Before going through a miscarriage myself, I wondered why moms didn't open up about it. I thought it must be because of guilt, embarrassment, or that it was a taboo topic that they didn't feel they could open up about. I've learned through this that sometimes that is the case, but more so many women don't feel comfortable opening up because they are sad, not wanting to share, or feel like they don't have anyone who would understand. I wrote more about this here:
Image from Google.com
What I've been trying to understand now is how others respond, not the one going through it, but the ones around the person going through a miscarriage. The ones who are close friends, acquaintances, coworkers, family members, etc.
I've found personally that some people talk openly about it with me - sharing their own experiences of miscarriage, saying they know a little of how I feel, relating to me. While others don't open up, don't share their experience, it's too hard and painful for them to relive that so they stay quiet.
Others go the extra mile sending food and cards and texting often, reminding me I'm not alone - similar to any death one goes through - flowers coming in, words of encouragement. While others say nothing at all besides one first text initially to say they are sorry to hear, then the phone stays silent.
I've talked to a lot of moms who've gone through this. Some get very upset, disappointed, sad, angry, lonely being on this receiving end of nothing, of silence, of not acknowledging. It's hard to go through a life-changing, traumatic experience... and have your closest friends and family say absolutely nothing or not hug you at the least. I understand why women feel this way. They want someone to get it, to understand, to make them feel better because it's so incredibly painful and they want something to be OK again.
But after going through this, I have come to realize a few things that I think all women who experience a miscarriage should try to remember in these difficult moments, when others are not responding to their loss in the ways they hope they would. I hope these ideas bring you comfort if you're going through this.
Remember: you're entitled to FEEL however you want. I've felt this way, too, wondering why some don't say a word to me, not understanding it, not feeling important to them. Feeling is good, processing that, talking to someone you trust about it is helpful. Responding though may not be positive... so check yourself, be patient, step back and try to remember these things about why the person may not be talking to you about this pain.
Why others remain silent:
- It's not you, it's them. Perhaps they have gone through a miscarriage and to open up to you about that is far too painful, they aren't ready to share their news. Perhaps they are pregnant and cannot imagine going through what you are going through, so they turn a blind eye and don't want to even entertain that discussion. Maybe your experience is their greatest fear and they don't want to believe it's possible, so they pretend it's not happening. Maybe they are in a happy season of their life, pregnant or with a new baby, or just married or something else good going on, and it's too hard to focus on something bad, because they fear it could happen to them.
- They don't mean you harm. I truly believe that even the stupid comments aren't meant to harm you in any way. People aren't smart sometimes. They say what they think too quickly, impulsive. They don't take a breath or a moment to think things through before saying it. However, I truly believe that people mean well, they just don't have the skills to express what they want to you. So yes, you'll hear stupid things, mean things, rude comments that make no sense. But try to take those things with a grain of salt and believe that they really are just trying their best to make you feel better but they aren't doing a good job at it. Try not to respond, that doesn't help anything. Just perhaps don't open up to them again, to protect yourself.
- People are busy. Life doesn't stop just because your world is at a standstill. This is the cold truth, I realize. It's hard to accept, but it's the truth. Your colleagues at work may not say something when you're out of work for a few days because it's just busy there, not because they don't think of you. Work goes on, school happens, children keep them preoccupied. Moms especially are SO busy, never a minute to think or stop or time or money to do what they wish they could. Some have no clue it's been three weeks, when you've been counting the days and moments since it happened. Try not to hold this against other people. Think to yourself that if they didn't have a job or young kids or commitments, you know they would be there with you in a heartbeat. They'd shower you with gifts and love and food if they had all the money in the world. If these are not the type of people you have in your life, then perhaps it's time to reflect on who is in your life... but in most cases I do believe your friends and family adore you and wish they could help more. Life just gets in the way sometimes. It's not great news, but it's reality.
- Everyone deals with sadness or tough times in very different ways. Some people talk openly, write about it, ask questions about it, share with everyone they know. Others are very private, quite, don't want others to talk about it. Some need others to get better, to talk, to open up. Others need to be alone and only confide in one or two people. Sometimes they are responding to you in the way they would want to be treated if this happened to them. If they would not want anyone bothering them, then they aren't going to bother you by asking how you are. If they have gone through it and someone did something to them that didn't help, they are less likely to do that for you. It doesn't mean they don't care. Some people, especially guys, don't talk about it. Some people ask your partner how you're doing instead of asking you directly. Don't be offended. Just be grateful they are asking about you at all.
- They aren't sure, are confused, don't know what to say or do. They are waiting for your lead. If you find people are silent around you, not supporting you, you need to speak up, ask for what you need. Some are waiting to hear from you, not wanting to bother you or impose or make you uncomfortable. Some are afraid to bring it up for fear of upsetting you. Some think you'll go to them when you are ready. This doesn't mean they aren't thinking about you. It just means they are trying to give you space and respect whatever it is you are going through and whatever you need. Some think they are helping you by giving you that space, by not bringing it up.
- It's confusing to know what to say! What helped them isn't the same as what helps you. This is the biggest one that I've come to realize. For me, it helps for me to say out loud and for others to tell me "everything happens for a reason." But I know TONS of moms who hate hearing that, that it did not help, made it worse. For me, prayer and God helps, for others they are mad at God feeling like He did this to them. For me, talking about it helps tremendously, for others, talking makes it worse. So naturally if it's confusing for us who go through this experience, it's going to be difficult for our loved ones who haven't gone through it or who have and have different versions of what helped them than what helps you. Be patient with this. It's one of those things that there is no solution for... besides perhaps you opening up when you're ready.
How to deal with the silence:
- Talk to those who understand. Turn to those who are opening up, who are checking in with you. Rely on them instead of wondering why the few people are staying silent about this experience.
- Start the conversation, open up those lines of communication. You take the first step. Be the first one to talk about it to them, lead them in the dialogue if it's important to you.
- Remind yourself it's not you, it's them, and that's not a bad thing, they don't mean any harm to you. Be patient. Try to be positive, because anymore negativity in an already difficult experience is not helpful to anyone, particularly you.
- Write to the person if you can't talk to them. Tell them how you feel. Tell them it's OK, you're ready to talk if they are ready to listen.
- Realize how grateful you are to have some people who really understand you. That's a beautiful thing.
It's OK to feel angry or disappointed in how people react or their lack of reaction to this huge life changing experience you're going through. That's certainly understandable. I just hope that in some cases you take a step back and realize that most of your friends and family do love you, do care about what you're going through, they just may not be very good at knowing what to do or say. Be patient, understanding, and when you're ready, ask for what you need.
Hugs. You are not alone.