Helping a friend get through miscarriage or stillbirth

If a friend or family member suffers a miscarriage or stillbirth it can be hard to know how to react. Unfortunately, with up to one in five confirmed pregnancies ending in miscarriage before 20 weeks,  it is very likely someone you care about will go through this loss.

While it may be something that happens frequently, it still seems taboo to talk about.

Friends and family typically feel helpless. Many mothers are left to suffer in silence.

I suffered a miscarriage, and I know how isolating the whole experience can be. Here are a few tips on how to approach a friend going through the same thing.

How do I talk to my friends?

This is almost a trick question. While being there for them to talk to is crucial, it’s just as important for you to remember to genuinely listen.

Don’t worry about saying much beyond a simple “I’m so sorry” and being present with them. Also, remember what I refer to as the ‘after time’.

Your friend might find a lot of support in the first week or so, but it’s the weeks after when everyone else has moved on with their lives that they might need your support the most.

Remembering what not to say

I lost a baby to miscarriage almost 10 years ago, and the grief from it was devastating.

My cousin, who had suffered several miscarriages herself, called me right after. She told me that everyone is going to say a couple of things they think are helpful, but which really just add to the sadness.

She told me to not listen and just know their hearts are in the right place. Sure enough I heard things like, “maybe it was nature’s way” or, “you can always try again” followed by a few, “it just wasn’t meant to be”. These cliches only made me angry and sad at the same time.

Grief is a process and discounting someone’s feelings with one of those comments adds to the sense of loss.

My child was very real to me from the moment I learned I was pregnant. I talked to it, sang to it, and loved it.

Even though you never met the baby, remember it was a real child to the mum who lost it. It’s important to remember that when offering consolation and support.

What if your friend needs extra help?

Everyone grieves differently, and sometimes just being there for your friend won’t be enough.

I suggest checking in every so often to see how they are doing. When asked, “what can I do for you?” most people say “nothing.”

Instead, try asking, “can I come and visit you today?” or, “do you have any errands I can help you with?”

This gives your friend a chance to see that you truly want to be there for her.

It’s also important to understand that many people who are grieving just want to be left alone.

If you are worried your friend could be slipping too far into depression, encourage her to reach out for some counselling, or to take advantage of free support from groups such as Sands Australia.  Support from Sands is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year by calling 1300 072 637.


Brittany Santos is a writer and a mother of four.