Earlier today Michelle Duggar had to make the difficult announcement that she had miscarried their 20th baby. No matter how you feel about the number of kids she has, having to announce your loss to your kids, your family and the entire country has to be immensely difficult. While I haven't had 20 kids -- not even close! -- I have had a couple of miscarriages and a stillbirth. I don't intend to speak for all women who have suffered a prenatal loss, but in the midst of all the beautiful, supportive things people said to me, there were a few things that really bothered me. And the worst part was that the speaker usually meant them in a kind way. So in the effort to save another mom a little pain, here are my 10 things not to say to a woman who has just miscarried a baby:
1. "It's God's will." I'm religious, but even I found this a bit pretentious. Who are you to know what God's will is? And if the woman is not religious this is even more unhelpful.
2. "It probably had genetic problems, you should feel lucky it didn't survive." Not all of us consider a child who is disabled to be a curse. And even so, especially with early miscarriages the cause is often unknown. Speculating about why it happened doesn't help.
3. "I told you you shouldn't have kept running/ate sushi/uncrossed your legs on the bus!" Anything that blames the mother is cruel. And anything that starts with "I told you so" is rude.
4. "You must be devastated!" This is a tricky one. Depending on many factors surrounding the pregnancym a woman may or may not feel sad about the miscarriage. For some women, like Michelle Duggar, the pain is acute but I've known plenty others who felt no real attachment to the baby that early on and were made to feel guilty that they weren't sad. A better approach is to ask "How are you feeling about this?" and then listen.
5. "Let me know if I can help." This is sweet, but it is too vague. Most likely she won't let you know because it will feel like an imposition. Suggest something you would feel comfortable doing like "May I bring you dinner tomorrow night?" or "Could I take you out to Starbucks for a little break?"
6. "You should be over this by now." The loss of any child can potentially be devastating for years to come. There is no set time frame for grieving. If you feel like she is "stuck" in the process or has a mental illness then there are kinder ways to help her get help.
7. "Well it's not like you were that far along... " When you lose a baby, you lose all the hopes and dreams you had for that child, no matter how far along you are. I've lost a baby in each trimester and each one was devastating to me in its own right. In addition to the mental pain, there can be a lot physical complications as well.
8. "You can always have more kids." This may be true but there are so many factors in fertility, unless you are her OBGYN then you don't know enough to say this. And even if it is the case, for many women one baby does not replace another.
9. "Time heals all wounds." Eventually, perhaps. But saying this to someone at the height of their grief minimizes all the struggles they are having right now, in this time.
10. "You shouldn't have a funeral/name the baby/keep talking about it." Grieving is such an individual process. For me, it helped to name all my babies -- alive and dead. Some families plant a tree, hold a candle ceremony, donate to a charity or even hold a full funeral, like the Duggars said they will be doing. Whatever helps them grieve and heal is appropriate. If it makes you uncomfortable you don't need to participate.
What would you add to my list? What would you say to Michelle?