A close friend of mine is going through yet another miscarriage and I paused to think about how hard it is to say the right things. Even though I've gone through miscarriages I still worry about what to say.
I guess I worry because so many people said exactly the WRONG things to me when I had my miscarriages. You know some of them,
"Your baby would've probably had too many birth defects."
"Don't worry, you'll have another baby."
"It's not the same as a death."
"It's been six months, aren't you going to try to have another baby?"
And sometimes the worst were those that said nothing at all, but ignored me because they didn't know what to say.
It's okay, I know how they felt and I don't harbor ill feelings to anyone. In fact, I've forgotten much of what was said and if it wasn't for my journal and writing my book, Lost Children: Coping with Miscarriage, I probably would've forgotten all of them.
The one blessing we all have is our fading memory. For some, that causes fear and anxiety because you think,
No, I don't want to forget my baby.
You won't forget your baby, but hopefully you'll forget the raw edges of pain cutting into your heart when you lost your baby. Hopefully, you'll remember the bond that was formed the moment you discovered you were pregnant and not the sadness and sorrow associated with loss.
Forgetting the fine details is one way we cope as human beings, otherwise life as a whole would become overwhelming.
Just remember probably the easiest and best thing to say is, "I'm sorry."
But you could also say:
"Is there something I could do to help?"
"Would you like a hug?"
"I'll pray for you."
You don't have to say something to make it all better, because it won't be. The love you share helps heal a hurt.
I mentioned that it's hard to know what to say, but something that can help relieve the stress and discomfort is to know that words won't make it all better. It doesn't matter what you say to a person who has experienced a miscarriage or any kind of grief--it's not going to miraculously change their situation.
But in the same vein, words can definitely make it worse. So how do you find a balance?
I think the key is in realizing that you can't fix the problem so don't try to say something to fix it. This usually ends up in statements that diminish the other's loss and causes added pain.
Instead, be sympathetic and if possible, empathic. Sympathy is expressing compassion, concern, or care for another's situation. Empathy is when you offer sympathy from a viewpoint of experience. You've experienced the same situation and so you recall how you felt and offer comfort.
Both sympathy and empathy are needed. But sympathy is not telling someone, "At least you know your baby would've had birth defects and died anyway."
That is a person's attempt to make themselves feel better about the situation--not the person mourning. For some reason, no matter what the situation, humans automatically grasp for a reason to provide justice or explanation to the occurrence. What you must realize is that if you are offering comfort to someone, you can't share with them what comforts YOU. You can't explain to them why something happened, offer philosophical insight into how the world is just, etc. and hope that they will smile and say, "I feel better. I'm not sad anymore."
No. Those are things that cross your mind and help you understand the world you live in, but they don't comfort someone who is grieving.
So next time you're in a situation where you need to offer comfort, make sure that is what you're offering. Not advice, reasons, justification--offer comfort.
And shake off the worry of needing to say something that will make them feel all better and realize that you're not going to make them feel ALL better, but if you're wise and offer heartfelt expressions of sympathy/empathy you might make them feel better for a time--feeling ALL better is something you can't give to another person. It's up to them and it takes time.
I'd like to share a thought I shared with one of my readers:
I understand the feeling of a breaking heart and I wish I had magic thread to stitch it back together for you. The only magic thread I know is time.
Let time be your comforting companion on your journey through grief and trial and let fading memory be a salve to help you overcome your sorrows and put on those "rose-colored glasses" and look back in time and see only the good parts.
You can find more information about coping with miscarriage on my other blog: www.copingwithmiscarriage.blogspot.com and in my book Lost Children: Coping with Miscarriage for Latter-day Saints.