What to say when You Don’t Know what to Say

Something bad has happened. Not to you but to a friend, family member, co-worker, or whomever. You want to reach out, but what do you say? What do you do? What can you do to let the person know you are there for them? It’s such a unnecessarily touchy subject. I think the best way to answer any and all of those questions is actually pretty easy: BE GENUINE.

Especially in this day and age, we make light of sad times unintentionally. When a friend’s loved one dies or whatever the situation may be, it’s so easy to reach to phrases such as “everything happens for a reason” or “they are in a better place.” It’s like a way of censoring yourself, those phrases have become “politically correct” because everyone has said them for a very long time. Please stop with those phrases. Those phrases help YOU think you are saying the right thing, but they do not necessarily helping the person you are saying them to.

If you’ve read my blog, you know that I have struggled to cope with my miscarriages. I knew I had two, and recently realized before I was ever treated for my pituitary tumor, I most likely had my first. In December, we announced we were finally pregnant and got so much support. When we announced we had lost the pregnancy in January, everyone fell off the map. I think, in our situation, although preparing to be a first time parent can be nerve wracking and all help can be good help, we could have used the support MORE when we found out we lost the pregnancy. It has been an extremely lonely time. For me, I felt rejected by friends and family (see my post: This was Written in Anger). I felt like they did not care about me. I felt like they dismissed my pain (both physical and emotional) like both my baby and I never mattered. Often, I still feel like this, even though in most cases, it’s not true. Something came to life and then died inside of me, both physically and emotionally. I’m led to believe that It would be better if I did not talk about it, just in case I might offend someone. If I do talk about it, it should probably just be to support groups of STRANGERS online who have been through the same thing, not to actual people I LOVE and know me personally. Twisted, isn’t it?

I’ve been on the other side many times. Miscarriage happens to 1 in 4 women, it would be pretty unusual to not know at least one person who has experienced it. A beautiful cousin of mine, who has since had some of the most polite, smart, and well-mannered children to ever be brought to the Earth, was the first person I knew to have a miscarriage. I was thirteen I think, or somewhere around there. It was a very happy family event and everyone was having a great time. I went to take a bathroom break, and inside the bathroom was my cousin and a few surrounding her, consoling her. She was in tears and I remember stopping cold, shocked not just because she is usually such a happy and positive person, but I also did not know what to say when they told me why she was so upset. I don’t know if I said anything at all. For that, I’m sorry.

If you do not know what to say, and do not want to say anything wrong, I hope these few suggestions help. This isn’t an exact science, this is not at all correct for all people or all situations. This is what I wish people had done for me.

A few quick and easy DON’Ts:

Everything happens for a reason – what reason do you think my baby had to die? Yes, the majority of miscarriages occur because of natural selection (your body knows something is wrong with the fetus and spontaneously aborts it). However, sometimes (like in my case) it’s something wrong with my body and the way it processes hormone imbalances that causes the miscarriage to occur. Either way, it’s not as comforting of a thing to hear as you may think.
God needed another Angel – an easy thing to say when God didn’t ask you for yours
Anything starting with “At least you didn’t-“ – lose it later in the pregnancy? Know the sex of the baby? Go the entire pregnancy to have a stillbirth? Yes, at least those things did not happen. Don’t bring them up. Even if those things had happened, I would probably still feel the same.
It is all in God’s plan – maybe this works for someone really religious, but I think it’s safe to say you should steer clear of it regardless. It’s like saying God wanted you to be in pain, learn some horrible life lesson, etc.
ANYTHING about how much you consider changing diapers/sleepless nights/etc a pain. We would gladly do it if given the chance, and you now look like an ungrateful asshole.
Here’s a great infertility/miscarriage article – I’m aware of my battle. I do a lot of my own research as well as see TRAINED PROFESSIONALS about my specific case regularly. I live it everyday. Please realize that you offering me an article like that would be the same as me sending you an article on how to be a better parent. It’s kind of insulting.
“If it makes you feel any better, I had to go through this bad thing” – 1. You are diminishing my situation & 2. Anyone who says, “Yes that does make me feel better that you had a horrible time” is a complete jerk. 3. Life is not a competition and certainly not a competition to see who can do worse.
“So & So suffered with infertility/miscarriage and now they have three healthy children” – Good for them, but just because So & So beat the battle, it does not mean that I will. Not everyone is so lucky.
You will have a baby one day – No, I might not. There is no guarantee my situation will be solved. Yes, “At least” I can get pregnant, but that does not mean that I can have a healthy baby.
There’s always IVF/Adoption/etc. Yes, there is and for a large price tag that you are probably unaware of. The average cost of IVF (In Vitro Fertilization) is $12,400 whether it works or not. The average cost of a domestic adoption in the United States ranges anywhere from $30,000 to $50,000.

AND now for the GENUINE responses that I wish we had gotten; The please Do’s:

“I’m so sorry for your loss” – It’s simple and to the point. It lets me know you were thinking of us and our situation, and that means a lot.

“I’m coming over. I’m bringing food. I will sit with you if you want me to, if not I understand” – There were a lot of times that I did not want to talk, but having a friend or family member there to just sit with, would have been nice. When I lost my “first” pregnancy, the initial day was the worst day of my life, going through labor at only 11 weeks pregnant is not at all pleasant – both physically and emotionally. It took me a little over a week to recover physically from it. Emotionally, I may never recover completely. Depression is no different than being sick, you do not have the strength or energy to do anything. A little help would’ve been amazing, and definitely never forgotten.

“Talk to me about it” & MEAN IT. & then, most importantly, LISTEN.
There were few that actually cared to listen to me when I needed to talk about our miscarriages. I get it, it makes people uncomfortable. BUT at the same time, I’m unconformable. I’m depressed. I’m broken. My child and my hopes and dreams for them DIED. I talked a lot and then it was met with a “oh, that’s terrible” and then the subject was changed. Or I talked and and my situation was compared to something else not the same. I need to talk about what happened to me and my baby to help me heal, to help me find peace. Belittling the situation is not helpful and it really hinders the process.

“I was going to do this today, would you like to come along?” We might talk about it, we might not. But letting me know you want to be around me even though I am having a hard time, or even that I might decline, still means so much.

Still don’t know what to say? They hire people to make cards that do.

When we felt it was time to announce our loss, we did so on Facebook (minus our parents) instead of calling everyone individually (hopefully, for obvious reasons). That’s how the majority of people found out, I’m sure. We got a few responses here and there, and those meant a lot to us. A lot of people sent their condolences to my parents, not to me directly. I was not even made aware of this either, until telling my parents I felt like I was alone and no one cared MONTHS later. I do not know who said what, how they felt, etc, I wish they had told me. It didn’t happen to my parents. It happened to us.

In February, maybe a whole month after our first known miscarriage, we ran into one of Steven’s friends and co-workers. I had met the guy once before and only briefly. Although it was kind of awkward, not going to lie, he gave me the “I’m so sorry” look and gave my shoulder a squeeze. It meant a lot to me.

We received one card after our first known miscarriage. It was from the head of Steven’s company’s FRG, she was new, and we had never met her in person. The card said a lot of touching and prevalent things that were extremely comforting and thoughtful. It’s the only card we have received throughout the entire time about the matter.

I was told I was a bad friend for not wanting to know about friends’ pregnancies. However, those friends were not bad friends because they did not want to know what I was going through because of my miscarriage? (See my post, Words Begging with G) First, that’s completely unfair. It’s not that I did not want to know, it’s that knowing was a reminder of what was taken from me. There are milestones they got to have and will continue to have, that I never will with my baby. I did not know if any of my babies were going to be a boy or a girl, no baby shower for them, no celebration of my baby’s upcoming arrival and certainly not of their BIRTH. They were too busy being happy to be bothered with my sadness, and vice versa, I was too depressed to have the reminder of a happy, healthy pregnancy. Neither is wrong necessarily. I do beg to anyone who is pregnant, and your friend loses their pregnancy, DO NOT say “If your baby had lived, what were you going to name it because I don’t want to take your name.” I was asked that. In all honesty, I’m jealous of my pregnant friends and those who just gave birth to healthy babies. I think my reasoning is totally understandable. So pregnant ladies, please just be mindful of how you say or ask things. You’re experiencing something I was denied.

I really hope this does not come off as me trying to being cruel. I’m just being truthful. I’ve been on both sides of not knowing what to say and also wishing someone would say SOMETHING at all. I realize there can be a lot of miscommunication and bad interpretations of what people say and what they mean. I get it. I’m just trying to say that tough times can be painfully lonely.

I’m trying to bring awareness.

I’m trying to support SYMPATHY & EMPATHY alike.

Loss is never easy, no matter how long or short the person was known.

It’s not always easy knowing what to say, but as much as the thought counts, it’s important that you tell or show the person there is a thought there at all. Don’t just pray for somebody, tell them you are praying for them. Don’t discuss your sadness with people outside of the situation, discuss it TO the person it happened to. Where words fail, touch can speak for you. When all else fails, there are many locations to buy cards.

If you are a loved one who has spoken to me about our situation, I appreciate it more than you will ever know, and I am so thankful for your support. I think it’s also important for me to say that if you are a loved one of mine who didn’t say anything to me, I understand why, I just wish you would. In times of happiness, support is nice. In times of sadness, support is what gets us through it.

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6 thoughts on “What to say when You Don’t Know what to Say

  1. Sometimes a little sincerity goes a long way and it seems to be a forgotten trait. People tend to shy away from things that they are afraid of and don’t understand. I can absolutely relate to the jealousy. You’re clearly a very strong woman. Don’t give up.

  2. Not being a creeper, neighbor here lol, I wish I would of read this a week and a half ago. I had a close friend suffer a miscarriage and I had no idea what to say. Luckily, I said what you said TO DO but it was hard to find the words when I was the first person she told. Really.. if you have any days where you just need someone to talk to I am always here to listen. Walk across the driveway and come on in 🙂 I couldn’t imagine what you are going through but I will always be a listening ear when you need one!
    Ps I LOVE your blog. I wish I was as creative and great with words and picture’s like you 🙂

    • I am so very sorry for your friend’s loss! I don’t blame you for having a hard time finding the words, but I’m so glad that you were able to for your friend. If you or your friend ever need to talk to someone who’s been through it (i’m 0-3 so far), I can try to offer what’s helped me. And thank you so much, I feel so lucky to have you guys as neighbors!
      & Thank you 🙂 I try my best, but there’s always room for improvement!

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