by Shannon Keegan

It wasn’t until I experienced a loss that I understood that sometimes the seemingly innocent phrases we say and things we do to try and bring comfort to someone, is really us minimizing an event that, to the person going through it, is cataclysmic. I reached out to five women who experienced loss at different gestations and asked them what was the most helpful thing someone did for you during your loss and what was the most hurtful or unhelpful. There were clear trends amongst us all.

Saying nothing.

Saying nothing at all to someone who has experienced a loss is one of the worst things you can do. You may not know what to say and that’s ok, but to pretend that the loss didn’t happen at all is very hurtful and isolating to the person going through it. Instead, simply say “I am sorry for your loss and am here if you need someone to talk to.” You don’t have to know what to say. Just listening to us talk about our babies and our feelings is helpful in and of itself.

Common well-intentioned, but hurtful remarks.

There are also things that we often say to people that we think are the right things to say, but these phrases can be very triggering. Phrases such as “it just wasn’t meant to be,” “it will happen when the timing is right,” “everything happens for a reason,” “at least it was early on,” or “you can always try again,” and the list goes on.  I was guilty of saying these things, too, before I experienced my own loss. My intentions were good, but now having these things said to me, I realize that they cut like a knife. These phrases, though uttered with the purest intention to comfort, really are minimizing the loss and making our feelings of grief feel invalid and this leads to feelings of isolation. 

What to say instead.

Instead, try saying “it’s not your fault,” “I don’t know what to say, but I am praying for you (or thinking of you),” “take all the time you need to mourn,” or “is there anything I can do to help?” 

When you find out you are pregnant, you have instant hopes and dreams for that child and when you lose them, all of those hopes and dreams are ripped away with the baby.  This must be treated like the loss of any other loved one because that is how it feels to that woman. It doesn’t matter if it was at 4 weeks or 40 weeks; a loss is a loss.