I would love to change the conversation surrounding pregnancy loss and infertility. So many of the women in my life have been affected by one or the other, and there are so many assumptions made about pregnancy loss that manifests in strange comments or bad advice. My theory is that as a society (whether in sex ed classes or in youth group) we stress so much that if you have sex, you will get pregnant. While that is definitely an outcome, it’s not the only one. And since the other outcomes are never addressed, when we get married and are ready to have kids, and then can’t or struggle to, it’s easy to feel ostracized and no one else is really prepared for it either. Assumptions are made, and hence, comments and advice are doled out.
But the good news is that it’s becoming more of a conversation. More celebrities are speaking out about their experiences, as are more women in general. There are so many articles about pregnancy loss, that it’s easy to educate oneself. And just about everyone I know knows someone who has been through one or the other or both.
I was in a forum recently, and someone asked me what do you tell someone who is going through pregnancy loss, specifically someone you don’t know well. Maybe someone at work or church. And honestly, it’s better to go simple than to try to find those perfect words that will make them feel better (which DO NOT exist).
I am sorry for your loss.
I know it sounds cliche, but this simple statement does two things. First, it acknowledges that there was a loss. I have read about and known women who have people in their lives that refuse to acknowledge their pregnancy loss as anything more than a setback. But to many of these women this is a loss of a child, and just having that validation can mean so much. Second, by not saying anything else, this gives the woman the space to grieve and process how they need to grieve and process. Maybe they end the conversation right there. That is absolutely fine. Maybe they will go into the details. But it is up to them.
Sometimes people might add, “I’ve been there” or “My (family member/friend) has experienced pregnancy loss.” Adding this can be helpful as it can help this person feel less alone, but I wouldn’t recommend going into any of the details. You don’t know what may trigger the woman in front of you, or even if they are prepared to have that conversation.
And finally, don’t take it personally if they don’t react in a way you expected. They might lash out or brush you off. Remember, they are grieving. Even if it’s been a while since the loss, you never know what milestone or anniversary might be coming up for them. It could be a due date or the day they found out they were pregnant. Grace and space are such key terms when approaching this topic, especially with someone you don’t know.
It makes me so happy and encouraged that there are so many people who are willing to ask questions like these. And, of course, this conversation might be different with someone you know better, someone that you have a closer relationship with. I’m hopeful that the conversation and the stigma around pregnancy loss will change. And I’m so grateful to have you all as my community because I know you all want to be a part of that positive change.
Such a wonderful post! Honestly, I firmly believe the more we are willing to talk about our loss experiences, the more people will learn to be supportive.
It’s been a few years since our last loss – people in our lives were not great at offering supportive comments back then in large part because they had no idea what to say. And, we now have a beautiful little boy who is the focus of our daily lives so no-one ever brings up our losses. In fact, we just get asked if we are going to have another one as if international adoption was easy. And honestly, if I could tell people anything now, I’d say, still acknowledge our losses at appropriate times. Those little babies will always be part of my life, and it would be nice to acknowledge their existence, however short. So I guess, I’d add to your thoughts that it’s never too late to acknowledge the babies we lost.
So much love to you my friend.
Yes, I agree, especially if we have shared names or dates with people. Those are so sacred to me, especially names, that I am entrusting them to that person.
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Thank you for writing this.
Great advice. Even having experienced loss myself I struggle with what to say, I guess because I know nothing you say makes it better.
Yes. I think it’s a human response to relieve pain in ourselves and others, but sometimes we have to sit with that pain. And being present in silence can be more valuable than anything we say.