When a friend has a miscarriage, shut up and listen
My miscarriage consumed me in a way nothing ever had before. The pain was so immediate and overwhelming that there were moments when it was physically hard to breathe. The first few days blended into a tapestry of grief. There are moments burned into my psyche like a horrible slideshow: the nervous moments while the Doppler hovered over my abdomen, searching for a heartbeat that wasn’t there, while sitting in a dark room with my midwife; a frozen photograph of my lifeless fetus on the ultrasound screen; standing in line for medication, trying to keep my eyes on my husband while I screamed that it hurt; sitting on the back stoop of our house, marveling at how the world was still so vibrant and lovely when everything inside me was falling apart.
All those moments seem so close together, but they happened over the course of three, maybe four days of brutal and intense grieving. After the initial shock and horror were over, there was an emptiness I needed to fill to keep me from dipping into the deep end of depression. I needed someone to talk to or at, someone to take me away from the feelings of despair, but when I pulled myself up from the floor where I had lain crying, there was no one there to greet me.
So many of my friends disappeared as I was going through my miscarriage because they simply didn't know what to say. Others would say things that were unintentionally hurtful as they searched for the words that would ease my pain. It's hard to know what to say when someone is grieving the loss of a baby, especially when you haven't gone through the experience firsthand. I’m still not sure what, if anything, would have comforted me at that time. I couldn’t have described to anyone what I wanted or needed from them — all I knew was that I needed them. I needed to know I wasn’t alone.
All I really wanted from friends was for them to show up for me, because there are no perfect words to comfort someone who is going through a miscarriage. Some days I wanted to talk about my miscarriage for hours on end. I wanted to rehash every horrific detail, every lost dream, because I was still trying to process it all myself.
Some days I wanted to pretend everything was normal and try to move forward. I wanted to go out for lunch and talk about The Bachelor or recall a funny story from a time before I found out there was no baby in my future. I couldn’t warn my friends which version of me they were going to get, because I didn’t know myself. The only constant in that period of grief was that I needed someone to listen, someone to hold space for me, someone to be able to stand the discomfort of not having the right words — or any words at all.
I was lucky to have a handful of friends who did show up for me, who braved the hardship of being a friend to me when I had nothing to offer but endless despair. I remember those moments as well — laughing about a friend’s horrible choice to do Whole30 while I ate a grilled cheese sandwich, crying over takeout pho in my kitchen while neither of us said a word, long phone calls that didn’t end despite the lengthy and uncomfortable pauses.
I will never forget those who held space for me when words were not enough, because their presence was all I could ever really ask for.
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