Miscarriage occurs in around 1 in 4 pregnancies.
It can be utterly heartbreaking and life-changing.
If you're managing someone who has just suffered a miscarriage, you might be struggling with what to say to them. You might be worried about saying something that could trigger them, or something that might not seem sensitive enough.
It's a hard position to be in, as, no matter what stage of the pregnancy, a miscarriage is a form of bereavement, and what you say does matter. Words can hurt, but they can also help heal.
Although nothing is going to make miscarriage easier, there are some things you can say and do to make things a little more manageable. If someone you manage is going through this extremely difficult time, here are some things to say that could help, and what to avoid.
Many of us don't know what to say or how to react when someone we know, work with or care about suffers a miscarriage. And, as a manager of the person, your support and words could make an awful situation a little easier.
The first thing you could say is simply I'm so sorry. Acknowledging what your team member has gone through will show them that you understand they have suffered a great loss. If they're comfortable talking to you, offer to have a private chat when they return to work. Let them know how sorry you are and give them the opportunity to open up if they want to.
Asking how are you feeling? Is a gentle way of encouraging them to talk about their emotions and experience, and shows them that their feelings are valid. If they don't want to talk, they can let you know. These small but sincere gestures are appropriate without overstepping your bounds.
Talking about the experience is a hugely personal choice. Your team member might find it easier to keep everything inside, or they might find it helpful to talk about it.
Let them know that your door is always open, and anytime they want to have a chat, you're there for them. It might not be straight away, but if they know you're sincere then it's valuable to know they have the option available to them.
They might not be looking for advice or your opinion, they could just need you to listen to how they feel.
If the usual practice at your company is to send a card or flowers when an employee loses someone important, then make sure you do it if they suffer a miscarriage too.
This can be done as soon as you hear of the news and want to show your support and let them know you're thinking of them. This, again, shows the significance of what they are going through and will let them know you care. It might even make coming back to work a little easier for them. Keep the card simple and sincere. We're so sorry for your loss and we're all thinking of you, is enough.
Your employee is going through a traumatic time, but they probably aren't the only one. After expressing your condolences and letting them know you're there for them, you can ask, if appropriate, how their spouse or partner is. They will also be grieving, and you can acknowledge this was a loss for both of them.
Just asking how they are and sending them your best wishes and thoughts could make a huge difference. And it will let your team member know that you're thinking of their family, as well as them.
Here are some tips on what not to say when your employee tells you they have had a miscarriage.
A miscarriage can take a huge toll on a person's body and mind. As such, it could have both emotional and physical repercussions that could require them to take time off work.
If you didn't know your employee was pregnant, then finding out about their miscarriage could come as a bit of a shock. Once you have been made aware, minimise any request you have for information. Asking specific questions about their miscarriage could cause additional stress and pain. If they need time off work for a short period of time, offer to help with any paperwork (if any is needed) and try and do as much as you can on your side.
Your employee might not want to talk about what happened to them. Every person is different, and everyone processes pain and grief in their own way.
But you need to acknowledge what happened, even if it's just letting them know you're sorry and you're there for them. If you're concerned about saying the wrong thing and think it's easier or better to just not say anything at all, then you could be invalidating their feelings, and giving the impression that what they are going through isn't important.
Similar to everything happens for a reason, this is perhaps one of the worst things you can say to someone after they suffer a miscarriage. Even though the intention is to make them feel better and encouraged about the future, what they're probably hearing is: this baby doesn't matter.
Of course, you don't mean for it to come across like this, but you have to be conscious of the fact that what you say matters.
Saying it wasn't meant to be could also make them feel like the fault of their loss was on them. They might already be blaming themselves - and hearing this could be detrimental to their emotional and mental health.
Even though one in every four pregnancies results in miscarriage, this is one of the most devastating things you can say to someone going through it.
For many people needing support, this blunt and factual phrase can be heartbreaking. You might not know if this is your employee's first or if they have had recurring miscarriages. Either way, hearing this statement from someone who is in a supportive role can come across as cruel and dismissive - which is probably the complete opposite of how you wanted to come across.
Even though sadly, miscarriage is fairly common, it doesn't negate the need for care, compassion, and a grieving period.
Remember, everyone is different and on their own journey. Be there as best you can and let them know you're there for them if they need you.