How to support a friend through baby loss

Jennifer Savin
·7-min read
Photo credit: Jessica Lockett | Getty Images
Photo credit: Jessica Lockett | Getty Images

From Cosmopolitan

Although it's estimated that between 1 in 4 and 1 in 8 pregnancies end in a miscarriage there's still an immense amount of stigma - and silence - surrounding the topic. Sadly, that same stigma also extends to stillbirths (defined in the UK as the death of a baby after 24 weeks of pregnancy before or during birth).

The experience of baby loss, at whatever stage it happens, can be one of the most challenging things a person will go through – and it can be hard as a friend or family member to know the right thing to say when trying to support them.

As a society, we're not brilliant at talking about grief and even those with the best intentions can sometimes get it wrong – but that doesn't mean you shouldn't try.

Here, sixteen women - who have experienced baby loss themselves - share their stories and give advice on what helped them after a miscarriage or stillbirth. We hope you find it helpful (there are also resources for more support at the end of the article).


"At least it was early"

I think the most hurtful thing people said was 'At least it was early' – as if there's a certain point during a pregnancy when a baby becomes more real to its mum. From a medical perspective, the worst thing was when I was still bleeding after 5 weeks and I was told there must still be 'products of conception' left. That was my child. - Nicole

"Your time will come"

My wife and I unfortunately didn’t receive any funding for our IVF/fertility journey that we're still on (we are currently going through our sixth round of IVF, after three negative rounds and two miscarriages). Following those losses, we've had so many comments along the lines of 'Your time will come' which really didn’t help – because we wanted that time to be our time. That time would have been perfect. - Louise (who documents her journey through IVF @wheres.our.rainbow)

"You wouldn't have kept it anyway"

I experienced a miscarriage after an unexpected pregnancy and some people expected it wouldn't impact me as much as it would someone who’d planned to conceive. If someone had said to me following the trauma 'It's okay to feel like everything has changed. It’s okay to feel like you’ve lost a baby, even if it wasn’t in your plans' I think I would've accepted my feelings were valid and allowed myself to heal sooner. - Iona

Photo credit: Hearst Owned
Photo credit: Hearst Owned

"Anything which sounds like blame"

Such as, 'Did you exercise too much?' or 'Were you stressed?' - Jasmine

"Everything happens for a reason"

I lost my daughter when she was born pre-term at 23 weeks. When people said things like 'Maybe this happened for a reason, perhaps you wouldn’t have been able to cope' I found it so difficult. Likewise when a pregnant woman said, 'One day you’ll be a parent' – when I was in no doubt I already was. People don't realise the impact words can have and I learnt to take them with a large pinch of salt. The best advice I got was from a friend, who'd also lost a child, who said, 'Be selfish. Getting through this is the only thing that matters right now and if something makes you feel even a tiny bit better, you should be 100% unapologetic about it'. - Sophie

"At least you know you can get pregnant"

We can't, my partner and I had fertility treatment before our miscarriage two years ago. I also heard 'At least you won't get stretch marks!'. Pretty much any sentence beginning with 'at least' should be banned. – Lou

"You've already got a child"

My mum’s reaction was 'Oh, but you’ve already got a child' – like this made it okay that I’d miscarried. I know now it was meant with the best intentions, and that as I’ve already got a child there's evidence I can have a successful pregnancy, but at the time it felt like she meant I shouldn’t feel sad. It led to me not dealing with my emotions properly and bottling them up more. People also said 'You're more fertile after a miscarriage' which really didn't help. - Cassidy*

"At that stage it's just a cluster of cells or like a heavy period anyway"

Not to me. To me, that was my baby from the moment I found out I was expecting (and still is to this day). – Nneka


"Share your own experience, if you can"

It can be difficult to bring up painful memories, but if you have experienced a miscarriage too, then sharing this with a friend going through the same thing can be very powerful. Since I’ve started talking about my miscarriage, so many women in my life have told me that they've also gone through it. There is comfort in knowing that it is common, and you are not alone. - Pippa

"Life can be so damn unfair"

'I'm so sorry, this is shit and life is so damn unfair sometimes. I'm here if you want to talk, cry or rage at the world together' is one that I personally appreciated (although it may not work for everyone). These empathetic words acknowledge the deep pain and grief of losing a baby without invalidating it by offering a quick-fix solution, or unsolicited advice, straightaway. In the immediate aftermath of loss, I just needed to be comforted and allowed to process the complex emotions in my own way, instead of being told to stay positive. - Seetal (who shares her fertility journey at @savlafaire)

"Remember the anniversary together"

Last summer marked a year since my miscarriage and my friends supported me by encouraging me to find small ways to remember my baby. My partner and I decided to release a balloon, something we now plan on doing every year. Reading The Baby Loss Guide by Zoe Clark-Coates has been helping a lot, too. - Rosie*

"Just be there"

After my miscarriage, my best friend came and stayed. She bought snacks, and we just sat and watched rubbish TV. She didn’t try and say anything profound – sometimes just being there (and on-hand for a cuddle) is better than any words. Recently, the tables were turned and she sadly experienced a miscarriage. I told her it's okay to grieve, to feel sad and not look for a silver lining. This time I'll be providing the snacks, playing Mario Kart and watching trash TV with her in return. - Elizabeth

Photo credit: Hearst Owned
Photo credit: Hearst Owned

"Ask how their partner is coping"

It’s so easy for kind-hearted people to shower the mum who has carried the baby with empathy and compassion, but can often forget that it takes two people to make the child that has been sadly lost. I found that when people acknowledged this, it also relieved some of the pressure placed on me, the 'carrier', as I felt a level of guilt for getting all of the attention. - Kate

"No need to reply"

For me, what helped were the people who didn't expect a reply. They'd just message to say they were thinking of me and if they didn't hear back from me for a few days/a week, they'd send a heart or just say 'love you'. When I was ready to speak to people, I knew they were the ones to reach out to. They'd understood, waited and been there. - Beth

"Have you named him/her?"

Those who asked me if I wanted 'to speak about my baby' and if I'd given him a name really made me feel that my grief was legitimate – and that my baby was recognised the way I wanted him to be. - Anna

"How would you like to talk about this?"

I’ve had three losses and I really appreciated those who asked me how they should talk to me about my experience going forward, regular check-ins and acknowledging the key anniversaries, such as due dates and Mother's Day. - Kate (who runs regular Q&As about miscarriage and baby loss on her page The Everyday Fertility)

*Names have been changed

If you're looking for support or more information about premature births, stillbirths or miscarriage, Tommy's have a free helpline 0800 0147 800 (open 9 - 5, Monday to Friday). There's also a Facebook group.

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