Ottawa Senators captain Erik Karlsson and his wife, Melinda, are grieving after their son died one month ahead of his due date. “At this extremely difficult time it’s hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel,” Erik, 27, tweeted on Wednesday, March 21. “But we know one day we’ll get there,”
Indeed, it can be difficult to know what to say in the event of such staggering heartbreak. If you want to comfort a friend who has experienced a pregnancy loss but can’t seem to find the words, clinical psychologist Jessica Zucker is here to help. The L.A.-based PhD, who specializes in women’s reproductive and maternal mental health, previously shared her dos and don’ts with Us Weekly.
Don’t Say: “Everything happens for a reason.”
“This statement minimizes the intensity of what happened and takes away from the woman’s grief,” explains Dr. Zucker. “You also don’t want to assume spirituality or religion.”
Instead Say: “I’m here for you.”
Don’t Say: “At least you know you can get pregnant.”
Says Dr. Zucker: “Women don’t find this statement comforting, because they wanted that pregnancy, not another pregnancy down the road.”
Instead Say: “I’m deeply sorry for your loss.”
Don’t Say: “This is God’s plan.”
“A lot of women feel a lot of self blame and hatred after suffering a miscarriage, and this comment adds to that,” says Dr. Zucker. “She might think, ‘If this is God’s plan, what did I do to God to deserve this? What did I do wrong in my family planning?’”
Instead Say: “I am here for you anytime. Grief knows no timeline, take all the time you need. I am here to listen. Be gentle with yourself through it all.”
Don’t Say: “It wasn’t meant to be.”
“When you say ‘it wasn’t meant to be,’ you are isolating yourself from that person, by not validating her grief,” Dr. Zucker tells Us. “You should ask her how she feels, rather than telling her how to feel.”
Instead Say: “You did nothing wrong. This is not your fault. I am so sorry.”
Don’t Say: “Be grateful for what you have.”
“It’s an attempt to comfort the woman for what she has, in success of all kinds, from her career to her marriage, but she wanted this pregnancy,” says Dr. Zucker. “In our culture, we pretend bad things don’t happen and focus on the positive, but that’s not what feels good to the woman here.”
Instead Say: “I imagine you must be in pain right now. I may say the ‘wrong’ thing sometimes, but just know that I am here for you. You didn’t do anything to deserve this loss.”
Dr. Zucker — who miscarried at 16 weeks pregnant in 2012 — created a line of pregnancy loss cards in 2015. She is on Instagram and Twitter.
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