In fact, you might end up saying something you think is nice, but in reality can actually hurt the one you're trying to comfort.
Your friend or family member has just come to you saying she's trying to get pregnant and hasn't had much luck. If you haven't been in this situation yourself, you might not know exactly what to say. In fact, you might end up saying something you think is nice, but in reality can actually hurt the one you're trying to comfort.
We chatted with Constance Hoenk Shapiro, MSW, PhD., author of When You're NOT Expecting: An Infertility Survival Guide, to find out why some common responses are not helpful and what you should say instead.
“Just relax!" - “The truth is that it's a biological issue, not a psychological one. Also, it seems to put the finger on the woman as the cause of infertility," Shapiro said, adding that it could equally be an issue with the man's fertility.
“Have you thought about adoption?" - “Depending on where the couple is coming from emotionally, they may have thought about it," she said. But they also could have already explored the possibility and found it to be too difficult. For instance, they might not meet the conditions (some adoptions have age limits, rules on divorce, etc.) or have issues with the process (waiting periods, legal costs, etc). The thing is, you can't put yourself in their shoes, so don't assume that's an alternative.
[post_ads]"At least you have one kid already! Just feel happy about that." - “This discounts the reality of what the couple wants," Shapiro said. “They might want a sibling for their child. They may have already picked out names or thought about the baby having the mother's dimples and father's musical talents." Just because someone has one already doesn't mean they don't have the same desire or feel the same emotions as someone who is trying for their first.
"My friend wasn't even trying and it happened." - Even if you're trying to give your friend hope that it comes when you least expect it, Shapiro says that response comes across as, “So what's wrong with you?"
"Things are happening as they should. Maybe it's just not the right time." - Again, you might think this is an optimistic way of looking at it, but Shapiro says, “Don't even go there."
“How are you guys coping with this?" - Shapiro says that asking open-ended questions like this shows that you understand this is difficult and also that you care.
“What can I do to help?" - When a friend or family member confides in you about a pregnancy loss, this is a good way to respond, she suggests. “Ask 'Would it be helpful to have coffee every couple of days so you can talk about what's on your mind?' or 'Are there any of our friends you'd like me to share this news with so you don't have to keep telling the story?"
The bottom line: if someone confides their fertility struggles with you, they trust you to be sensitive to their news. Instead of offering advice, the best thing someone can do is listen and ask questions.
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