How Others Can Help Parents After a Miscarriage
Family and friends are often deeply distressed when someone close to them experiences a miscarriage. They may feel incredibly helpless and powerless and wonder what they can possibly do to make the family “feel better”. It is often distressing for family and friends that the people closest to them are going through an experience that no one has any control over or can prevent.
Hurtful comments and actions
Parents may feel hurt and upset at some things that well-meaning family and friends will say and do following miscarriage. Some of these include:
- Meeting or talking with the parents and not acknowledging their loss. For many parents it is important to have their experience recognised.
- Certain sayings that are offered as comfort following miscarriage, can also be hurtful, such as “It was only a miscarriage, you’ll get over it”; “You’re young and fertile, you can always have another one”; “You’ve already got two healthy children, maybe this one wasn’t normal”; or “Put it behind you and get on with your life”. These statements provide little or no comfort to parents who are grieving for their baby.
- Asking after the welfare of only one partner, either the man or the woman, can be upsetting. It is important to acknowledge that both parents may be grieving in their own way. The question “How are you, and how is your partner?” demonstrates that you care about both of them.
- Rushing the family, expecting that they will have recovered from their experience and be planning for the future in any particular amount of time is also unhelpful. Grieving is an individual process and people “move on” from their sadness when and how they are able to.
Bereaved parents are sometimes reluctant to state their needs. Even given the opportunity to talk they may not be willing to take the risk for fear of being hurt or embarrassed. However, listening and provide opportunities to talk openly with you will let them know that you care.
Helpful comments and actions
Sometimes family and friends don’t say anything because they don’t know what to say or they feel awkward and unsure. Family and friends can do many things to support and assist the parents, including:
- Talk openly with the parents and let them know if you feel unsure about what to say or do.
- Visit in hospital or at home, acknowledging the family’s experience and expressing your own feelings or sadness, disbelief and helplessness.
- Ask questions about the miscarriage and how the parents are feeling.
- If the baby was named, mention his or her name and talk about the hopes and dreams you had for the family as the parents of this baby.
- Read other books and information to learn about miscarriage and bereavement.
- Make or buy something in memory of the baby.
- Offer practical help including housework, cooking, childcare etc.
- Be available to listen to the parents, who often go over the details again and again.
- Be sensitive to the sometimes unpredictable behaviour of bereaved parents.
- Understand that sometimes parents will want to be alone.
- Offer to accompany the parents as a support person to a support group meeting or on a follow-up visit to their health care provider.
- Offer to go for a walk/coffee on a regular basis
While assisting a bereaved family, a supporter needs to have someone who can be available for them to talk with. Along with the carer’s own sadness, supporting others through bereavement may be physically tiring and emotionally draining.
Following a miscarriage some parents have found that their family and friends have added to their sadness through insensitive remarks and lack of understanding. However, many parents have also often described how much it has meant to them that their family and friends have been so supportive. Indeed, the support a bereaved family has available from the people around them can greatly affect how the family will “get through” the months ahead.
“Friends and family were so helpful, providing meals, childcare and comfort, which we will always appreciate and remember.”
This article was prepared using extracts from Miscarriage: Information for Parents and Families.1 The full text is available online or contact Red Nose Grief and Loss Services on 1300 308 307 for a printed version.
Last reviewed: 16/1/19
- Braithwaite, J., Richardson, R. & Waterson, P. (eds.). (2011). Miscarriage: Information for Parents and Families ( M.McSpedden, H. Wilkinson, L. Pash, T. Diamond & M. Zang, Rev.) (7th ed.). Lilyfield, NSW: SIDS and Kids NSW.