When Your Friend Miscarries While You're Pregnant

Women admiring friends pregnant belly

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It is certainly a tough position to be in if you are pregnant and have a friend who has had a miscarriage or stillbirth. On one hand, you may feel sad for your friend and want to be supportive, but you may feel guilty or uncomfortable around them.

And you may want your friend to share in one of the most exciting and wonderful times of your life, but know that might be too difficult for them. It's normal to be confused about how to handle the situation.

Be Sympathetic

Even if you have no personal experience with pregnancy loss, if you are pregnant you can probably at least imagine some of what your friend is probably feeling. You probably have thought a great deal about the baby you are carrying. You might have names picked out, visions of what your baby will look like, daydreams about your new baby's smile, and related thoughts about the life that lies ahead of you.

And if all of that was suddenly gone, you would be devastated. You would have to find a way to return to your life from before you had expectations of that future, and even though you could try again, you would probably need time to adjust to the changed reality.

Understand that pregnancy loss is probably not something you would be able to get over quickly. Your friend will probably not be over it quickly either.

Understand What Your Friend Might Be Feeling

The loss of pregnancy tends to set off a normal grief reaction. People may go through feelings of anger and depression before finally being able to accept what happened. Part of that may involve having an emotionally difficult time being around reminders of pregnancy, such as expectant parents or newborn babies—even if they are loved ones.

If your friend responds in this way, know that it isn't that they aren't happy for you. They probably are indeed quite happy for you. But you might remind them of what they lost and are desperately missing. They may need some distance for a while until they are ready to face that reminder.

For some people who have had miscarriages, being in the presence of someone who's pregnant can feel tortuous—no matter what their feelings are about that person. Note that some people who miscarry may even develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) about the miscarriage, and it's common for people with PTSD to attempt to avoid reminders of the event.

On the other hand, some people who miscarry may not need this kind distance and they may feel resentful if people assume they do. They may interpret such assumptions as people avoiding them.

If you are considering whether to invite your friend to a baby shower, for example, it is better to go ahead and invite them. Let them know that it is okay if they decline. But don't simply assume they would not want to attend.

Don't Be Afraid to Ask

If you don't know what your friend is feeling or what their needs or preferences are, ask. Offer your condolences on the loss and ask them if they need you to keep some distance for a while due to the pregnancy.

If they say yes, keep in touch regularly by phone or email until they feel ready to handle the situation. And don't take it personally if your friend does need space—remember that they are probably happy for you but simply need some distance from the ​reminder of what they lost.​

If your friend says they do not need that distance, that is fine too. Some people may even find it comforting to be around pregnancy, seeing it as a reminder that things can work out in the end. In either case, it is better for both of you to have a conversation about this issue rather than try to guess.

If you are wondering what to say or worrying about what not to say to someone after a miscarriage, simply ask. Try to avoid platitudes and listen more than you speak. Sometimes being silent together is the best support a friend can offer.

Stay Near

If your friend needs distance, let them have that space—for a while. If the time stretches out or if they seem to be pushing you away for a longer period of time, take a moment to step back and think about what may be going on. It can be hard to re-enter socially after a time-out, and your friend may have difficulty resuming your friendship if some time has passed.

They may fear that being in different places in life, as you have a newborn and they are childless, may mean that you are not as interested in your friendship. Fears such as this can make people act in funny ways.

Your friend may be so nervous that you will no longer be interested in your friendship (even if you haven't given them any indication that that's the case) that they will almost sabotage your relationship in an effort to protect themselves.

Be patient with your friend. If you invite them over, you may need to ask again, and again, and again. Don't push them to say yes, but don't disappear either.

Friendships can often weather the wildly different courses our lives take, but just as with all relationships, good friendships take work. Thankfully, the rewards of that work are priceless.

Recognize the Loss

If you and your friend are in a similar circle of friends, their hurt might be further reinforced as your shower gifts and baby gifts serve as constant reminders. Consider bringing (and invite other friends in your circle to bring) a gift for your friend who has experienced pregnancy loss. A simple gift may be a simple way to say that not only you not forgotten them, but you haven't forgotten the baby they were carrying.

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2 Sources
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  1. Kersting A, Wagner B. Complicated grief after perinatal lossDialogues Clin Neurosci. 2012;14(2):187–194.

  2. Krosch DJ, Shakespeare-Finch J. Grief, traumatic stress, and posttraumatic growth in women who have experienced pregnancy loss. Psychol Trauma. 2017;9(4):425-433. doi:10.1037/tra0000183