Our hearts go out to British singer Lily Allen, as it was reported that she recently suffered a miscarriage six months into her pregnancy. Her publicist came forward with the following statement: "It is with great sadness that we have to confirm that Lily Allen and [her boyfriend] Sam Cooper have lost their baby." Sadly, Lily also suffered a miscarriage in 2008.
Whether you've been pregnant for six weeks or six months, miscarriage is hands-down one of the most heartbreaking experiences a family can go through. Having lost two pregnancies before having each of my children, I know firsthand that the chasm of grief you fall into is simply unspeakable.
"We bond very quickly as mothers and fathers, so the only way I can describe it is 'mind-numbing horror,'" says Dr. Michelle Golland, momlogic expert and Los Angeles-area clinical psychologist. Aside from having experienced this grief firsthand herself, Dr. Golland frequently counsels couples through the painful, murky aftermath of miscarriage. "Everyone's going to feel different things," she says. "But one common, overarching feeling is guilt -- as if you did something wrong, when you had absolutely no control over the circumstances surrounding the loss."
Another common feeling among those who've suffered a pregnancy loss is that of overwhelming emptiness -- literally and figuratively. Think about it: The womb has literally been emptied, and it aches. It's important to remember that those grieving pregnancy loss aren't just mourning a few cells; they are mourning their unborn child's first birthday, their first day at school and their wedding -- all the things they'd looked forward to experiencing with this child.
Miscarriage has long been a hush-hush, taboo subject, and thus, card-carrying members of this secret society of sadness can be made to feel even lonelier and more isolated when those in their circumference hold back support because they aren't sure what to say. But even worse than hearing nothing is hearing rehearsed, dismissive comments like, "You'll get pregnant again" or (my personal peeve) "It was for the best." That one always really made me violently angry. Seriously -- how could losing a baby be "for the best" in any way?!
"Those kinds of comments are totally not malicious," says Dr. Golland. "But until they experience something like the loss of a child, people say things like 'it's for the best' to guard against their own fear that this could happen to them, too. It makes them feel better to deal with it as if it was a smaller loss than it actually is."
Considering that as many as 20 percent of pregnancies end in miscarriage, it's quite likely that someone in your sphere is fighting through their own grief as we speak. Here are a few ways you can help:
Acknowledge the Loss
If you don't know what to say, tiptoeing around a friend who needs you does not help. Even if you are at a complete loss for words, coming forward with an honest "I don't know what to say, except I'm so sorry" is WAY better than saying nothing at all. "We need to make it OK to grieve pregnancy loss because it's grief you live with all your life," says Dr. Golland.
Everyone deals with this brand of grief differently. Some folks find it helpful to talk out their emotions, while others prefer to process their sadness internally. Through making a simple gesture, like bringing over food, you let your bud know that you're around should she need to talk/not talk about her loss. It's an easy way to let her know you have her back, which is all she really needs from you.
Offer a Token of Remembrance
Help your friend process her grief by memorializing the loss. "Sending something tangible in remembrance to honor the child's life can mean the world," says Dr. Golland. Some suggestions? Send flowers, buy her a plant or plant a tree in honor of the child.