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Here in the United States, we don't seem to have very many rituals where grieving is concerned. Initially, after a loss of any sort, people seem fairly sympathetic. However, in a short amount of time, we're encouraged to “get over it”. Join a book club. Get a new hobby. Indulge in some retail therapy; whatever you have to do to “get over it”. It might be pretty good advice for getting over an unhappy love affair but it's pretty ill-suited to recovering from a miscarriage.
We don't seem to even want to acknowledge grief. We seem to prefer to ignore it and hope it goes away. Is it any wonder then, that people say really dumb things after a loss? I think people want to say comforting things. I think they want to say the right things. Unfortunately, many people don't seem to have a clue how.
I saw a whole list somewhere on the Internet once of things not to say to a woman who'd had a miscarriage. I don't remember everything it said but suffice to say that if you've had a miscarriage, you've probably heard at least one of them.
Shortly after one of my miscarriages, my boss pointed out something I had misfiled. He knew about my miscarriage. He wasn't angry about the misfiled item but he said “I can understand if you might be a little distracted and make mistakes after that. I'm distracted too. I'm worried because my cat is sick.”
Now, I like my boss and I know he was trying to be sympathetic. He was trying to commiserate with me, which was fine. I like animals and I was sorry his cat was ill but it just didn't even compare!
Another comment was made by a good friend of my husband's. We experienced our five miscarriages after we had two children. After our last miscarriage, this guy said “Oh well, you can just focus on the kids you have.”
The man who made this comment is a good guy. He's been friends with my husband for years and I like him. Just like my boss, I'm sure this guy was trying to be comforting but this comment infuriated me. If your mother passed away, no one in the world would say “Oh well, just focus on your dad now.”
So how do you survive these well-intentioned and sometimes awful comments? Understand that most people really do mean well. I don't think we're terribly good at dealing with grief, either our own or other people's. People usually want to say something encouraging but they don't know how. Some people may want to educate the folks who make these comments. You can do it nicely by saying something like “Hey, I know you're trying to be sympathetic but your comment hurt my feelings and here's why...”
For my part, I didn't comment on these comments. I was trying so hard just to get through the day sometimes, it didn't seem worth adding in more potential conflict. It's okay to let these comments just roll off you too, if you can. Sometimes just knowing that you may hear these comments, can let you be less offended by them when you do hear them.
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