Say This, Not That: How to Support a Friend Through a Loss

Say This, Not That: How to Support a Friend Through a Loss

Navigating a loss can be a painful and isolating experience. And as a friend, it may be hard to find the right thing to say, even when we have the best intentions. We all handle grief differently and sometimes a loved one's experience can be triggering for you, too.

“Grief is not linear," says reproductive psychiatrist and Perelel panelist, Dr. Sarah Oreck, MD, MS. "Everyone’s journey after loss is different.”

To make things a bit easier so you can show up as a friend and provide support on the days they need it most, Dr. Oreck broke down what to say (and what to skip) when a friend has experienced a loss. Spoiler Alert: More often than not, just being a present friend is enough. 

Read on for her guide.

Say: “I’m thinking of you.”

Don’t: Completely avoid speaking to your friend because you don’t know what to say. 

“Pregnancy loss can be an incredibly isolating experience, don’t avoid supporting your friend because you don’t know the right thing to say. Sometimes just listening, even if silently, can be the best support.”

Say: “How are you doing?” 

Don’t Say: “At least you know you can get pregnant.” 

“Knowing you can get pregnant is not a consolation. It invalidates the experience of loss.”

Say: “Pregnancy loss is different for everyone. What’s been your experience?” 

Don’t Say: “This happens to everyone” or “When I had my loss…” 

Everyone’s experience is different. Give your friend space to experience their own loss before turning the focus on your own narrative. Sharing your own experience of loss too soon can leave the other person feeling unheard and supporting you while they have just experienced loss.”

Do: Focus on listening.

Don’t: Put too much pressure on yourself to say the right thing.

“You may be worried about saying the right thing but being present, expressing curiosity for how your friend is feeling, and empathically listening are most important.”

If our mission to #NormalizeTheJourney tells us anything, it’s that the path to parenthood has a vast range of normal. Read what "normal" by the numbers really looks like next.

This article is for informational purposes only. It is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and we recommend that you always consult with your healthcare provider. To the extent that this article features the advice of physicians or medical practitioners, the views expressed are the views of the cited expert and do not necessarily represent the views of Perelel.