What to Do If Your Friend Miscarries While You Are Pregnant

Showing Sympathy for a Friend Who Had Miscarriage

Women admiring friends pregnant belly
What should you do when your friend miscarries while you are pregnant?. Getty Images/Cultura RM Exclusive/Moof

When You're Pregnant and Your Friend Miscarries - A Difficult Time

It is certainly a tough position to be in if you are pregnant and have a friend who has had a miscarriage or stillbirth. On one hand, you may feel sad for your friend and want to be supportive, but on the other hand, you want her to be there with you to share in one of the most exciting and wonderful times of your life. It's normal to be confused about how to handle the situation.

Be Sympathetic

Even if you have no personal experience with pregnancy loss, if you are pregnant you can probably at least imagine what your friend is probably feeling. You probably have thought a great deal about the baby who you are carrying. You might have names picked out, visions of what your baby will look like, daydreams about your new baby's smile, and related thoughts about the life that lies ahead of you.

And if all of that was suddenly gone, you would be devastated. You would have to find a way to return to your normal life from before you had expectations of that future, and even though you could try again, you would probably need time to adjust to the changed reality. It would probably not be something you would be able to get over quickly. Understand that your friend will probably not be over it quickly either.

What Your Friend Might Be Feeling

The loss of a pregnancy tends to set off a normal grief reaction.

Women may go through feelings of anger and depression before finally being able to accept what happened. Part of that may involve having an emotionally difficult time being around reminders of pregnancy, such as pregnant women or newborn babies—even if they are loved ones.

If your friend responds in this way, know that it isn't that she isn't happy for you.

She probably is indeed quite happy for you. But you might remind her of what she lost and is desperately missing. She may need some distance for a while before she is ready to face that reminder. For some women who have had miscarriages, being in the presence of a pregnant women can feel tortuous—no matter what their feelings are about that person. Note that some women who have miscarried may even develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) about the miscarriage, and it's common for people with PTSD to attempt to avoid reminders of the event.

On the other hand, some women may not need this kind distance and they may feel resentful if people assume they do. They may interpret such assumptions as people are avoiding them. If you are considering whether to invite your friend to a baby shower, for example, it is better to go ahead and invite her, and let her know that it is okay with you if she declines, rather than to simply assume she would not want to attend.

Don't Be Afraid to Ask

In dealing with your friend, you should not feel like you need to be a mind reader.

If you don't know what your friend is feeling or what her preferences are, ask her. Offer your condolences on the loss and ask her if she needs you to keep some distance for a while due to the pregnancy.

If she says yes, keep in touch regularly by phone or email until she's feeling ready to handle the situation. And don't take it personally if your friend does need space—remember that she is probably happy for you but simply needs some distance from the reminder of what she lost.

If your friend says she does not need that distance, that is fine too. Some women may even find it comforting to be around pregnant women, feeling that they are a reminder that things can work out in the end. In either case, it is better for both of you to have a conversation about this issue rather than to hold back and try to guess.

If you are wondering what to say, or worrying about what not to say to someone after a miscarriage, simply ask. Try to avoid platitudes and try to listen more than speak. Sometimes being silent together is the best support a friend can offer.

Stay Near

If your friend needs distance, let her have that space—for awhile. If the time stretches out or if she seems to be pushing you away for a longer period of time, take a moment to step back and think about what may be going on with her. It can be hard to "re-enter" socially after a time out, and your friend may have difficulty resuming your friendship if some time has passed. She may fear that, being in different places in life as you have a newborn and she is childless, that you may not be as interested in your friendship.

Fears such as this can make people act in funny ways. Your friend may be so nervous that you will no longer be interested in your friendship (even if you haven't given her any indication that that's the case) that she will almost sabotage your relationship in an effort to protect herself. (In her efforts to protect herself from another loss (your friendship in addition to her baby) she might actually precipitate what she doesn't want in order to remove the anxiety and uncertainty that it could happen.) Be patient with her. If you invite her over, you may to ask again, and again, and again. Don't push her to say yes, but don't disappear either.

Friendships can often weather the wildly different courses our lives take, but just as with all relationships, good friendships take work. Thankfully, the rewards of that work are priceless.

When You Visit

If you and your friend are in a similar circle of friends, her hurt might be further reinforced as your shower gifts and baby gifts serve as constant reminders. Consider bringing (and invite other friends in your circle to bring) a gift for your friend who has experienced pregnancy loss. A simple gift may be a simple way to say that not only you not forgotten her, but you haven't forgotten the baby she was carrying.

Sources:

Krosch, D., and J. Shakespeare-Finch. Grief, Traumatic Stress, and Posttraumatic Growth in Women Who Have Experienced Pregnancy Loss. Psychological Trauma. 2016 Sep 8. (Epub ahead of print).

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