends.
- One friend texted me a little over a week after it happened to ask how I was doing and let me know she hadn’t texted because she wanted to give me space. I appreciated this explanation.
- Another friend asked how I was doing followed by “no need to respond but wanted you to know I’m thinking of you.”
- Many friends asked how they could pray for us which I knew was a genuine ask.
- 3 couple-friends grouped together and sent us a generous DoorDash gift card. I thought this was great because they gave us meals without needing to drop them off.
- A co-worker donated to a non-profit organization that we love in honor of Baby Tilmes.
- So many flowers. I love flowers. I felt glimpses of God with each delivery.
I deeply hope you never join The Worst Club of Women™, but that you’ll be a proud member of the sister club that makes it a mission to show a grieving friend how much you love her, even if you’re stumbling along the way.