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Mother’s Day is just around the corner, and for some, it’s a VERY hard day. I was in that group — a woman who yearned to hold a little love of my own, and wasn’t able to…I know the heartache of loss.
What not to say to someone who miscarries
When a woman miscarries a child, she is left feeling grief and sorrow, and she often deals with physical recovery issues that she does not share. During the first weeks after miscarrying, friends will offer support, sometimes in the form of clichés that are hurtful. No one says something hurtful intentionally, but people may not realize what can cause pain to a grieving woman. While these statements are obviously hurtful when written down in isolation, in the stress of a grieving mother, people can reach for these clichés without thinking.
Here is a list of some of the common clichés heard when a woman miscarries a child and the reasons these statements are not helpful and are even hurtful:
-At least you didn’t know the baby.
This is the great sorrow. What she wouldn’t give to hold that baby once.
-You can have more.
This may or may not be true and is beside the point when a child has died. In addition, more children will not replace the one being missed.
-Everything happens for a reason.
Not exactly comforting.
-There must be a medical cause.
This is probably true but again, not helpful.
-It could be worse.
This woman lost a child. That’s about as bad as it gets.
-(If there are living children) Appreciate what you have.
This assumes she does not appreciate her children and is a bad mother even.
-Don’t be sad.
No one wants to have her feelings invalidated or criticized.
-Get over it.
Getting over the loss of a child is complicated. One doesn’t get over it; she gets through it.
-It’s been [insert #] weeks, and you should be feeling better.
Grief does not follow a calendar. The bereaved are entitled to whatever time frame they need.
-It happens to everyone.
Which leaves the mother feeling awful everyone has felt this pain or leaves her feeling invalidated or somehow weak for her grief.
-It wasn’t meant to be.
Why not? Not very helpful or comforting.
-It wasn’t a real baby.
What is a real baby, then? To this mother, nothing is more hurtful than invalidating her child and her grief over that child.
Finally, those clichés that involve God or His will can be the most hurtful for a bereaved mother.
-God has a plan.
Of course, He does.
-God needed another angel.
God does not need anything.
-Rejoice. Your baby is in heaven.
Most mothers want their children with them. That the child is in heaven is a positive, yes, but that the child isn’t with Mom is painful.
Saying any of these things to a bereaved mother assumes things about how she feels and is coping that may not be true, and many of these statements are invalidating of her child. Support her by asking what she needs and doing just that. And avoid these phrases. A sincere “I’m sorry,” is perfect.