Losing a baby, no matter how it happens—or how early in the pregnancy—is devastating. It’s a time of sadness when parents need love, support, empathy and encouragement more than ever.
While most of us want to be there for our friends and family experiencing such a loss, sometimes we simply don’t know how. We worry about saying the wrong thing, saying too much or not saying enough.
In compiling advice for what to write or say to support someone in this situation, I talked to multiple women who’ve experienced these difficulties and losses in pregnancy.
The overwhelming response was that they absolutely do want to hear from you. They want you to reach out. They want their loss, their pain and their baby to be acknowledged.
Please use these tips to craft messages of sympathy, hope and love to show you care during your loved one’s difficult path to parenthood.
Inspired? Create and share by tagging @HallmarkStores.
A miscarriage is a distressing event both emotionally and physically, no matter how far into a pregnancy a woman might be. It can be tough to know exactly how to respond to someone going through this type of loss, but what I heard again and again from parents I talked to was “don’t ignore that it happened.”
What to say
“I wanted the pregnancy acknowledged—and the loss of the hope of a baby.” Samantha C.
“I have personally suffered three miscarriages and the hardest part besides the loss itself is the feeling like it’s our fault and our body has failed us.” Rachel P.
Miscarriage is a loss for both parents and can be tough on a marriage. Acknowledge the couple in your note. “My manager addressed his note to both Jason and me, and one thing he wrote was ‘Be extra gentle with each other right now.’ Looking back, that strikes me as such an insightful piece of advice to give.” Keely C.
“We want to grieve but feel like we are expected to get over it quickly and move on.” Rachel P.
- “My heart goes out to you as you grieve for the baby you were so looking forward to meeting. I’ll be thinking of both of you in the days and weeks ahead and checking in to see if there’s anything helpful I can do.”
- “Please be gentle with yourself right now and grieve however you need to.”
- “This was not your fault. You loved your baby so well.”
- “I know how devastating this is. And I know how bad you wanted this baby.”
- “Keeping you and Mike in my thoughts and hoping for healing to come to you in time.”
- “I’m so sorry on the loss of your pregnancy and your sweet baby-to-be.”
- “I am so sorry to hear about your miscarriage. Sending caring thoughts your way and hoping for peace and healing when you’re ready.”
- “I know how much your baby was already loved. I am so sorry you won’t get to hold your little one in your arms.”
- “Take all the time you need to grieve and heal. I’m here for you through it all.”
- Acknowledge the baby’s name, if they had one. “I’m so sorry for your loss. Baby Caleb was already so loved and I can’t imagine the pain you must be feeling.”
Miscarriage is estimated to occur in one in four pregnancies, yet most women who experience one feel isolated.
“I think it’s important to know you’re not alone. I didn’t know having a miscarriage was as common as it was and when I found out others had experienced them as well, I felt comfort in knowing it ‘wasn’t just me’ or that there wasn’t something ‘wrong’ with me.” Alecia S.
If you’ve also experienced a miscarriage, it would likely be helpful to say “I’ve been through this, too. It’s a terrible kind of grief. Please don’t blame yourself.”
What Not to Say
“It doesn’t matter how early you were in your pregnancy, as soon as you got that positive test result, you felt like a mom.” Olivia C.
“I had a 20-week loss and I can definitely tell you what not to say!” Amy G.
- “Everything happens for a reason” is meaningless and not at all comforting.
- “You can try again” or “At least you know you can get pregnant.” They are mourning the loss of this baby.
- “Maybe there was something wrong with the baby.”
- “At least it was early on.”
Other Offers of Support
- Remember and acknowledge the due date or anniversary of the loss. Most moms who’ve been through a pregnancy loss have these dates etched on their hearts forever.
- “A friend donated board books to a local children’s hospital in our baby’s honor. It meant the world to us.” Julia A.
- Many women won’t feel well or will need some time for their bodies to heal. Offer to bring lunch, watch older children, do chores, etc. to allow them rest.
- “The best support we got was a week’s worth of meat delivered from Omaha Steak Company so we could hide from the world and still feed ourselves.” Amy G.
“This a delicate and exclusive type of grief. This is not a community any of us could ever have imagined and there is absolutely no way to define it.” Randi O.
What to Say
- “So deeply sorry you have to go through a heartbreak like this. Sharing in your sorrow and keeping your family in our most caring prayers.”
- Use the baby’s name. “I wish your Olivia could have stayed with you, and with all of us, for so much longer.”
- “Even though Maddie was with us for too short a time, she’d already brought her family so much joy. And she was already so very loved.”
- “I’m so sorry you’ve had to let go of the dreams you were already cherishing for your sweet Henry.”
- “It just feels wrong that you should have to say good-bye to your baby girl. Whatever you’re feeling, please know you’re not alone. I’m just one of many who want to do whatever we can to support you in the weeks and months to come.”
What Not to Say
- “You can always try again.”
- Pretty much any statement that starts with “at least” is a no.
- “He/She is in a better place.” (“What better place could there be for a baby than in his parents’ arms?” Amy G.)
Other Ways to Offer Love and Support
“We lost our Olivia at 35 weeks. The best thing anyone said during that time is, ‘I love you.’ Nothing else seemed quite right. I really think people need to practice doing acts of service like a friend showing up to do the dishes or laundry without being asked. If you ask someone grieving if you can help, they’ll probably say no. Just do it anyway.” Anna W.
- Plant a tree in honor of the baby.
- Make a donation to March of Dimes or the local children’s hospital in the baby’s memory.
- “One of the most thoughtful gifts we received was a star named after our baby.” Amy G.
- Give restaurant gift cards so the parents can order takeout. (Some grieving parents won’t want visitors, so this is a helpful alternative to bringing food.)
- Give a framed image of baby’s footprints, birth date, weight and length.
- When talking about the baby, use his/her name…always. “We love talking about Elijah. When people ask questions or talk about him by name, it keeps his memory alive.” Josh G.
- Continue to acknowledge the baby’s birth date in coming years.
Grandparents are greatly impacted by these losses, too, both in the heartbreak they feel for their child’s loss, as well as grieving the death of their grandchild. If you know them, include them in your thoughts and messages as well.
Just as each sweet baby is unique, so is each loss and each grieving parent. No two mamas feel the feels the same way or need the same kind of support to get them through. Choose words that are right to you.
Here are a few words from my beloved friend, Breanna, who’s been through more loss than any mother should have to endure:
“Right in those moments you are living your story, your pain, your loss. You want to know it’s okay to sit on the sofa, live in your sweats, not go to a baby shower in the next few months, to cry on the days you know it would’ve been their birthday. You want to know your friends will be there to sit, to say nothing, to say everything, to eat with you, pack infant stuff back up when you can’t, and love you through your time of ugly crying and sorrow.”
I think if you can be that kind of friend, you’re doing something right.
Though this is a different issue, it can still be hard to know what to say. And with one in eight couples experiencing infertility, chances are good someone in your life has battled negative tests or needle pricks. How can you offer comfort and support when a friend confides in you?
What to Say
“When I went through IVF, I just wanted my friends to recognize the total crappiness I was dealing with. I didn’t want encouragement—I wanted empathy and someone to be mad at the world with me.” Carrie V.
- Acknowledge that this just plain sucks. “This sucks and I hate that you’re going through this. I’m here to listen or cry or watch TV or whatever you need during this difficult time.”
- “I know this isn’t the news you hoped for. I’m so sorry.”
- “I hate seeing you hurting like this. Please know I’m hurting with you and holding you in my heart.”
- “I’m here to love and support you on this crazy, painful, difficult path you never asked to be on. Holding your hand the whole way.”
- “It must be hard to carry around this sadness that not that many people even know about. If you ever feel like talking, or just taking your mind off things for a while, I’m here for you.”
What not to say
“We want support and love and even mood-lifting humor! We do not want advice or stories.” Kim C.
- “It’ll happen when you stop trying! Relax!”
- “My cousin’s friend’s neighbor got pregnant at 45 by accident!”
- “When the time is right…”
- “Maybe you should just adopt.”
- “You’re young! You have plenty of time.”
- “At least you already have one.”
- And don’t ask whose “fault” it is.
Other Ways to Offer Support
- Babysit any older kids during difficult appointments.
- Send gifts or notes depicting a pineapple—the fruit is the “icon” of infertility and women going through IVF often wear pineapple designs (socks, etc.) for good luck.
- Give a gift card for a massage or pedicure.
- The frustration of trying to conceive can test a marriage. Offer a gift card for a night out for the couple to enjoy themselves.
- If your group of friends has a baby shower or young child’s birthday party, offer to spend the day together, get lunch or even just text or call to acknowledge the feelings of loss such events can bring up.