Losing a baby, no matter how far along you were in your pregnancy, is heartbreaking. The reactions you'll get when you share the news can vary widely. Let's rate ten of them.
1. Blame or Judgment
Unfortunately, some individuals may respond insensitively when you tell them you've had a miscarriage by suggesting that you are somehow at fault for your miscarriage.
This might look like:
"Did you do something to cause this?"
"Maybe you should've been more careful."
"Do you think God is punishing you?"
"You shouldn't have told people so early!"
Judgment and blame can intensify the emotional pain you’re already feeling. It's not at all uncommon to wonder if you could've done something differently to save your baby, and someone else putting it into words can be heartbreaking.
Ghosting is, unfortunately, not an uncommon reaction after sharing about a miscarriage and trying to express pain and grief with someone who feels incredibly uncomfortable with the subject. Ghosting involves the complete and abrupt withdrawal of communication.
This can look like:
Expressing sympathy or another reaction but then disappearing afterwards.
Not inviting you to events or to get together when, typically, they would have.
Making excuses when you reach out to them, if they even respond at all.
Ghosting may be particularly hurtful and confusing to you because you may have expected support and understanding, but instead have received avoidance. Ghosting during the miscarriage grieving process can lead to isolation and compounded grief - as you now must also grieve the loss of this relationship.
3. Toxic Positivity
Toxic positivity is the practice of excessively and unrealistically focusing only positive emotions and outcomes while dismissing or invalidating any negative emotions or experiences. If the statement sounds like it should make you feel better but it makes you feel worse, it's likely toxic positivity.
When it comes to miscarriage and baby loss this might look like:
“Don’t be sad! Everything happens for a reason, and you’ll have a baby when the time is right.”
"At least you were early! It could be so much worse!"
"Be grateful that you know you can even get pregnant!"
Reactions like these can lead you to feel pressured to suppress your true emotions and feel ashamed of your grieving process, leading to emotional and relational strain.
Minimization of the miscarriage implies that pregnancy loss is not a significant event - or that pregnancy loss at a certain stage of pregnancy (typically first trimester) is not a significant event. There are often shades of toxic positivity involved with minimization.
This can look like:
"At least you were early."
"This happens to lots of people. You just need to try again."
"It wasn't a real baby."
Minimization may make you feel that your emotions are invalid, and you shouldn't be so upset about your loss. It often leads those who have had a miscarriage to isolate and keep their grief and story to themself.
5. Unsolicited Advice
People often offer well-intentioned but unsolicited advice after learning of a miscarriage. Typically the advice is to take various remedies or make lifestyle changes without understanding your unique situation or medical history.
This can look like:
"You should take this herbal remedy that worked for my niece's friend! She'd had two miscarriages and this did the trick!"
"You need to do yoga, meditate and relax. Stress causes miscarriages!
This reaction, while well-meaning can be frustrating for you. It can also cause confusion about who to believe and what to try next.
6. No Reaction
I'm often asked "what do I say when someone says they've had a miscarriage?" Sometimes, people have no idea what to say when the news of baby loss is shared with them. Perhaps they're worried about making everything worse, they're uncomfortable, or they're not sure what's appropriate to say...so they say nothing or they change the subject quickly.
This reaction can feel dismissive or make you feel like you did the wrong thing by sharing your loss. However, it's certainly better than some reations we've already mentioned.
7. Sharing Personal Stories
After sharing the news of your miscarriage, you may have someone react by sharing a story of their own baby's death. How the sharing of personal stories impacts you likely depends very much on the delivery. Hopefully the conversation leaves you feeling understood and connected...or you could feel the opposite.
Sometimes, they want to make you feel less alone in your grief - after all, 10-20% of all pregnancies end in miscarriages. However, there are some who share that they have had a loss and they didn't grieve the way you are, that their situation was better or worse than yours, or they got pregnant soon after. Unfortunately, just because someone else has had to cope with baby loss as well does not mean they won't engage in some of the other reactions listed - or leave room for you to share your grief. You will hopefully find that other loss parents may understand you and support you in ways others simply don't - and that can be worth all the butterflies.
8. Expressing Sympathy
Sympathy is an external acknowledgment of your pain and offers you comfort. However, it may not necessarily involve a deep emotional connection.
This may look like:
"I'm so sorry."
"I can't imagine how hard this must be for you."
"If there's anything I can do to help, please let me know."
"I'm sorry for your loss."
Receiving sympathy for your miscarriage can leave you feeling seen, less alone, supported, and cared for. Sympathy doesn't always open the conversation further for you to share or feel a deeper connection with the other person; however, it may certainly be a stepping stone to building one.
Empathy and sympathy are related concepts with distinct differences. Think cousins, not twins. Empathy involves truly understanding and sharing in someone else's feelings or experiences, often on a deep emotional level - even if you haven't had that experience yourself. Sympathy, on the other hand, is a more external expression of care and concern. You can sympathize with someone's pain without necessarily feeling the same way they do. Empathy can build deep connections and support a healing grief process.
This may look like:
"Your feelings are valid, and I'm here to support you in any way I can."
"I'm here to listen and be there for you. Do you feel comfortable sharing with me?"
"It's okay to grieve, and I'm here to support you through this difficult time."
"I know how badly you wish things were different. How's your support system showing up for you right now? What gaps can I fill?"
10. Empathy + Meaningful support
Meaningful (and ongoing) support after an empathic response is the ultimate response. When the person you've shared with finds meaningful ways to to honor your baby and the grief that their death has left, ways to support you in the present and future...it's the unicorn of responses.
This can look like:
Reaching out to you and honoring your baby on important dates (their due date, their birthday, Mother's Day/Father's Day, major holidays)
Letting you know that they're thinking about you and your baby randomly
Using your baby's name (if you chose one)
Making food, running errands, and helping with tasks in the days ahead.
Asking to join you or support you in any events or rituals that you do to honor your baby - such as a funeral, memorial service or just spending time remembering.
Bringing up your baby in the future - not just immediately after the miscarriage.
Finding your support system as you navigate your miscarriage is essential - and it may not be who you expected. You are deserving of love and support as you process the many diffiult emotions you may feel.
Growforth Family Building's mission is to work and walk alongside individuals building their families through "non-traditional" methods - whether due to infertility, health issues, family make-up or entirely by choice. I believe that every family deserves the opportunity to grow and thrive, and I'm committed to helping clients achieve their dreams of parenthood while maintaining their sense of self and happiness. Growforth Family Building focuses on decision-making, setting boundaries, navigating toxic positivity, and strengthening support systems by providing coaching, personalized support, and education.
Growforth Family Building also provides professional training and services to other organizations in the family building space.