When You Don't Know What to Say


Last week, a dear friend of mine received some very sad news that she had lost the sweet baby she was carrying. It is her story, not mine, so that's all I am going to say about it specifically, but for me personally, it's been hard. This comes a few days after reading Steph's post about losing her baby; Rachel blogged about losing her baby this past fall, and Cassie shared about hers last summer.

Those, of course, aren't the only ones. With statistics like these, I'm sure we all have known someone who has had a miscarriage. This is hard for me for obvious reasons being that I am currently 22 weeks pregnant but also because I am just so incredibly sad for my friend.

This post is not about how to comfort a friend after miscarriage, because I don’t really know how to do that yet. This post is about what to do when you don't know what to say. Because I understand even more now why it's hard. Everything sounds trite and cliche. You want to be sensitive and not accidentally say something hurtful, but you also don't want to say nothing.

And I just really don't want to say nothing.

I had written a few posts for this week already, but I just can't move on with normal content yet. I've gone back and forth about it, but it just doesn't feel right. I know everyone handles grief differently, so each situation, each person, is unique, and what one person finds comforting might not be so for someone else. But I thought about what I would say even when I don't know what to say, and I decided to share it here.

I by no means am any kind of expert at comforting a friend going through something like this, and I freely admit that I don't always know the right thing to say. In fact, a lot of times I say the entirely wrong thing. But I hope this is a comfort in some small way to my friends, both those close and dear to me and those I only know online.

* * *

Dear friend,

I’m heartbroken over your loss, and I’m so terribly sorry.

I don’t know whether you told a lot of people about this baby yet or only a few, but no matter how many knew about this tiny life, I want you to know that this baby was very much loved and very much wanted.

You didn’t get to officially meet this baby, and I know that you wanted to so badly. But that in no way makes this baby any less real or this loss any less significant.

I want to give you space but also hold you close. However this process of grief looks for you, that is the right way, and I will do my best to support you in whatever way you need.

I'm here if you want to talk and I'm also here if you don't. Know that I'm going to check in on you, but don't feel pressure to respond to my calls and texts unless you want to.

And if you want to talk, I’m here too. I promise to try not to say any of those unhelpful things people sometimes say when they are trying to be comforting after a loss, and I want you to promise to tell me if I accidentally say or do something hurtful.

I want you to know that God is very much saddened by your loss. (If you need proof, look no further than Jesus grieving the loss of his friend Lazarus. It is the shortest verse in the Bible: John 11:35, "Jesus wept.") I always find it a comforting thought that God is never surprised, and nothing has ever happened or will ever happen that God doesn’t already know about. But that doesn't stop me from wondering why certain things happen. 

Because honestly, I hate this.

God is faithful, and he is good; but sometimes he doesn’t seem good at all, and it's okay to be sad and it's okay to be angry. Those feelings are normal, and God is not offended by them.

I am praying for you, dear friend. Praying for peace, for healing, and for your marriage as you walk this journey together.

Most of all, I don’t want you to feel alone. I can imagine it might feel like you are very much alone right now, but we all loved this baby, and we all love you very much. I know you won't forget about this baby, and please know that I won't either.

I'm here for you.
I love you.

Your Friend

*I thought about turning the comments off, but I think it would be good to allow response. Whether or not you have experienced a loss of this kind or been the friend trying to comfort, please feel free to share your story. I think it's important that those going through something like this know they are not alone, and I personally would like more dialogue in general about how specifically a friend can be a comfort during this time. Thanks for reading.
Jen said...

I want to genuinely thank you for sharing this post. My husband and I experienced 5 losses over the course of 7 years to include unexplained infertility before we were blessed with the birth of our daughter last fall. It was one of the most difficult things we have ever gone through but we were carried through by amazing families and friends. Even when people were unsure of what to say just being there to listen was more than we could have ever asked for. There is nothing more powerful than just being there, not to just offer words of encouragement or words of sympathy but simply to be there as a sounding board and a shoulder to lean on. I am sending lots of love to your dear friend, she is not forgotten and neither is that precious baby. <3

Kristin said...

I think sometimes the best thing we can say sometimes is just, "I'm here and I love you." Mostly because when grief strikes, I don't think there are any magic words that can make it better, and that's what we all try to look for - something magical that we can say that will make it better. Much love to you and your friend, and grateful you can be there for her.

Nadine said...

All the tears this morning. So sorry for your friends loss. I read Steph's post last week too and broke down over it. It's so sad how common this is and you're so right, the life isn't any less significant just because we hadn't met the baby yet. It's so hard to know what to say to someone after this but your letter is perfect and amazing. I love how sweet your heart is. All the hugs to those mamas that lost their babies.

Michelle said...

Amanda! I have tears. You wrote such a beautiful letter, and she is lucky to have you as a friend. This is especially timely, because a girl from my church lost her daughter this weekend. It's her second child in two years that she has had to bury due to a freak thing, and it shook me to hear that news. I can't begin to fathom that level of grief, and I found myself helpless to come up with something to say.

StephTheBookworm said...

I think it's really thoughtful and amazing that you have thought so much about this and care so much. So many hugs and so much love to you. All I can say personally is that no one has said anything WRONG. All the support, messages, and words have touched us and given us comfort. It does feel isolating and sad and just getting words from someone that they're thinking of us makes us feel less alone. Thank you for thinking so kindly about the losses of your friends. It means a lot.

The Lady Okie said...

Yes, you're right. It is hard because nothing sounds like enough, but there isn't anything magical you can say. It's just really sad. Thank you for sharing :)

The Lady Okie said...

Hi, Steph, I'm so glad to hear that you have people who are able to be a comfort to you in this time. Thanks for sharing :)

Kayla MKOY said...

This was so incredibly beautiful, Amanda! Thanks for sharing it. Made me tear up. I'll never fully understand why certain things happen in this world, but I'm grateful for a God who does!

Amy @ A Desert Girl said...

Your letter is beautiful. Praying a special prayer today for anyone who has lost a child. <3

Audrey Louise said...

A few weeks ago my best friend gave birth to her second child, a boy this time. He's perfect in every way, though he follows the loss of twins that she'd conceived and lost the year prior :( It was and is a sad memory for all of us. I don't know how you comprehend the loss of a child or children, whether or not you've physically met them. This is a wonderful letter, Amanda. Thank you for talking about this.

Maria said...

I'm so sorry to hear about your friend's loss and pray for comfort for her and her family. Each person processes and grieves differently. While there isn't a magical phrase that works for everyone, I've found that giving each person space to sort through their feelings is helpful as well as letting them know that you are there for them should they feel the need to talk. A good friend will know that you love them and that you will be there for them.

I think a letter or email is always appreciated, especially one as beautiful as yours. That way, it'll allow them to read your words when they are ready and go back to your letter a source of comfort. I personally grieve very privately. I recently found out that my aunt has been diagnosed with a terminal disease and we have only six more months with her. I don't want to talk about it out loud (denial perhaps?), but I find my own peace by grieving and praying alone.

Cassie Lee @ Sage the Blog said...

Thank you for sharing my post. But more importantly thank you for just sharing that you don't know what to say.

Most people don't know what to say, because what can you say to bring someone's baby back and heal their pain? Nothing. But, really, those friends that were able to say "I don't know what to say" made me feel so much more loved than those that just chose to not say anything at all, to let that feeling paralyze them. Those friends that gave me permission to be angry and nonsensical, the friends that told me my baby was wanted and wouldn't be forgotten, just as you have done here, helped so much with the healing a grief.

This is a lovely letter and I can't tell you how it would have moved me to have a friend say some of these things to me after my own loss. I pray that God would be with your friend and her husband as they navigate a terrible, awful loss. And I pray that you God will continue to open up doors for you to love her well and speak life into a situation that must feel so, so dark for her right now.

The Girl who Loved to Write said...

"But that in no way makes this baby any less real or this loss any less significant." Yes, yes, yes.

I think it's so important to acknowledge that though God may be good, it does not feel like it in these times. And that is okay. It is okay to grieve and be angry and not bounce back right away exclaiming the goodness of God's plan. There is a time for that, but it does not have to be now.

This is so beautiful and your friend is lucky to have someone like you. Praying for her heart today.

The Lady Okie said...

Thanks, Cassie :) I think one of the reasons it is so hard to comfort someone going through grief is because it is so personal, so even if it is a loss you have experience with, it still isn't going to be the same process that you went through. So you don't want to bother the other person, but you also want them to not feel alone and know you are there. And I just don't want to say something dumb so sometimes it feels easier to say nothing. But I know that too can be hurtful. I appreciate your openness to share your own story and hopefully that does help others who are going through it and also those wanting to comfort a friend so they don't feel alone.

Unknown said...

I had a close friend miscarry around the time I got pregnant and it was so hard for both of us. It's so beautiful you're able to put your thoughts into words. I am better at just listening in those situations since I can never figure out what to say!

Rachel said...

Thank you for writing this post.

I think it's really good when people who are friends to those suffering a loss like this realize that it doesn't just happen when it happens and then it's done. It is, or at least it feels like, a more constant state of loss that doesn't fully go away. I'm glad I have just a few people, mostly Angel and my mom, that I can just say to randomly, "I miss the baby." and I feel safe and they get it and they're not like, "Baby? That's so long ago. That's old news." With most in my circles I won't say anything anymore, because for most, it is over. I don't want to make people feel sad, or always be thinking about myself when it should be a season of focusing on big changes for others. But I'm so glad I have a few I can still say "I miss the baby" to. Angel always responds, "I miss her too."

Ugh. Last couple weeks I've been pretty chipper and more like my normal self but for whatever reason I spent like half of yesterday crying. There's always random things that bring me back for a bit.

Rach said...

Beautifully written. I know that when we have faced any sort of loss (including the slow process of losing my father-in-law to a horrible disease), every person who checked in on us helped. And remembering anniversaries of loss is such a gift to the person as well. The people who remember with us are such a blessing. A simple text saying "I'm praying for you today" on the anniversary of loss means so much to me. Because of that I always put a note in my planner for the next year to check in with any friend who has lost a pregnancy or experienced any other major loss. It's a small thing, but it breaks down a little of the isolation of loss.

AnneMarie said...

I am so sorry to hear about your friend's loss. Thank you, Amanda, for sharing this with us. I find it quite timely and helpful to read, because just a few days ago, I found myself in a position of having no idea what to say. Last week, the 2 month old baby of some of my friends died unexpectedly, and at the funeral reception, the mom of the baby who died sat next to me at one point. Aside from talking with her a little bit and asking her how she was doing, I had no clue what to say or not say, so I didn't say much-maybe that was the best way to go for the situation, maybe not. Anyways, you have given me some good ideas with how I can reach out to my friends as time goes on-thank you for your compassionate, sensitive words of wisdom!

Sara Oss said...

Sometimes acknowledging that you have no words is the most comforting thing you can say. Because really...every loss is different, every hard thing is new to someone in the situation. Someone in my own lost her baby in utero between weeks 37 and 38 and I don't know if any words at all are comforting at a time like that.

One thing you can do is to ask her how her husband/partner is doing. Sometimes I think there is this weird gender imbalance with loss where men are always asked how they and their wives are doing in a situation like this, but women are rarely asked about how their men are holding up. And it's a thing they might want to discuss.

Kari said...

For me, I've decided to say nothing in times like these...just be a supportive presence. Cry with her if she needs. Supply a meal or two. I've always known that there's really no words I can string together to take the pain away and I'm not the most skilled with words in times like that. All that goes to show is just like we all have different ways of grieving, we all have different ways of loving and supporting too. The value is the love and support. Thanks for touching on the subject!

Caroline @ In Due Time said...

so so awful. This is my world since I am so involved with infertility. Just found out another girl lost her 6. It happens weekly, if not what feels like every day. It truly is heartbreaking :( I am so sorry to hear about your friend

Julie @ Just the Joy's said...

Beautifully said. Sometimes it's so hard to find the right words but even just letting others know you love them, your praying for them, and your here when they're ready - means the world. It breaks my heart that your friend (or anyone for that matter) has to experience such a loss. I'll be praying for you both.