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.