My best friend told me she thought she was losing her baby. She was pregnant and had been trying for over a year for her second little one to complete her family. She had called me to talk as she drove to her gynae and she broke down on that call as she told me how she thought her baby was leaving her body. I remember at the time feeling so upset for her. At how cruel life could be, but not really having any comprehension as to what she was going through. I wanted to try to take her away her pain, to somehow make her feel better, and I remember thinking it’s probably just Mother Nature’s way. I didn’t voice this of course in so many words, but I remember thinking it.
She did suffer a miscarriage and I spoke to her a couple of days following her dilation and curettage procedure (D&C). I asked her how she was doing, and then skirted around the topic of babies, pregnancy or her miscarriage for fear of reminding her (like she’d forgotten) and upsetting her all over again.
However, now I’ve experienced the absolute heartache of losing a baby myself, I want to apologise to her (my letter is at the end of this piece) and to give some advice to anyone who hasn’t ever had to go through a miscarriage but knows someone who has.
Other people’s pain and heartache makes us uncomfortable and we want to be able to try to take it away for them as much as we can. To try to fix it and to make them feel better. To change the subject so they don’t have to think about what happened, or for them to get upset all over again. Because we can’t deal with other people’s pain.
It’s been just over 2 weeks since my miscarriage. Since I heard those words “I can’t find your little one’s heartbeat”, and I felt as though a trapdoor had opened beneath me and my own heart dropped down through it. Immediately following the news people who knew we were expecting, were amazing. They were concerned and sad for us. A week passes by and people begin to go back to their daily lives. But for me, for us? We felt like we were in a weird limbo. That first week I seemed to be a magnet for pregnant women. They were everywhere. I would feel as though I’d been punched in the stomach each time I saw their beautiful bumps, and my breath would just leave my body.
Two weeks pass by and everyone has gone back to normal. Life has gone on, and society expects the same of me. That by now I should be getting on with things. Looking to the future. Being grateful for what I have and any sadness I experience is just me being a bit over the top now. Except it’s not. Sure, I don’t feel that absolutely overwhelming sadness every single day anymore, but there are days when it hits me out of the blue and I am floored with just how sad I am. How unfair this is.
If you know someone who is grieving, because that is exactly what I’m going through right now, then ask how they’re doing, and be prepared for the answer. It may make you feel uncomfortable and awkward, but in all honesty, it’s not about you. It’s about them and how they’re hurting. Don’t try to make them feel better or change the subject, just let them be. Let them be sad or angry and acknowledge their feelings. Let them talk and listen to them. People deal with pain in different ways. For me, I wanted to talk about it to some people, but not to others. I felt that whilst my grief was invisible because I didn’t bury a body, it was still valid, and by talking about it, I was helping validate my pain.
If you’re really not comfortable with other people’s sadness, then tell them. Be honest with them, but don’t make it about you. By simply ignoring them or worse making stupid comments you only alienate them further and can make them feel like a nuisance.
Tonight, I was reminded that life goes on for everyone else around me, and I know mine slowly is too, but then someone will say something or post something which reminds me of Grief’s hold over me and I just become so sad. My other half asks if I’m ok and he lets me cry and be sad. He holds me and tells me he knows it’s hard for me, it’s hard for him too, yet he doesn’t try to fix it. To fix me. And I love him for that.
I’ve been on the receiving end of some absolutely insensitive comments recently, and whilst I can only hope they came from a place of love, they still hurt nevertheless. I want to share some of them here so if you do have a friend or loved one tell you they suffered a miscarriage you can understand just a little, how truly devastating some of those comments actually are.
What not to say when your friend has a miscarriage:
“Look at the positives, at least you know you can fall pregnant.”
I want to address this one first. A good friend of mine said this to me just 1 week after I had my miscarriage, and this was the first time I’d told her about it. I like to believe she was just trying to make me feel better. How I was somehow lucky, for want of a better term. This is never ok to say to anyone. I don’t care how much you wanted to make them feel better, this sentence made me feel like I was being ungrateful for the pregnancy that I’d just lost. That I shouldn’t be sad, goodness me, that I must be glad that I can actually fall pregnant. This absolutely floored me, especially as it was accompanied with the following sentence just after:
“Obviously Olivia wasn’t meant to have a sibling now.”
I’m not 100% sure what she was thinking when saying this. In hindsight, now it’s not so raw, I can only think that she panicked due to my news and thought this would somehow make me feel better. It didn’t. It actually had the opposite effect.
A simple “I’m sorry my friend. How are you feeling?” is all she needed to say. So if you’re a panicker upon hearing bad news, just remember those simple words, and then just listen.
“Things happen for a reason.”
I heard this a lot, and I think it comes from a place of love as the person saying it is trying to make you feel better. That maybe your belief, that things happen for a reason, but it might not be mine, so that one is best left unsaid.
In the days and weeks following my miscarriage anything said to me that wasn’t a simple “I’m sorry that happened to you” or “that must be so hard” hurt me. Initially comments would leave me feeling so upset that more often than not I would wait until I was away from that person before I would cry. Perhaps if I’d reacted in the same manner my heart did then my tears might make that person think twice. As time has gone on, the comments still floor me, but I’ve learned to try not to let them upset me as much, and to rather think of the place the person is speaking from. That they care for me and don’t like me to be sad and upset. As a society we don’t like sadness and negative feelings, and we can almost try too hard to turn them into positives, but in doing so we then end up diminishing a person’s grief. We make them feel like they should be over things by now and looking forward, when in reality, grieving takes time, and there is no timeline for it either. Everyone is different.
I’ll end this post with my apology to my friend. For being insensitive. I truly had no idea of just how awful both a miscarriage and the medical procedures following it actually were.
I want to write you this letter to apologise. To say sorry for being so lame during your time of need, because to be honest, I didn’t fully know or appreciate the gravity of just what you were experiencing at that time. You see when you told me about your miscarriage, I was upset for you, but that was because I knew how much you had longed for this little one, and I was sad that it wasn’t happening this time. I didn’t actually understand what your miscarriage would entail, nor how it would impact you forever more, because I’d never had one. I know I probably said that in some way it was probably for the best, or that these things happen for a reason, which now, looking back and seeing it through my new eyes, is such a crass, insensitive thing to say. To almost deny that your child was ever there, or was ever worthy, purely because he or she hadn’t been announced yet.
I’m sorry my friend, truly. My comments whilst awful for you to hear (thank you by the way for saving my shame by not saying anything to the contrary at the time), they came from a place of love. When you told me you had suffered a miscarriage, and you cried down the phone, I wanted to take your pain away. I wanted to try in some way, to make you feel a little bit better, to stop your tears, and that was wrong. Instead I should’ve just listened to you. No matter how uncomfortable it may have made me feel listening to you upset, that is nothing compared to the utter devastation and hopelessness you were feeling, and as your friend, I really should’ve just acknowledged that pain rather than try to fix it.
The reason I see this so clearly now is because I too suffered a miscarriage, and as devastating as it has been, I too have been on the receiving end of some insensitive and completely crass comments from well-meaning friends. Only now can I truly appreciate just what you went through, and how hurtful my comments were to you.
I am sorry my friend, I really am, and I love you.
All my love,