For those of us scrolling through concert lists and food photos on our Facebook and Instagram feeds, it can be jarring to stumble upon a miscarriage or stillbirth announcement. Unsure of how to respond, we might hesitate about “liking” a grief-filled Facebook post or clicking on the Instagram heart. Should we comment even though we may not have seen that person in years?
Here, experts and moms help guide us through the tricky etiquette of responding to pregnancy loss on social media.
Something is better than nothing. “I think if someone posts anything on social media that’s grief related, there’s an underlying need for connection,” says Christine Cho. She shared the birth announcement of her son Zachary on Facebook. Sadly, her post included the tragic news that his life had been short—27 minutes—because of a genetic disorder. She appreciated any reactions to her post because they acknowledged Zachary’s life and her grief. “Even a ‘like’ can help,” she says.
Avoid sentences that include “at least.” Michelle La Fontaine, a program manager for the Pregnancy and Infant Loss Network, recommends not making comments like: “At least you’re still young,” “At least you found out early” or “At least you can try again.” “If there’s anything we can share to people it’s saying: ‘I’m sorry for your suffering,’ ‘I’m sorry that you’re hurting.’”
Use the baby’s name in your comment. La Fontaine can’t stress enough how meaningful it is for parents who named their baby to see others including it in their messages. Even mentioning a memory of the pregnancy is helpful. “For families who have experienced the loss of a baby, it’s never gone from their minds. Ever,” says La Fontaine to people worrying about upsetting a grieving parent. “It’s far, far worse to feel like nobody else remembers but me.”
Remember the partners. “The partners or the fathers need support, too,” says La Fontaine. “And not just asking questions about how your wife is doing. There’s a grief that’s real for the partners.”
Check in on the milestones. Close friends and family might want to send a private message on what would have been the family’s due date or the one-year anniversary of the miscarriage. This lets the parents know you haven’t forgotten their baby.
But don’t expect a response. Even if you see that the parents are active on Facebook or that they have “seen” your private message, they just might not be ready to reply as they sort through their grief.
Share your own loss. Grieving parents often feel alone and might not know of others who can relate to their situation. If you’ve experienced miscarriage or stillbirth and are able to share, do. Those types of messages meant the world to Melanie Black when she miscarried at 10 weeks. “We had support from people we haven’t talked to in years,” says Black. “Knowing we have that just makes it a little more okay.”