Seeing a loved one go through the trauma of a miscarriage can be a scary and heartbreaking experience. While you want to be there to help and support them, it can be difficult to know exactly what to say to bring them any kind of peace. And while you might think you know what to say, there are actually some common phrases and well-meaning words which you should refrain from. We talked to psychotherapist Perri Shaw Borish, who specializes in postpartum depression and perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, about what not to say.
While your instinct might be to look on the bright side of things, pause before you say something like, “At least you know you can get pregnant,” Shaw Borish says. This is likely not what your loved one wants to hear. Other seemingly harmless assurances like “This was God’s plan” or “You’ll have another pregnancy” are also on the list to avoid. And if this person already has children, please don’t say, “At least you already have a baby.”
“Any time you start a sentence with ‘at least,’ you’re minimizing somebody’s experience,” Shaw Borish explains. Instead of trying to cheer them up or convince them to be less sad, turn to empathy. “Tell the person that you care and you get that this is super significant in their life,” she suggests. Simply acknowledge that their loss really matters, rather than try to make them move on when they’re still grieving.
It’s also helpful to be mindful of this person’s partner and to check in on them as well. “The partner lost this pregnancy too, so acknowledging that they lost something is important as well,” says Shaw Borish.
If you do say the wrong thing, don’t panic. You’re not the first and certainly not the last person to do this. Apologize and turn back to empathy. Ask what you can do to help and always be a shoulder to cry on, an ear to listen, or a helpful hand around the house... but be sure to give them space to heal as well.
Erin Reimel is a freelance beauty editor and copywriter from the Philadelphia area. She has worked for publications like SHAPE, Cosmopolitan, ELLE, Glamour, and Women's Health. She currently works in education teaching beauty communications at her alma mater, Syracuse University, and working in the advancement department of the all-girls high school she attended. When Erin is not at school or writing and editing beauty content, she can be found playing with her brussels griffon puppy, Freddie, and singing show tunes.