I’ve had really wonderful support over the last few months and it has made a massive difference to my mood and ability to cope following 2 miscarriages. Often I have winced at the memory of things I have said and done in the past when other people went through something similar. I just didn’t know how to offer support back then. So I’ve put together this guide of what has helped me.
I love hugs. But even if I didn’t, often during this time I haven’t wanted words, I’ve just wanted a hug. My friends are great at greeting me with hugs and offering frequent hugs when I see them. Sometimes words are too clumsy and it’s so easy to say the wrong thing when someone is feeling so vulnerable. If your friend really isn’t a hugger, a supportive arm around the shoulder may also help. Research says that human touch can mitigate physical and psychological distress. Other research say that touch is “our primary language of compassion, and a primary means for spreading compassion”. Pretty awesome that we can give so much with something so simple.
Obviously meeting in person is great, but you can’t do that everyday. I have a few friends who have dropped me the occasional ‘thinking of you’, ‘love you’, ‘how are you?’ texts. I haven’t always replied. I haven’t always wanted to talk. But every single one of those texts brought a moment of respite from sadness. I felt like my friends shared my burden even if just for a moment. It was like they actually carried the weight of my sadness for a moment. Don’t be afraid to keep checking in.
My besties have had me in stitches and haven’t excluded me from events or their news. They’ve been normal with me. Of course they’ve held me when I cried, but understood when I want to stop crying and start dancing. When they’ve had exciting news, they’ve told me about it. It’s been great to share in their joy. I don’t want people to keep their happy times from me just because I’m sad.
4. Listen without offering a fix
This is a biggie. Sometimes when you are trying to process something you just need to say it out loud. Lots and lots of times. My friends have let me talk whenever I want. Sometimes they have asked. Sometimes I’ve brought it up. And they’ve never shut the conversation down. They’ve never tried to fix it for me. They’ve just listened and told me it’s not fair, they are sorry and I am brave. But sometimes people have listened then tried to make it better by saying something to make it hurt less.
The horrible thing with miscarriage: there is no fix. It is a grieving process. There is nothing you can say that will make me hurt less.
I know when someone is hurting the natural reaction is to want to fix it and make it better. So sometimes people say ‘it’s for the best’ or ‘at least you know you can get pregnant’. Or my favourite ‘miscarriages often happen because there was something wrong with the baby’. Now all of these things may be true and they come from a kind place. But they really don’t help. In fact, they can be quite hurtful. What I heard when people said these things was “get over it already”, “stop talking about it”, “it is better that your child died”. I know this is not the intention. But when you are grieving it is what you hear. So my friends who said that it sucked and that they were there for me, really deserve gold stars for knowing the right thing to say.
If you know someone who is going through miscarriage, don’t try to fix it for them. Don’t try to make it better. Just let them know how rubbish it is and that you will listen however many times they want to talk about it.
5. Meet ups.
When I feel really low I don’t want to leave the house. So I cancel plans. But my friends understood. They kept inviting me. They made it easier for me by coming to me. They popped round. They squeezed me in if they were busy and I suddenly felt like I could face a meet up. When I’m in the company of true friends, I always walk away feeling uplifted. And each time I met one of my friends, even if it was just for 30 minutes, I felt supported, loved and understood. So, if your friend keeps cancelling, don’t stop asking. But maybe think of a way you can see them that makes it really easy and not overwhelming for them. Coffee is a good place to start. Because coffee usually means cake.
At first, I was too emotionally drained to be social for long periods of time. I desperately needed my friends but couldn’t face the public, my car or feeling trapped in a situation. Short walks. Coffee shops. A glass of wine. Lunch. A play date. These all were good starting points when I felt at my lowest.
One of my besties had me over for a night of drinking. It was just what I needed. I needed to let off steam and just hang out with the girls. It’s also easier to talk and cry when you are drunk and sometimes that’s all you really need to do. Prosecco is always a good choice. When you are trying for a baby or pregnant alcohol is off the cards, so it can be nice to just have a drink and relax while you recover.
7. Use my babies name. Don’t be afraid to mention the miscarriage.
This depends on the person. I named the 2 babies I lost and I use their names when I talk about them. I find it comforting. When my friends use their names, it feels like they are acknowledging their existence. I feel like they understand that I lost a child, not just a pregnancy. When I see people trying to skirt around the word ‘miscarriage’ it crushes me. I feel like a social pariah. Don’t be afraid to say it. Sure, I may cry but at least I won’t feel crushed.
8. Don’t buy flowers.
I had some beautiful bunches of flowers each time I miscarried. And then they died. And I couldn’t deal with anymore death so I just ignored the rotting flowers all around my living room. They actually made me quite angry – I felt like everything around me was dead. I think it was my husband who got rid of them eventually. There is a whole website dedicated to the idea not to buy flowers. Don’t Buy Her Flowers was originally started for new Mums but also now makes care packages for anyone needing TLC. I would have loved to receive one of these – they are so thoughtful and are exactly what you need in that moment of recovery at home. They have all you need for that time spent at home when you are at your lowest. A little package of love. If that’s out of your budget, a Space Mask is a brilliant way to feel a little pampered and cared for in the comfort of your own home. It’s a small treat to encourage relaxation and having tried SpaceMasks (available at Lobella Loves) I can confirm that they really do help settle my mind and anxiety. Alternatively, magazines, bubble bath, chocolate, a lasagna so they don’t have to cook … all these things will be appreciated. Anything that aids rest, self care and relaxation will help. Care packages don’t need to be expensive, wrapped or over the top. Buying their favourite snack or a good book will let your friend know that you love them and are there for them.
People tend to ask how you are for a couple of weeks then the topic gets shelved. I have always been really touched by the friends that have had the courage to keep asking. Of course it isn’t the first thing out of their mouth when they see me. It’s not in public with others listening. But when they’ve found a quiet moment to ask, I have felt more than ever that they understand the loss I have experienced.
Loss is hard. It is lonely and isolating. It is difficult to put into words and the grief changes daily. But don’t let that scare you into saying and doing nothing. Doing just one of these things will no doubt help someone who is going through unimaginable pain.