Responding When People Don't Understand Your Miscarriage

by Michelle Myers-Walters

We've all been there in that moment. The moment someone says something hurtful about the loss of your baby, and you feel warmth overcome you as tears well up in your eyes. What do you say? What can you say?

There are no rights and wrong about your response, and truth be told, a response isn't even demanded of you. That being said, something inside of you heeds the protective urge to defend your lost child, even though the humiliation and hurt is overwhelming you.

Well, I say it's time to hold our heads high, reclaim our privacy and space, and let people know that what they say is not acceptable.

Often, people just don't know what to say, so they say hurtful insensitive things about the loss of your baby. However, this does not absolve them or justify the remarks that they make, but it helps to know that not all people are purposefully trying to make your situation more stressful. Even though these comments are not intended to hurt, they do. This article is about how you can respond to such comments, and regain your confidence about addressing this issue.

Sometimes people don't recognize something is a problem, until they are educated to know otherwise. Unfortunately, as mothers of loss, it becomes our burden to enlighten those who have no understanding of miscarriage.

Think about it, before you lost your baby, did you know all that you know about miscarriage and loss? Most of us would honestly answer no, and ignorance does not equate evilness. Recognizing this fact, can help in truly discerning which approach to take with people.

There seem to be three dominant classes of people that we encounter on this journey -- the Insensitive, the Indignant and the Idiots.

The Insensitive Person

The Insensitive person can be defined as a friend or relative, and perhaps an acquaintance, who knows you lost your baby and doesn't temper their responses. Normally, these people are already known for their insensitivity, and we shouldn't expect them to say something helpful in the first place. But when we lose our babies, it's not like we're in the right frame of mind to consider this fact.

This person says things like, "Well, at least you lost it early on," and "You didn't need that right now anyway; you're already struggling financially." Our first impulse should be to wring their neck, but most times we are left flustered and hurting. What they should have said was, "I'm so sorry this happened to you."

You have two choices with a person like this. One, you could just walk away, though this leaves room for the person to call after you in which case, you could continue to just keep walking. The second response, could entail a slew of comments that will stop the assault, such as, "Would you miss your mother less, the older she was?" or, "What kind of price tag can you put on a life?"

The Indignant

The second group we deal with are called the Indignant people. These are the ones that feel personally upset that you're upset. They literally can't figure out why you're crying, upset or devastated by your experience.

Most of these include people who don't believe a "fetus" is a baby, or they don't believe you need to be as upset because you already have some children. They love to make comments like, "It's not like you don't have any children at all," or, "How can you be upset about something that didn't even exist?"

I never understood this mentality. Obviously you considered this experience as the death of a child, or you wouldn't be emotionally falling to pieces. And just because you have other children running around, is that supposed to lessen the fact that one of them died? Indignant people somehow feel that you're encroaching upon their personal happiness, if you can't be the "old" you that you used to be for them. It's a rather selfish position to take, but they take it, and you have to hear a barrage of insults intended to snap you back into the old you.

So what do you say? Well, aside from the most horrible thing you can think of to say back, these responses can still be made, while preserving your decorum. How about, "So if one of my children die, I should consider the rest reserves and not be so sad?" or, "Just because you didn't see or feel my baby, doesn't mean that it did not exist. A positive pregnancy test means just that. I was positively pregnant and now I'm not...my baby died."

The Idiots

The last group we deal with are the Idiots. We all have them in our lives. Those people, who no matter how well intentioned, just don't get it. No matter how much we cry or relay our feelings, they just don't get how moved you are and how much losing this baby has affected your life. These people are the ones that invite you to a baby shower, or excitedly tell you about a new pregnancy. They call you and never address your situation, and get their own feelings hurt when you don't run to get your nails done with them a week later.

The worst thing these people do is NOT acknowledge the pregnancy and loss at all. They chat and talk with you about insignificant things, never stopping to ask how you are doing or what they can do to support you. Guilt surrounds your interaction with them, because you sincerely feel like something is wrong with you, that you cannot just be "happy" like they assume you are.

It may be hard, but if it seems they just don't get it, stop hanging out with them. Now, this can get complicated when it's close friends and especially family members, but this is not a time in your life to be more concerned with what they think and feel. Going through the grief of losing a pregnancy is one of the hardest types of grief. You need to focus on your emotions and healing, and that's hard to do, while worried about the Idiot in your life.

But not to worry, even this confrontation doesn't have to be hard. If it boils down to texting, e-mailing or a phone call, let them know that you need some time to yourself. It doesn't have to be some long drawn out explanation, but make sure you are clear on your position.

If you need them to take a break on being the ignoring ray of sunshine, tell them so.

If you need them to stop showing up unexpected to take you to coffee, and trying to make you laugh in a group of people, tell them so.

Be specific, be direct and don't worry about offending them. If they truly care for you, they will not exit your life, just take a little break.

It all boils down to clear communication. Doesn't have to be articulate, and sometimes, you don't even have to use words. Walking away from people, is one of the most effective responses one can give when confronted by people who don't understand what we're going through.

Take courage and love yourself enough to protect your feelings. There shouldn't be any judgments about your miscarriage, only support and understanding. If people don't have those for you, then are they really people you need to have in your life right now?

Bad things happen every day. Unfortunately, women have babies die within them, and pregnancies do not produce little bundles of utter joy. One true test of our character, is the ability to stand up for ourselves in the midst of dealing with the cold reality of miscarriage. And it is cold...even the word "miscarriage" is cold and unsupportive. If the medical dictionary uses a term that means "mismanagement," how could we expect our friends and family to get what we are going through?

Remember, we didn't miscarry anything, our babies died. No one has any right to offend, belittle or make us feel we are unnecessarily upset. One of the best ways to take care of ourselves is to stand up for ourselves. No matter how broken you feel, it's hard to heal, when people keep hurting you with invisible words that leave obvious wounds.

Michelle Myers-Walters' life was turned upside down in January of 2004 when she lost her seventh baby. Experiencing the loss of an unborn child taught Michelle so much more than she could ever imagine. She was inspired to write down what she had learned for other women who were on similar journeys. Her book I Didn't Miscarry Her...She Died will be released on November 15th, 2009.

Michelle and her husband Ron Walters, both talented singer/songwriters, co-founded record company Mental Ward Records. Together, they have produced four albums and have made the official Grammy ballot in 8 different categories. Michelle is an honorary board member of Witness Justice, an organization dedicated to helping survivors of violent crimes. She currently writes articles on parenting and autism for Oklahoma City in The Examiner.

She lives in Oklahoma City with her husband and seven children: Destiny, Diamond, Ron David, Rose, Tyler, Tyson, and Sunshine.

© Michelle Myers-Walters. Permission to publish granted to Pregnancy.org, LLC.

images © Odelia Cohen | dreamstime.com; Jason Still | dreamstime.com; Yann Poirier | dreamstime.com.