Here's What You Should Actually Say To A Woman Who's Had A Miscarriage

Photo: Courtesy of Dr. Jessica Zucker.
Nobody knows how to talk about pregnancy loss — perhaps because there is no "right" thing to say. But when we're faced with the news of a loved one's miscarriage or stillbirth, the only wrong thing to do is nothing.

Today, clinical psychologist Jessica Zucker, PhD has launched a line of unconventional cards meant to fill that void. Dr. Zucker had been counseling women after pregnancy loss for years when she experienced her own miscarriage at 16 weeks. "I actually had my miscarriage about four days before Pregnancy Loss Awareness Day," she tells me. "I hear so much about isolation after loss. That's not something I could relate to until after my own. And then I understood it too well."

After taking some time to recover and reflect, Dr. Zucker wanted to do something about what she calls our "cultural silence" around pregnancy loss. She'd seen so many women in the grip of shame and self-blaming, "having real trouble in the grieving process or trying to find some aspect of their behavior that may or may not have caused this." Of course, all these feelings thrive on that sense of being alone and unable to talk about the experience — just as friends and family often feel similarly unable to reach out. So, even though there's no one tried-and-true way to support someone after this kind of loss, Dr. Zucker realized that something — even a simple, empathetic card — was better than nothing at all.

Simplicity and empathy are the key factors here. The line features cards for many elements of pregnancy loss, including a stillbirth announcement card and one for women who are newly pregnant after having had a miscarriage. There are no platitudes and no "everything happens for a reason" sentiments. Dr. Zucker's cards employ the same no-bullshit attitude as Emily McDowell's cancer greeting card series. Dr. Zucker felt that same unvarnished humanity was what was missing from the conversation (or lack thereof) around pregnancy loss.

Dr. Zucker's hope "is to sort of normalize this enormous statistic that really isn’t going to go away anytime soon," she says, referring to the fact that 20% of clinically recognized pregnancies end in miscarriage. "This isn't a disease that we're looking to cure. This is a normative part of trying to create life. But we live in a culture where people just don't know what to say."

So, even if all you can say is, "I'm sorry I've been MIA. I didn't know what to say. I'll do better. I'm here," as one of the cards reads, it's a great step in the right direction.
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Photo: Courtesy of Dr. Jessica Zucker.
Before creating the cards, Dr. Zucker started the #IHadAMiscarriage campaign. "My hope is these cards take it a step further," she says. This card reminds us that while miscarriage is incredibly common, we cannot assume everyone feels the same way about it: "Everyone has a different experience. I understand."
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Photo: Courtesy of Dr. Jessica Zucker.
"I'm deeply sorry for your loss. I'm here, always."
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Photo: Courtesy of Dr. Jessica Zucker.
The #FuckLoss card is for everyone who's sick of hearing platitudes like, "everything happens for a reason."
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Photo: Courtesy of Dr. Jessica Zucker.
"What I wanted to convey overall is the complexity of grieving," says Dr. Zucker. Thus, this card reads, simply: "I imagine you feel like shit right now, but I just had to remind you how wonderful I think you are."
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Photo: Courtesy of Dr. Jessica Zucker.
As Dr. Zucker notes, many women struggle with allowing themselves to grieve. This card is a reminder that grief is good, normal, and different for everyone. And, above all, it is allowed.
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Photo: Courtesy of Dr. Jessica Zucker.
"Our society is inundated with birth announcements," says Dr. Zucker. This stillbirth announcement card "provides an opportunity for the grieving couple to share their news with loved ones." It reads: "With heavy hearts, we lovingly honor the memory of our child who was with us too briefly," and includes a space for the name, date of birth, and date of death of the child.
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Photo: Courtesy of Dr. Jessica Zucker.
Everyone wants to "get it right," says Dr. Zucker. This card underscores that effort — and the fact that there really are no magic words. It offers loving support and, Dr. Zucker explains, "also acknowledges things people say that aren't helpful in the aftermath of loss."
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Photo: Courtesy of Dr. Jessica Zucker.
Sometimes, even the most well-intentioned friend can go MIA when he or she doesn't know what to say or do. Says Dr. Zucker, "This card acknowledges your absence and your intention to reconnect."
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Photo: Courtesy of Dr. Jessica Zucker.
"I know how hard this must be for you, to be pregnant after your loss. I understand that you're terrified. I'm here for you."

Dr. Zucker felt it equally important to include a card acknowledging the fear that often comes with a new pregnancy after experiencing loss. "I think we assume, Oh, okay, they're pregnant again, so they're happy, and they've moved on," she says. But she hears daily from pregnant women who are terrified beyond words that something will go wrong with this new pregnancy. This card is meant to help you reach out to someone dealing with that terror and let her know you're there for her.
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