Up to 20% of pregnancies end in loss. And yet, we still have a hard time talking about it.
We'll get to why that is in a minute. But first, let that number sink in: 20%. What does our discomfort or silence mean for those whose pregnancies end in miscarriage or stillbirth?
It can make them feel alone — isolated, hurting, and sometimes even ashamed.
What if we acknowledged the loss of a pregnancy the way we addressed any significant loss?
What if we talked about it and expressed our sincerest condolences instead of awkwardly fumbling for the right words — or not even talking about it at all?
What if we said things like this?
"I'm deeply sorry for your loss. I'm here. Always."
When we're short on words, a card is usually a safe bet. But when it comes to condolence cards for the loss of a pregnancy or a stillbirth, let's just be honest: the pickings are slim.
That's why Dr. Jessica Zucker, a clinical psychologist who specializes in women's reproductive and maternal mental health — and someone who experienced a traumatic miscarriage herself — introduced these pitch-perfect pregnancy loss empathy cards.
She wants women to be able to talk about and have their grief acknowledged.
"My aim," Zucker explained to me in a phone conversation, "is to help shift the cultural conversation — and lack of it — around miscarriage, pregnancy loss, and stillbirth."
And culturally, we often reach out with cards, which is why it feels like a pretty amazing thing — to create cards for this kind of loss.
Whether it's with cards that share heartfelt affirmations...
...or with cards that own our discomfort with something we've inadvertently been taught to be uncomfortable with...
...these empathy cards say what needs to be said. They acknowledge that sometimes, we need to call it like it is.
Oh, and how about a card that acknowledges that even though the loss might be common, every woman's experience is utterly unique?
The cards each say something different, but the bigger message behind them is the same: Mourning the loss of a pregnancy is difficult. And it's only made more difficult when we suffer or respond with silence.
There's a reason we have an especially hard time discussing this kind of loss. As Zucker explains, out-of-order losses are difficult to process. "It's one thing to talk about an elderly person, a grandparent, passing away," she says. "We know the rights and rituals that take place around that kind of loss."
But when it's about the loss of a wanted pregnancy or a stillbirth, people don't know how to react. Unlike the parents, others haven't formed a relationship with the fetus. What do we say? How do we behave?
She also points out that we're just not looking at pregnancy loss as normative in our culture — but we should. "If twenty-some percent of pregnancies end in loss, this isn't going anywhere," she told me. "It's not like this is a disease and we're not looking for some sort of cure. This is molecular biology, and this is what happens when we endeavor to create life. We risk being vulnerable to losing life. We risk not being in control."
So what if we could we could get more comfortable with this kind of loss and be a source of support for grieving would-be parents?
Zucker says she knows these are "just cards," but she hopes it's a good beginning.
These cards are an antidote to "I didn't know what to say." And we should say something! "We can't have a miscarriage by talking about miscarriage," Zucker says. "You cannot experience a pregnancy loss just by talking about pregnancy loss."
But we can provide support and condolences to our friends and family members who are grieving. And at the end of the day, isn't that what being human is all about?