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Knowing what to say and do

Co-founder of charity Miscarriage Matters, ALEISHA BLACK shares some tips for supporting loved ones through such a distressing experience.

Miscarriage is a pregnancy that ends spontaneously before 20 weeks gestation. One New Zealand study found that a third of women had experienced at least one. We all know someone who has experienced miscarriage, even if we don’t realise that we do. 

When somebody experiences a miscarriage, it is common to want to know ‘what went wrong’. However, most miscarriages are not investigated, as they are usually caused by a random chromosomal abnormality. Nothing necessarily ‘went wrong’.

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Miscarriage, like stillbirth, is a loss of life that is experienced physically as well as emotionally. Whether the baby is the size of a blueberry at seven weeks, or a mango at 19 weeks, the mother’s body will need to dilate and contract to let go of the pregnancy. A miscarriage can be traumatic, emotionally overwhelming and life-altering.

SUPPORTING SOMEONE THROUGH MISCARRIAGE:

  • Bring up their miscarriage. Saying, “I’m sorry about your miscarriage” acknowledges their
    experience and can really mean a lot. Depending on the situation and your relationship with the person, you may also want to ask them how they are getting on. 
  • Offer practical support. This could include cooking meals, cleaning or grocery shopping.
  • Do something nice for them or suggest an activity together.  Send them flowers, go to the movies, or go for a walk.
  • Listen. If they want to talk, try to understand what they are saying; also, try to hold back from interrupting or offering advice.
  • Adopt their words. Do they say, “it” or “my miscarriage”? Do they say, “he/she” or “my baby”? Do they have a name for their baby? If you adopt the words of the person you are supporting, you are supporting their interpretation and understanding of their miscarriage.
  • Be mindful of times that may be particularly difficult. For example, their due date or the anniversary of their miscarriage.

“My mum and dad just took my one-year-old away, gave her some lovely playtime and put her to bed that evening, so none of that was on my mind. My sister came as soon as she heard what was going on and cuddled me on the couch, both of us crying, while we put on some childhood movie. My husband just sat with us too and made hot drinks. What I remember vividly in terms of support was that I certainly did not want to talk about things or explain what was happening and that the most supportive thing people could do was just be there to cuddle me and let me cry and do practical things to help. I knew the time to talk for me would be later, not during that time.”

– Bridie
In 2018, North Canterbury sisters Corrine Christian and Aleisha Black were both pregnant, but only one of them got to meet their baby. Their first-hand experience of miscarriage and of trying to support someone through miscarriage is what led them to form the charity Miscarriage Matters NZ, to improve the experience of miscarriage in New Zealand. 

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