The Vanderhorst Family

The Vanderhorst Family

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The Etiquette of Miscarriages

I was talking to one of my close friends a couple weeks ago and she was telling me that she just barely went through a miscarriage. I wasn't there in person as I was talking to her over the phone, but I sincerely wished that I could've just thrown my arms around her and given her a shoulder to cry on. As she explained to me her feelings through a choked up voice, I began to get teary-eyed as I could remember those feelings of loss and what could have been. She began to explain some frustrations she had about sharing her miscarriage with other people, and that she didn't really feel heard, understood, or that her emotions were being validated (mostly because she wasn't that far along, and she is still a young, healthy girl, so she still has time--this is what others have told her).

I wrote a blog post a while back about my experience going through a few miscarriages, and because of that I had quite a few of my friends confide in me that they had gone through the same thing and didn't really feel like they had a safe outlet to talk about it--mainly because of insensitive comments from people they DID talk to about it.
Now, I will admit, I did not really understand what this felt like until I went through it. We didn't have miscarriages before we had Andrew, so I didn't know what it felt like to try to start of a family and not be successful on the first, second, third, etc. pregnancies. I will also say that as I was going through my miscarriages, I felt like I couldn't really be as sad as those who didn't have any kids yet because hey, at least I was already able to start my family. Shouldn't I have been grateful for the one kid I already did have?
I wasn't expecting it to be as hard as it was, and I know that everyone handles miscarriage differently. I think everyone who has one mourns, but some people get over it more quickly than others, and for some people, it's something they never really get over. Neither response is "correct." One is not more noble than the other.

But understanding that people handle trials differently is SO KEY to helping everyone cope with what life has dealt them.
With all of that said, many of my friends and I heard a lot of the same comments from different people, and we collectively came up with a list. Here's a list of what NOT to say when someone has a miscarriage...
"At least you weren't that far along." (Most of my friends were still in their first trimester when it happened, so true, they were not that far along. However, this comment stings because it's the loss of what would have been your child, so when you say this it kind of discounts that possibility of what might have been. I think this is the hardest thing for people going through miscarriages to deal with--what might have been).

"Oh, one of my friends had 5 miscarriages and another one of my friends had a still-born baby." or "One of my friends delivered a super-premature baby that didn't live." (I think people might say these comments to let their friends know that they aren't alone, and since they haven't ever experienced a miscarriage they feel like they can't really understand, so they try and tell them about someone else they know that went through a similar experience, but it kind of sounds like you're one-upping them, and you're also taking the hurt away from them. Trust me, those who go through miscarriages won't be self-absorbed in their hurt forever, and they will eventually realize that it could have been worse, but in the moment, it feels like the worst thing in the world. One-upping their story will not make them feel better.)
"It's just your body telling you that there was something wrong with the development." (Scientifically and logically, yes, this makes sense. However, when people first go through a miscarriage they don't need a scientific explanation--they need an empathetic response. Those who go through miscarriage know all the science behind it, and eventually it will help them cope, but that's not what they need right away).
"Miscarriages are more common than you think--they pretty much happen to every woman at some point in their lives." (True, I read a statistic once that 80% of women will experience a miscarriage. While it might seem like it should be a comforting fact--that it's normal and it happens often and to not be discouraged, this comment can again feel like you're diminishing the hurt that someone is going through in that moment).
"Well at least you already have a kid/kids." (Ya...but they would like to add to their family...)
"This is just the Lord's way of telling you that the timing wasn't right." (Try this line out on someone who has had an engagement called off on them--do you think it'd turn out super well? Probably not, and it wouldn't in this situation either. Yes, the timing clearly wasn't right, but that doesn't make it any easier when you already had it set in your mind that this is when you were going to have a baby. Also, please don't tell them to have faith in the Lord's timing. Just because you are going through trial and having a hard time dealing with it does NOT mean that you lack faith).
I've learned from talking to my friends and from my own experience, that really all people need is just a listening ear, a shoulder to cry on, and someone to listen. If you haven't been through a miscarriage and you can't really understand, try saying, "That must be so hard--I'm so sorry this happened!" If you HAVE gone through a miscarriage (and you may already be over it), just say "I went through a miscarriage and I remember it being really difficult at the time." You don't need to go on and say how time will eventually heal this wound or anything. Let the other person lead the discussion and if they'd like more information about your experience to help them cope, they will ask for it.
Miscarriage and infertility are such tender subjects, and to have someone open up to you about their experience means that they trust you and are looking to you for comfort. My dear mother-in-law posted this picture on facebook and I loved it.


  1. Loved this post Bekah. (I'm assuming the person you were talking about in the beginning is the same person I know, perhaps...) It's hard to know what to say and I feel like the last person people want sympathy from is the gal with two sets of twins. All I could say to her was, "Even though I know you'll get pregnant again, it still doesn't change the fact that this just sucks. I'm so sorry." Miscarriages are a hard hard thing.

    1. It was actually a different friend, but I know who you're talking about, and her and I did talk about it a while back. I know for me that when I confided in people about what had happened that it was those who I trusted and loved and who I knew loved me, so all I really needed was for them to listen and love me in my time of need. I know you and this person are close (obviously haha) so I'm sure you just listening and loving was all she needed :)