Q: I recently miscarried at four months. Our five-year-old was excited about becoming a big sister. I really don’t know how to tell her and help her cope with her grief and disappointment.
A: I am sorry about your loss. It can be difficult to explain miscarriage to children and to help them cope — especially because you are feeling grief and disappointment too. Give yourself time to process your loss before telling your daughter. When you do, explain in simple language that babies start out as tiny cells and have to be able to grow enough to be born — and, sadly, this baby was not able to grow enough. If your daughter has any experience with planting seeds, or if you think she might be able to understand the analogy, you might explain how not every seed that is planted turns into a shoot.
It’s important to be honest with your daughter while, at the same time, not giving her more information than she can handle. Be open to her reactions and try to help her talk about her feelings. Be prepared for questions and don’t be afraid to say that you have to think about her question before responding, if you feel stumped. If she asks, “Did the baby die?” you can say yes. It is OK to acknowledge your own sadness and to cry in front of your daughter, as long as you let her know that she’s not responsible for making things better. You may also wish to reassure her that you will be feeling better in a little while.