The heartache of losing your baby to miscarriage

By March 7, 2019Miscarriage

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.

artist unknown

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.

Tara Sea – www.thenamenest.com

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.

“Dear Robs,

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,
Sam”

Samantha Aitken

About Samantha Aitken

Mama to precious little Olivia Rose and Ubuntu Baba's Certified Babywearing Educator. Learning as she goes and from the shared experiences of others; constantly looking for ways to be the best mother she can be. A part time runner who loves to cook, and very glad to be living in Cape Town where the best wine in the world is made.

21 Comments

  • Tamara says:

    It will be 3 years in October this year that we said goodbye to our little angel. It doesn’t get easier you just learn to take things day by day. I can totally relate to the trigures. Those are days I just cry. The insensitive comments and looks are so hard, I remember a friend being pregnant at the same time as me and we were both expecting boys. The day of my boys memorial she told me that she was very disappointed that she was having a boy and wished it would have been a girl. My response? I just stared I think, with no emotion to her statement, in total disbelief. Losing a baby / child is a pain like no other.

    • Samantha says:

      Thank you for sharing your painful story Tamara. I genuinely do think, or at least I’d like to believe that people sometimes just speak without engaging their brains first. That doesn’t make it any less painful to hear though. Wishing you all the best xx

  • Valentine says:

    Sorry for your loss.
    I had a miscarriage and then fell pregnant again fairy soon after, when our daughter was born we found out she has a genetic condition which affects all areas of development.
    I didn’t experience the insensitive comments so much with my miscarriage as people’s reactions to the news of something being ‘wrong’ with my daughter. She’s the sweetest little thing and very tiny for her age (she is the size of a big newborn) which is an irresistible combination which means I’m constantly being stopped for someone to look at her but when they ask how old she is and I say 10 months, the immediate question is ‘was she prem?’, when I answer that she has a genetic condition I’ve had people that have just turned and just about run away.
    From gushing and cooing to that, what an awful feeling.
    I’ve made some cringe-worthy comments myself in the past in response to uncomfortable news so I try and remember that no one, really NO ONE says anything from an unkind place, and that when your heart is breaking/broken, there is no right thing to say.

    • Jacqui says:

      You are so brave and your measage and story is needed to be heard by many to give them comfort and peace. We all need to listen more and judge less. You are amazing to truly share this to help and guide others, you are a remarkable person and mom. Love you

    • Samantha says:

      Thank you for sharing your story Valentine. I can’t believe how callous people can actually be hey? You’re right though, it probably isn’t coming from an unkind place, just more of an uncomfortable one for them, and it says so much more about them than it ever will you or your precious daughter.

      Your little girl has a very special mama there, and I’m sure one who will always be looking out for her.

      xx

  • cherenity says:

    Thank you for sharing your story…im soaking wet as my tears are flowing and im sorry for your loss…i too had a miscarriage a year ago and the pain is still so much there and yes i experience the same comments from close friends and i just sat there in silence as my heart were broken into two pieces and people were thinking about themselves in this heartache of mine…my one friend would also start a conversion in asking how i was doing but following her question would be how grateful she was for her 2 blessings in her life as her youngest turned 1 last year…i was happy for her that she is so blessed but i was sad because she would constantly mentioned it as if i was not blessed to have my little daughter for 19 weeks….im grateful unto God for the weeks i had experienced with her and yes i long to hold her again and see her face again…no one can replace her…i fell pregnant again just shortly after my miscarriage and i love all my children equally including my angel above as i know she is watching over us(mom;dad;brother(7);sister(3months).

    Once again thanks for sharing…i hope your message reach all the women so that they can understand and to choose their words wisely….

    • Samantha says:

      Ahh Cherenity, you’re so right. It’s difficult to hear that, especially as it’s not true. I too, was told I should be grateful for what I do have, which I obviously am, but surely we’re also allowed to feel sad and low about the child we have lost too. Sending you and your family lots of love x

  • Chané says:

    I am so sorry for your loss. It is a severely sore one. And definitely nobody who hasn’t been there themselves can understand… Grieve as long as you need and them some. It comes in waves. The comments definitely hurt. It’s been almost a year since we lost our baby and in between we have been blessed by being pregnant with our Rainbow baby. It still doesn’t take away the pain and longing for that baby. And the comments we got upon announcing our Rainbow baby’s pregnancy a few months after the miscarriage was absolutely just as devastating to me. Most of them dismissed our loss completely… I still grieve often. And I still fear for this little one we are expecting.. May you get through this time a little stronger than you were before. And don’t let the comments get you down.

    • Samantha says:

      Thank you for your comment Chané, and for sharing your story. I like to think people want to hold on to positive feelings and emotions, and in their own way, to try to steer you away from being sad or in pain, which is perhaps why they were insensitive. That doesn’t make those comments any less painful to hear at all, and you’re right, it does feel like they’re dismissing your loss. Congratulations on your little one and as best you can, try to enjoy your pregnancy. I can imagine it’s always tinged with a little sadness as you wonder how your first babe’s pregnancy might have gone too as you hit milestones. Sending you lots of love xx

  • Anonymous says:

    I want to share another perspective, because my experience was so different. I knew so many people who had miscarried, that I almost expected it. I felt I shouldn’t get too attached until I knew we were in the clear. Maybe some people won’t like this approach, but it meant that in the end, I didn’t feel I had lost a baby. I felt that I had lost a pregnancy. [We miscarried at about 8 weeks, so it would have likely been very different if I had been further along]. It was still sad, and I definitely didn’t want to talk about it, but most of that was because I felt people expected me to be sadder than I was…I mean, even my mom was sadder about it than I was, and I felt bad that it had hurt her. During my second pregnancy (which was all good thankfully) I didn’t tell anyone but my best friend until I was at 14 weeks because I felt I needed to protect them. With my current pregnancy, I only managed to get my 12 week scan at 16 weeks, so no one but the same best friend knew until 16 weeks. Again, this was to protect myself from having to talk about it if something did happen, but also to protect people who may take the loss even harder than I would. We all have different beliefs about conception and pregnancy and life and death, and I think it’s important to realise that different people will handle it differently, and view the loss of a pregnancy differently, and to try and be sensitive to that.

    • Samantha says:

      Thank you for sharing your story. You’re right in that people deal with things differently, and I guess your friends’ experiences of loss around you would impact you and how you dealt with things. A loss is a loss regardless of how many weeks along you are (that is my personal belief and I respect that you might see things differently), and everyone deals with and processes things in their own way.

      I simply shared my story in the hopes of helping those around us who may not have experienced a loss, to understand that whilst their comments might be coming from a place of love, that they can have quite the impact and opposite effect that they had intended. So many people talk without fully considering the emotional state of others first.

      Sending you lots of love x

      • Anon says:

        Of course. I hope my post didn’t seem insensitive. I just struggled so much with other people’s expectations that I should be more affected than I actually felt. And so my post was mainly just to say, with all types of grief, try to find out how that person is feeling and balance your reactions to theirs. I didn’t want sympathy or attention, but many people do.

        I am sorry for your loss and I understand it’s different for everyone.

  • Tanya says:

    Thank you for sharing. It’s incredible how the comments and reactions on a loss are always the same. To make the other person feel better, as if they have now “helped” in some way. The hardest part is moving on with everyone else. To them your hurt is fleeting. For you it might feel less overpowering in time, but it will never go away completely and the fear it instills will never let go. It’s been almost three years since my loss, and I still feel these words that I wrote in that time as if they are as raw as they were then. Sorry it’s Afrikaans..

    “Stil-lewe”

    Die lewe wals verby jou
    Soos “fake motion” in ‘n teaterstel
    Jy staan doodstil, botstil, gevries,
    Amper eintlik verlam, maar meerendeels
    verward van die spoed waarteen
    dit voel jy beweeg maar eintlik, eíntlik
    is dit net alles en almal om jou wat
    soos warrelwinde voortploeg
    met hul daaglikse bestaan
    Jy bestaan ook, maar soort van outomaties,
    nie bewustelik nie en nie opsetlik nie
    maar “die verwagting” dwing jou oë oop
    in die oggend en weer toe in die aand
    Anders is daar mos iets fout met jou
    En stukkend kan nie stukkend bly nie
    dit moét reg, so ons plak ‘n pleister en
    sit ‘n soen op dan is als weer reg.
    Net nou en dan, maar eintlik heeltyd,
    sien en hoor en voel jy al die dinge
    waaruit die net om jou geweef is
    en intensioneel-emosioneel onthou jy,
    Jy is vasgevang in ‘n oomblik.

    • Samantha says:

      Thank you for sharing your story and your beautiful words too Tanya. I too find writing things down helps me to process and deal with things, and I actually wrote a whole lot whilst recovering in hospital following surgery. Those words are very raw, and painful, and I haven’t had the courage to read them through again yet, but I know I will.
      Sending you lots of love x

  • Gerraine says:

    Life is filled with ups and downs… And this is one where I can truly say… It will get better. It doesn’t go away… But you do come to terms with it eventually. For me my first miscarriage wasn’t so traumatic as my second one. I was 8 weeks along and we were dealing with my mom in law’s funeral and and and. So I didn’t even truly focus on what was happening to me… To us…

    Then with my last miscarriage I was broken. Broken beyond anything I could ever imagine. I was almost 16 weeks along. A little boy. With a name… And siblings waiting for him and seeing my tummy grow. And then one day… He had to be taken out. I died that day in many aspects… I changed. I rebelled. I lost myself. Then after 2 years…. Yes only after 2 years did I start to find my feet again. Thinking that yes there is life after this. Maybe we can try to be okay…

    I still grieve, and it comes in waves. Both babies are missed and named and we talk about them as a family. The kids count them as part of the “kids”. We celebrate their lives as often as we can and remember that they also have a place with us. That helps so much and we know they are with us even though we can’t hug them ❤️

    Now looking back to 2015… It seems that we have come so far… And grown through various trials and tears.

    As moms who have lost little ones… We can only live day to day and honour their memories ♥️💜

    Mom of 2 angel babies {Anien-Lana and Kairos} who are deeply loved and missed xxx ♥️💜

    And a mom of 4 bundles of energy {9, 7, 5, almost 2}

    • Samantha says:

      Ah Gerraine, thank you for your comment and for sharing your story. I sat in tears reading it and I really do appreciate you sharing it, so thank you.
      xxx

  • May says:

    It’s been 3 years since I lost our twins. This post is beautiful thank you.
    Something I’d like to add, I always had the assumption that it was physically a swift thing that happens, like a slightly heavier menstrual cycle. But it’s not, not sure if mine was intense because I had twins, but it was horrific, painful, i thought I was going to loose so much blood that I would have to be admitted. I tried to miscarriage naturally, the doctors did not tell me that it could take up to two weeks. I finally went for the D&C.
    And like you said as well, after that I saw twins everywhere! I still miss them and think of them.
    Thank you for your article.
    Xxx

    • Samantha says:

      Thank you for your comment and sharing your story. I sometimes think that because doctors can see and deal with miscarriage on a seemingly daily basis, that they can forget just how awful it is for that mama at that time. I had an incredible doctor who was filled with compassion, however, my experience at the hospital was truly awful and the staff there made a traumatic experience that much worse for me. I wish they could just remember that whilst we may just be another procedure to them that day, that we’re still human, and incredibly fragile too.
      Sending you so much love xx

  • Lee-Anne van Rooyen says:

    Dear friend,

    We weep with you and sending a loving hug.
    We had a miscarriage with our first baby about 1.5years ago.
    A friend gave me the book: ‘LEEG’ (Authors: Braam Klopper, Marlena du Toit, Justine Pike). It really helped me alot with all the questions in my heart as well as the greaving process. Maybe it could mean something to you to.

    Lee-Anne
    xxxx

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