When someone is experiencing the loss of a pregnancy, it is easy to forget the fact that they are losing something big – the entire life of their child. It’s also easy to repeat old tropes that we heard once that sound as though they should help.
Let’s break down why you should not use these phrases and what you should say instead.
Maybe it was for the best.
It’s never the best for a mother to be without her child. It’s never best that a baby dies. The best thing would be that the baby be there with their mother.
You’re so young. You’ll have more.
Having more will not bring back the baby she lost. Babies don’t replace babies any more than a new woman could replace your mother.
Being young simply means she now has a long life ahead of her filled with missing her child.
It wasn’t meant to be.
They did be. They were. They existed. They were here and now they are gone.
Anything starting with “At Least…”
At least it was early. At least you know you can get pregnant. At least you can try again.
All of these are dismissive of the pain and they try to force a silver lining. They do nothing to comfort the grieving. There is no amount of positive thoughts that will stop the ache of missing your child.
God has a plan / God needed them.
To suggest that God wanted a baby to die is horrific. He didn’t need them, the mother needed them.
Any of these sayings, however genuine they might feel, are really for the benefit of the speaker rather than the receiver. They are an attempt to feel useful and alleviate the discomfort they are experiencing around an unnatural circumstance of a baby dying.
Try these instead.
Your baby was so loved.
It’s simple. The grieving mother wants to feel like her preborn baby mattered and was worthy of just as much love as a living child. Tell her so.
Some babies that die in pregnancy are not given a name. And some are. This is a personal choice often made by the mother. Ask what you should call the baby. Ask if she named them. And then refer to them by that name whenever possible.
I’m here with you.
A mother going through a miscarriage or pregnancy loss feels alone. Simply letting her know you are here will give her a small amount of comfort. This lets her know you are empathizing with her instead of sympathizing for her.
There is no timeline for this grief.
Remind her that it’s ok to not be ok for as long as it lasts. Grief does not expire and it is not linear. There will be good days followed by dark days. Don’t rush her through the process.
All they knew was your love and warmth.
This reminds the mom that her baby did not know anything outside of the love and protection of her womb. It might remind her not to blame herself for the death of her baby.
This was not your fault.
The loss of a baby during pregnancy often comes with guilt. It’s the feeling that your body failed to keep your baby alive or that you failed to protect them. She needs to hear that this wasn’t her fault.
How can I honor them with you?
Some mothers like to light candles on big days. Some like to bring flowers to a grave. Some like to donate to charities. If you want to honor a baby with a bereaved mother, ask her how.
When you offer comfort to a grieving parent, remember that nothing you say will make it hurt any less. But what you say could make it hurt more. Show the bereaved that you are there for them in whatever way they need and now simply to make it better or more comfortable for yourself.