WHY not to say…
We have talked before about what to say or not to say to someone after a pregnancy or baby loss and thought it deserved more explanation. You might have heard what not to say but we’d like to explain a little more about why not to say some things that are often used as words of sympathy.
Lets start with
"Everything happens for a reason."
Not only can this sound like you think their loss is a good thing, but it can also be interpreted as blame. Lots of people already feel undeserved guilt after losing a baby, they may be questioning their own actions while pregnant or even their reaction to the pregnancy in the first place.
"What’s for you won’t pass you."
This is a perfect example of a well-meant but trite, meaningless phrase that ultimately is no comfort to a grieving person. It can make a person feel like they deserve the negative experiences they have gone through and they have to wait for fate, the universe or a deity to grant them what they hope for. It’s kindly meant but ultimately hollow and fatalistic.
At least… Lots of phrases can follow this but regardless of what they are it is unlikely to be any help and can be hurtful and dismissive.
“At least you know you can get pregnant.”
For most people pregnancy is not the goal, a baby is the goal, going through a pregnancy, for any length of time, without a baby afterwards is a painful experience.
“At least you have other children.”
Children are not interchangeable; one can’t replace another. None of your living children can replace each other and this is true for lost babies and pregnancies too.
“At least it was early.”
Once again this can sound dismissive and minimising. The length of the pregnancy doesn’t change the hopes and dreams of the child that was hoped for. And it is the life of the baby that should have been that is lost alongside the pregnancy that hurts the most.
“You can always try again.”
Even if a person does conceive again and go on to have other children, they will still have lost that baby and no other pregnancy or baby can replace them.
“You’re still young.”
Lots of people use this to remind someone they have time to have another baby but again, this sounds minimising and dismissive. A person’s age when they experience a loss shouldn’t come into the discussion. While they may feel hopeful for future pregnancies they can express that themselves when they are ready.
“You have an angel in heaven.”
People’s faiths are deeply personal, and some may believe this to be true. But nobody wants an angel in heaven, they want their baby in their arms. It can sound like you believe the loss is somehow a good thing and has given them something positive. While some people may feel this way, it is up to them to feel or express this themselves.
These phrases are intended to bring comfort and are undoubtedly well-intentioned. The goal of this post is not to hurt or scold anyone for trying to comfort a friend or loved one. The purpose here is to help you to find kinder, more effective ways to comfort someone through pregnancy or baby loss.
What to say instead:
I’m so sorry this happened to you.
How are you feeling?
I’d like to help, can I make you dinner, take care of your other kids or get you some shopping?
Would you like to talk about it? I’m happy to listen.
I’m sorry you lost your baby, I have had a similar experience and I find it difficult to talk to other people in the same situation but my thoughts are with you.(Click here for more on protecting yourself if you have had a pregnancy loss.)
If you do say something that you later feel might not have been appropriate or helpful, don’t beat yourself up. Nobody can act perfectly in every situation, particularly when sensitivities are high. You can apologise and explain your intentions were good, let them know you realise now that your reaction may not have been the best and you only wanted to help.
Remember you don’t have to have the right words. The responsibility to “solve the problem” or “cure” your friend or loved one doesn’t rest with you. Your role is not to heal them, but to support them while they heal. A comforting hug, a listening ear, a cup of tea and regular check ins, even a text, may be all the support they need. Acknowledgement of their loss and space for them to share their emotions can be the most important contribution you make to their healing journey.