What we wish you knew about pregnancy loss:
A letter from women to their friends and family

by Elizabeth Soutter Schwarzer

When women experience the loss of a child, one of the first things they discover they have in common is a list of things they wish no one had ever said the them. The lists tend to be remarkably similar. The comments are rarely malicious - just misguided attempts to soothe.

This list was compiled as a way of helping other people understand pregnancy loss. While generated by mothers for mothers, it may also apply similarly to the fathers who have endured a loss.

When trying to help a woman who has lost a baby, the best rule of thumb is a matter of manner: don't offer your personal opinion of her life, her choices, her prospects for children. No woman is looking tp poll her acquaintances for their opinions on why it happened to how she should cope.


~Don't say, "It's God's Will." Even is we are members of the same congregation, unless you area cleric and I am seeking your spiritual counseling, please don't presume to tell me what God wants for me. Besides, many terrible things are God's Will, that doesn't make them any less terrible.

~Don't say, "It was for he best - there was probably something wrong with your baby." The facet that something was wrong with the baby is what is making me so sad. My poor baby never had a chance. Please don't try to comfort me by pointing that out.

~Don't say, "You can always have another one." This baby was never disposable. If I had been given a choice between lodsing this child or stabbing my eye out with a fork, I would have said, "Where's the fork?" I would have dies for this baby, just as you would die for your children.

~Don't say, "Be grateful for the children you have." If your mother died in a terrible wreck and you grieved, would that make you less grateful to have your father?

~Don't say, "Thank God you lost the baby before you really loved it." I loved my son or daughter. Whether I lost the baby after 2 weeks of pregnancy or just after birth, I loved him or her.

~Don't say, "Isn't it time you got over this and moved on?" It's not something I enjoy, being grief-stricken. I wih it had never happened. But it did and it's a part of me forever. The grief will ease on its own timeline, not mine - or yours.

~Don't say, "Now you have a n angel watching over you." I didn't want her to be my angel. I wanted her to bury me in my old age.

~Donr' say, "I understand how you feel." Unless you've lost a child, you really don't understand how I feel. And even if you have lost a child, everyone experiences grief differently.

~Don't tell me horror stories of your neighbor or cousin or mother who had it worse. The last thing I need to hear right now is that it is possible to have this happen six times. or that I could carry until two days before my due date and labor 20 hours for a dead baby. These stories frighten and horrify me and leave me up at night weeping in despai. Even if they have a happy ending, do not share these stories with me.

~Don't pretend it didn't happen and don't change the subject when I bring it up. If I say, "Before the baby dies..." or "Wen I was pregnant..." don't get scared. If I'm talking about it, it means I want to. Let me. Pretending it didn't happen will only make me feel utterly alone.

~Don't say, "It's not your fault." It may not have been my fault, but it was my responsibility and I failed. The fact that I never stood a chance of succeeding only makes me feel worse. This tiny little being depended on my to bring him safely into the world and I couldn't do it./ I was supposed to care for him for a lifetime, but I couldn't even give him a childhood. I am so angry at my body you just can't imagine.

~Don't say, "Well, you weren't too sure about this baby, anyway." I already feel so guilty about ever having complained about morning sickness, or a child I wasn't prepared for, or another mouth to feed that we couldn't afford. I already fear that this baby dies because I didn't take the vitamins, or drank too much coffee, or had alcohol in the first few weeks when I didn't know I was pregnant. I hate myself for any minute that I had reservations about this baby. Being unsure of my pregnancy isn't the same as wanting my child to die - I never would have chosen for this to happen.


~Do say, "I am so sorry." That's enough. You don't need to be eloquent. Say it and mean it and it will matter.

~Do say, "You're going to be a wonderful parents some day," or, "You're wonderful parents and that baby was lucky to have you." We both need to hear that.

~Do say, "I have lighted a candle for your baby," or, "I have said a prayer for your baby." Do send flowers or a kind note - every one I receive makes me feel  as though my baby was loved. Don't resent it if I don't respond. Don't call more that once and don't be angry if the machine is on and I don't return your call. If we're close friends and I am not responding to your attempts to help me, please don't resent that, either. Help me by not needing anything from me for a while.

~Do recognize that I have suffered the death in my family - not a medical condition.

~Do recognize that in addition to the physical after effects O may experience, I'm going to be grieving for quite some time. Please treat me as you would any person who has endured the tragic death of a loved one - I need time and space.

~DO understand if i do not attend baby showers/christenings/birthday parties etc. And DON'T ask why I can't come.

~Please don't bring your baby or toddler into the workplace. If your niece is pregnant, or your daughet just had a baby, please don't share that with me right now. It's not that I can't be happy for anyone else, it's that every smiling, cooing baby, every glowing new mother makes me ache so deep in my heart I can barely stand it. I may look okay to you, but there's a good chance that I'm still crying every day. It may be weeks before I can go a whole hour without thinking about it. You'll know when I'm ready - I'll be the one to say, "Did you daughter have her baby?" or, "How is that precious little boy of yours? I haven't seen him around the office in a while."


Above all, please remember that this is the worst thing that ever happened to me. The word "miscarriage" is small and easy. But my baby's death is monolithic and awful. It's going to take me a while to figure out how to live with it.

Bear with me.


 More helpful links:  

Essential Baby - Helping a friend who has suffered a loss
My Baby Angel Foundation - Supporting the loss of someone you care about
Open Doors - Supporting a friend in pregnancy loss

 Send a little love:

Cards for family members and friends.


I wish...

~ I wish you would not be afraid to mention my baby. The truth is just because you never saw my baby doesn't mean he doesn't deserve your recognition.

~ I wish that if we did talk about my baby and I cried that you didn't think it was because you have hurt me by mentioning my baby. The truth is I need to cry and talk about my baby with you. 

~ I wish that you could talk about my baby more than one. The truth is if you do, it reassures me that you haven't forgotten him and that you do care and understand. 

~ I wish you wouldn't pretend that my baby never existed. The truth is we both know I had a baby growing inside me.

~ I wish you wouldn't think that I don't want to talk about my baby. The truth is I love my baby and need to talk about him.

~ I wish you could tell me you are sorry my baby died and that you are thinking of me. The truth is that it will tell me you care.

~ I wish you wouldn't think what has happened is one big bad memory for me. The truth is the memory of my baby, the love I feel for my baby, the dreams I had, and the memories I have created for my baby are all loving memories. Yes, there are bad memories too but please understand that it's not all like that.

~ I wish you wouldn't judge me because I am not acting the way you think I should be. The truth is grief is a very personal thing and we are different people who deal with things differently.

~ I wish you wouldn't think if I have a good day I'm "over it" or if I have a bad day I am being unreasonable because you think I should be over it. The truth is there is no "normal" way for me to act.

~ I wish you wouldn't think that my baby wasn't really a baby and he was just blood and tissue or a fetus. The truth is my baby had a life. My baby had a soul, heart, legs, arms, and a face. I have seen my baby's body and face. My baby was a real person - and he was alive.

~ I wish you would understand that being around pregnant women is uncomfortable for me. The truth is I feel jealous.

~ I wish you wouldn't expect my grief to be "over and done with" in a few weeks, months, or years for that matter. The truth is it may get easier with time but I will never be "over" this.

~ I wish you wouldn't say that it's nature's way of telling me something was wrong with my baby. The truth is my baby was perfect no matter what you think nature is saying.

~ I wish you wouldn't think that you should keep away because all of my friends and family will be there for me. The truth is, everyone thinks that same thing and I am often left with no one.

~ I wish you wouldn't stay away from me. The truth is losing my baby doesn't mean I'm contagious. By staying away you make me feel isolated, confused, and like it's my fault.

~ I wish you wouldn't feel awkward or uncomfortable talking about my baby or being near me. When you do, I can see it. The truth is it's not fair to make me feel uncomfortable just because you are.

~ My baby's due date, Mother's Day, celebration times, the day my baby was born and the day I lost him are all important and sad days for me. The truth is I wish you could tell me by words or by letter you are thinking of me on these days.

~ I wish you understood that losing my baby has changed me. The truth is I am not the same person I was before and will never be that person again. If you keep waiting for me to get back to "normal" you will stay frustrated. I am a new person with new thoughts, dreams, beliefs, and values. Please try to get to know the real me - maybe you'll still like me.

~ I wish you wouldn't tell me that I could have another baby. The truth is I want the baby I lost and no other baby can replace him. Babies aren't interchangeable.

~ I wish you would understand what you are really saying when you say, "Next time things will be okay." The truth is, how do you know? What will you say if it happens again?

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