First, do not try to make her feel better. I know that sounds strange, but just don't try, because you can't. You can make her feel worse, but you can't make her feel better - you can't "fix" her pain. Grief is a process, one that everyone has to go through in their own time, and platitudes do not help speed that process along. People tend to babble in uncomfortable silences (such as the silence after hearing your friend say "my baby died") and say things to alleviate those silences. Forgivable, but not helpful. For example:
- No matter how far along her pregnancy was or how old her infant was, she is in an amazing amount of emotional and quite probably physical pain. Don't diminish her feelings based on the age of the child she lost. Do not say things like "At least the baby wasn't older" or "At least you lost it before you knew what it was." We have lost a child, no matter how old that child was. Do not ever say to a woman who has lost a pregnancy in the early stages "At least it wasn't a real baby." That baby was as real to us as a newborn is to his or her mother.
- Do not give her a reason. Do not say "It was God's will." For many people, even those of faith, this makes us feel like God is a jerk. Do not say "There was probably something wrong with the baby." We wanted the baby, something wrong or not. Do not say "You shouldn't have..." and then say whatever you think she shouldn't have done. That just makes us want to kill you, and going to jail is not part of the grieving process.
- Do not say things like "You're young, you can have more babies" or "There's always next time." We don't want THAT baby. We want THIS baby.
Third, if she doesn't want to talk about it, don't make her. Don't tell her it'll make her feel better. I didn't need to talk everything out to my friends and family - I did get a therapist, and that worked for me.
Fourth, and this may sound strange, but don't let her wallow. If it's an extremely long time - I'm talking years - and she's not moving to the acceptance stage of her grief, she may need professional help. Women who have lost babies can, on top of everything else, suffer from clinical post-partum depression. This is a very touchy thing, to suggest that a woman who has lost a child may need professional help to get past her depression. It may not be received well, especially if you don't know her all that well. Proceed with utmost caution.
Well, for goodness' sakes, Stacey, what CAN I do? Y'all are so touchy, is there anything I CAN say? Sheesh.
Tell her you're sorry, and ask if there's anything you can do for her, then do it. That's all. (Edited to add: y'all did GOOD!) If you know her very well, let her know that you're there if she wants to talk. Just let her grieve her baby, her shattered dreams, and the crushing blow to her faith in her body's ability to do what it was created to do. She will feel better in her own time. Let her reach her acceptance stage naturally.
If you're very close to her, go ahead and give her a call on Mother's Day, even if she has no living children. Mother's Day is VERY hard on us. Don't be all "Hey! Happy Mother's Day! Woohoo! Isn't it great to be a mom?!" Just say "Hiya there, I was thinking about you. Wanna do lunch some day this week?" You know, something along those lines.
If you've said any of the things above or something like them, don't worry. We know you were only trying to help - we probably said 'em too before we went through this. Like I said, this is my way of spreading awareness to my readers. Both of you.
If you've got something to add or any questions, please feel free to let 'er rip in my comments.