What not to say…

When a baby dies during pregnancy, I’m not sure what might be more hurtful, for a friend to not say anything at all or to utter a platitude such as “it was meant to be“ or miscarriages are common“, or ”be glad it happened early – you didn’t get a chance to get too attached”.

I’ve spoken to bereaved moms and dads and there are mixed feelings.  A couple I know felt angry when close friends didn’t even acknowledge that their son died and stayed silent.  Even a platitude would have been better than nothing.  Others have said that they would rather someone not say anything.  A safer response might be to acknowledge the death with “I’m sorry to hear you have lost your baby, there are no words…”

Personally, I now try to look behind the words at people’s intentions.  For the most part, others just want to make things better somehow.  In some cases, that person wants to reassure themselves that you are going to be ok because they are unaware of how to console you.  If someone you love says something hurtful, you could let the person know and try to gently make them aware about why the specific comment isn’t helpful.

It’s hard to know what to say to someone who has endured the death of an infant.  Before the loss of my children, I likely made such comments myself.  If you are supporting a friend or colleague who has had a miscarriage, this article does a great job of explaining What Not to Say When Your Friend has a Miscarriage.

Are there specific phrases that you’ve heard and want to share?  If so, also note what you would have liked to hear instead.