Words by Emma Whiley
Nobody likes grief and nobody wants to witness a tragedy. Especially not one we don't fully understand – like miscarriage. But given the statistics – one in 4 pregnancies ends in miscarriage – we all know someone who has been through, or will go through, this heart-wrenching loss.
I have heard it said that there is never a lonelier time than when you are going through a miscarriage. Maybe it’s because we generally don’t tell people we’re pregnant until we pass the ‘safe date’ of the 12 week scan. And then when something goes wrong, no one knows. And it is a lonely, dark, and painful place to be. But it can be made easier by those who walk through the valleys with us. Having journeyed through miscarriage I can tell you that having friends and family who come alongside you and hold you up is worth more than precious jewels.
But because it is something that is not often talked about, we still don’t really know how to deal with it. So I thought I would put together a few ways you can be there for the people in your life who may experience this terrible loss. It won’t be easy, walking with the broken never is. But it will be worth it.
Just be there
Sometimes it seems that taking a step back from other people’s pain is the easiest reaction. Please don’t disappear. Even if you don’t know what to do or say, just be there. Show up with their favorite food and suggest a series marathon or offer to help out with housework. If you’re especially brave, offer to attend hospital appointments – there’s nothing lonelier than sitting in the A&E by yourself.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions. They’ll tell you if they don’t want to talk about it. It helps them know you’re invested in what they’re going through and not just trying to sweep it under the carpet. Be brave and ask them how they’re doing a week later and then a month later and then six months later and a year later. Keep asking. And then keep listening.
Let them speak
Sometimes speaking through our pain brings healing. So if they start to talk about it don’t try and change the subject. Let them speak. It probably won’t be comfortable for you, but talking through trauma is important in the healing process and if you can be that safe space they need, then be it. Let them speak and be a good listener.
Don't expect her to get over it quickly
Almost a year after my own miscarriage, I still have days when I feel like I’ll never get over it. I don’t think it’s something you do ‘get over’. This is a heartache that takes a long time to learn how to live with. Understanding that and giving her the time she needs to grieve, even if it’s longer than you think it should be, is important and loving.
Remember the due date
Ask her when her due date would have been. Remember it. Write it down if you have to. And then send her a little text or a card or some flowers to let her know you've remembered what this week is and that you're thinking of her. Take her out for dinner and ask her how she's doing. Don't shy away from the topic, let her talk about her baby and let her know she’s loved and supported, especially this week.
Everyone experiences and reacts to miscarriage differently. I avoided baby showers and unfollowed friends who posted lots of pictures of their tots on Instagram. For someone who hasn't been through a miscarriage this must sound drastic. It did to me too, when I lived in the 'before'. But when I found myself clutching for survival tactics these helped. Even if just a tiny bit. It's not that I didn't love my friends or their babies - I did and I do. Desperately. But I just couldn't face a baby shower or my Instagram feed being full of smiling pictures of tiny humans doing things I would never get to do with my little one.
So that brings me to one of the most loving things you can do: be understanding. If your friend just can't come to a baby shower, please don't take it personally, it's nothing to do with you, it's just her way of dealing with her grief. If she doesn't seem interested in a 100 pictures of your kid or your niece or your neighbor's brother's uncle's baby, it's not because she's not interested, it's just that it hurts. It's a constant reminder of what she's lost. And if she's not rushing to make plans with you every week, it's not because she's done with your friendship, it's just because miscarriage is hard and life afterwards is hard and it takes a long time to feel even a little bit normal again. Please don't make her feel bad for that. She doesn't love you or your babe any less, she just needs time.
There are so many ways to support and love people who are hurting and facing this loss. This is by no means an exhaustive list. And everyone reacts to it differently and will need different kinds of support.
But this is a great place to start.
Emma is a Zimbabwean writer living in London, England with her (lovely) husband. She has a fond affection for Westlife and long Instagram captions. Luckily she's grown to love a rainy day because they get a lot of them in England. She'll always choose the pancakes for breakfast, a burger for dinner and she's never met a donut she didn't like. She believes that as a writer, you have the power to share stories that help people feel they're not alone in their pain. And if you can do that, you should. Even if it's scary (it's always scary). She's always up for meeting new people so pop over to her Instagram and say hi!