Advice for after a miscarriage

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 Summary of what to do for a dear friend who miscarried in her second trimester.

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After Miscarriage

I posted a question asking advice on what to do for a dear friend who miscarried in her second trimester. I was overwhelmed with the responses. They were touching and honest and enlightening.

Thank you all who responded.

I've put together a summary of the advice I was given (with personal details deleted) so that in the future, others can benefit from these thoughts:

Response 1:

To miscarry at all is a singularly, primally excruciating experience. To miscarry after getting into the 2nd trimester is particularly brutal because you and everyone else think you're in the clear.
Everything about it (not just the long recovery) is shockingly unfair.

I would suggest:

**Act exactly the way you would if someone had died. Someone did. So, send flowers. Send a heartfelt condolence letter that honors what the baby represented, and that there was a baby. Don't avoid talking about the baby.

**Leave frequent phone messages just to check in with absolutely no expectation in word or tone that she call you back.

**Drop off food with absolutely no expectation of a thank you. She will thank you, but it might take a while.

**Ask her in a neutral way if she wants to have any ritual to honor the baby and the baby's passing. If she recoils from the idea, drop it. If she seems tentative and/or curious about the idea, wait a while and then ask again, or see if she would like to brainstorm about what that ritual might look like.

**After a few weeks, and after a few months, when the world expects her to be past it, don't expect her to be past it.

**Think of things in her lifestyle that you could/would do for her, and then call her up and name the specific thing(s) you'd like to do for her to take it off her plate. Don't wait for her to ask, and don't say the thing that everyone says, which is "let me know if I can do anything for you during this difficult time." The burden of figuring out what kind of help is needed, and of reaching out, should not be put on the person in pain.

**In addition to being sad, your friend will either now or at some point later be angry. Really angry. Think of healthy ways you could help her get the anger out of her system -- exercise, banging on drums or pillows, etc.

**Baby her. As much as she was briefly a mother carrying a child, she is also a vulnerable woman who is on some level as vulnerable as a child.

**Take her for pedicures where they include a good long foot rub.

**Take her to diverting movies and/or bring over DVDs.

Response 2:

That is a beautiful answer. I miscarried years ago, much earlier in my first pregnancy, and it was amazing how alone I felt. People said nothing (like maybe I had forgotten and they didn't want to remind me) or "You'll have another one" and my ex mother in law told me it was because I had done X, Y or Z - whatever it was she didn't approve of. 14 years later, I have not forgotten.

The only thing I would emphasize is to be there to let your friend talk about the experience. There is a lot of releasing that needs to be done and she may want to talk about it, often and over again!, but she may not know how to begin or what to say. In the silence that most miscarriages are greeted with, even loving silence, sometimes putting it into words can seem self-indulgent, so we also stay silent. That was my experience anyway.

Response 3:

I just wanted to second all of the suggestions above. It is so important to remember that this is a death and to acknowledge that death. I also thought it was really important to remember that the mourning process is going to be a long one.

Response 4:

Personally, I think sending flowers is a brilliant idea. And, I think your words can be as simple as I love you. The truth is there isn't much to say and no one really knows what to say and half the time, it's usually the wrong thing. My main concern was that something was wrong with me and that I was going to have a hard time staying pregnant. So, I was more worried about the future and the time frame of getting pregnant again.

Response 5:

I've had three miscarriages and two D&Cs. ONE friend, and one friend only, brought me food -- a delicious homemade lasagna. I will remember it with gratitude for the rest of my life!

Also, does she have a child already? Babysitting in the first day or two after her surgery would be a beautiful thing.

Response 6:

I just had a miscarriage two weeks ago so the whole thing is very fresh in my mind. I was only nine weeks along and my body did the deed by itself without being induced, so it was in some ways much easier than your friend's circumstance. It is in many ways like giving birth and I was amazed by how much my body had produced in such a short time. I was also able to save the 'egg' and I intend to bury it with a mini 'service' just for me and my husband. I don't know if this idea would interest your friend or if it would even be practical, but at least it might comfort her to know it's not such a wierd idea. Apparently the Japanese have a special garden for miscarried babies.

I am sure you will get many replies to your query, because as I found out miscarriages are extremely common; they just aren't widely discussed. It turned out that my mother and aunt each had one, my mother in law had three as did my sister in law and a number of my friends. All of us however, either have or went on to have perfectly healthy babies. You don't say if this was your friend's first pregnancy, but reassure her that there is absolutely no reason why she can't get pregnant again and there is nothing she did to cause this loss. One thing that really helped me and my sister-in-law was the discovery that we had actually miscarried on the exact same day, though she was not as far along as me. Such an amazing coincidence but it made the whole thing feel like fate rather than rotten bad luck.

Get your friend some beautiful flowers and maybe help out with the cooking or cleaning. She will be feeling very weak for a while. The fact that you're acknowledging that this is a big deal will in itself help her a lot.

Response 7:

My wife miscarried at 10 weeks. We talked about it, all she could do was cry it out. I guess that was her way to deal with the loss. She just really needs all the support she can possible get right now, even though that means giving her some space to grieve.

Response 8:

Everyone kind of acted like it was not a big deal and I could have another kid. It took me a good three months to talk about it without crying. Just be there for her. Call her often just to say hi. Ice cream helped me, though I gained twenty pounds from it. Just realize that it takes a long time. My friend miscarried at 4 months and had to be induced and give birth and she had panic attacks and depression for at least six months. I think it is a big deal and I think about my first baby all of the time.

Response 9:

What was miserable for me was having to explain it to people. You may want to offer to call 2nd tier friends so that your friend doesn't have to relive it each time she explains it to someone. Also, all you can do to really comfort your friend when talking about it is to express sorrow.

By the way, I personally hated flowers. But I wasn't into the burial and that sort of stuff. Your friend may be different.

Response 10:

I have a friend who miscarried. She tells me now that she just wanted people to not pretend it didn't happen. Would your friend be interested in having a little ceremony? I have read that that is really helpful to grieving.

Respose 11:

Maybe not quite what you are after, but I would say "remember"-4, 6, 12 months from now when others may have forgotten but your friend still hurts and perhaps still doesn't act, react, live totally "normally." 

Response 12:

For your friend: make her a meal, take her for a walk, go out for a good stiff drink, spoil her a little. Stay in touch in a light way but often. Let her drive the conversation but be available to her. Be present -- more than any stuff you could give her, a patient, true friend is worth everything.

It's also important that you and she both realize that miscarriage is a terrible loss AND totally normal -- about a quarter of pregnancies end in a miss, and plenty plenty plenty of people go on to have children after a miscarriage. So take heart, have hope, things look dark now (they are) but life holds promise.

Reponse 13:

9 years ago, I miscarried in my 5th month and had a D&C. Physical recovery was minimal. What helped me most were friends who felt my pain, who cried with me. I didn't need gifts or whatever, just holding my hand was what I needed. Remarks such as "it probably is for the best ... or there will be more pregnancies" were very painful and not helpful.

Reponse 14:

I miscarried at 10 weeks 14 years ago and it was my first pregnancy. Yes, it is unbelievably sad. I took a trip upstate with my husband, we went to this B&B and being outdoors and doing simple things helped me a lot; however, the biggest thing for me was to start trying to get pregnant after the medical check ups were done and I was given the OK by the doctors. It took me 2 (long) years to get pregnant again but it happened and my miscarriage is now a sad memory that I have been able to share with my 2 young children.

Response 15:

I suppose everyone is different but I can say what ISN'T helpful are any comments about "you'll try again" "it will be ok" and I don't know if she already has a child, but "at least you already have a beautiful child" really don't work. I think letting her be sad, mourning and just sitting with that, as uncomfortable as that it is, is all a good friend can do. It simply sucks and is sad. Trying to say anything else won't acknowledge her feelings.

The other thing is I believe there is support out there for her--perhaps through Resolve if she is into reaching out to others.

Response 16:

There is a perinatal bereavement group at Winthrop Hospital on Long Island. The LIRR stops a block away from the hospital.