Miscarriage is a devastating reality of life. In fact, chances are good that even if you have never had a miscarriage yourself, you know someone who has—whether or not she’s told you about it. But if a friend or loved one does confide in you that she has suffered a miscarriage, what should be your response? I often see this question posed by women in my various Facebook groups: “My sister/best friend/cousin/sister-in-law just found out she miscarried. What can I do for her or send to her?”
My advice, gained from personal experience, is always, “Send flowers.”
You see, unfortunately, I have been on both sides of the story: I have endured a miscarriage, and I have friends who have, too. When I miscarried our first baby, one of the most meaningful gifts that anyone sent to me and my husband was a beautiful bouquet of white roses and lilies. The flowers were from my husband’s aunt, who knew just how hard we’d been hoping, praying, and trying for that baby, and she sent them the same day we miscarried. Those flowers (followed by more flowers from another dear friend a few weeks later), meant so much to me in the wake of our loss, and so I have always recommended them to others searching for something meaningful to send to a loved one experiencing a miscarriage.
But it wasn’t until recently that I finally realized why those flowers meant so much, and why I keep recommending them over and over again: we often think to send flowers to loved ones when we know they’ve experienced a death in the family. In fact, it’s such a common-place response that there’s a note about flowers (where to send them, or where to donate in lieu of flowers) at the end of almost every obituary. After all, for centuries, certain flowers have been a symbol of loss, death, grief, and sympathy.
We don’t get obituaries for miscarriages. Nor do we get funerals, wakes, or any of the other cultural signposts or rites-of-passage for recognizing loss, which allow those left behind to grieve publicly and, one hopes, begin the process of healing. Instead, in our culture today, sometimes miscarriages are waived off as something one just needs to “get over.” Miscarriage can leave many women feeling unsure of whether or not they have a right to be grieving at all. Never mind that study after study has shown that miscarriage is an exceedingly traumatic experience for women to endure.
I now know that was exactly why those flowers we received in the wake of our miscarriage were such a perfect gift—they were a recognition, and therefore a validation, of our very real grief. We had after all experienced the death of our child, and those flowers spoke to that reality in a way that nothing else seemed to. As simple a gesture as they may have seemed by those who sent them, those flowers were the recognition of the traumatic card we’d been dealt, and the permission that recognition gave me to grieve started me on the path to eventual healing. Even if I didn’t realize it myself at the time.
This is why, when I learned that a friend had miscarried several months ago, I immediately sent flowers, and I will forever send flowers for a miscarriage. Even if the receiver doesn’t immediately see those flowers as a validation of her grief, at the very least, they will be a reminder of beauty to brighten her days when all else may seem dark.