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Carolyn Hax: Best friend’s communication quiets after a miscarriage

(Nick Galifianakis/For The Washington Post)

Adapted from an online discussion.

Dear Carolyn: Last year, I had a beautiful baby girl. My best friend, “Mary,” was so supportive and helpful right up until the time of our shower, which was virtual. Mary didn’t show up and didn’t say why.

A few weeks after the birth, I realized Mary hadn’t reached out at all. I messaged her to let her know I was thinking about her and hoped she was doing well. That’s when she revealed she had a miscarriage and needed emergency surgery. She admitted the shower was too painful to attend and apologized for missing it. I apologized in case I had unintentionally said or done anything that might’ve hurt her. Everything seemed good between us.

Since then, though, every month or so, when I’ve tried to reach out via text or social media, she will either respond very slowly or leave me unread. I feel so sad, because she was such a good friend. I don’t feel as if I’ve been insensitive, and I genuinely want to be there for her. I’m starting to resign myself to the fact that our friendship is probably over. Do I need to slow down or stop initiating communication until she’s ready to talk again?

— So Sad

So Sad: You apologized, which was kind; did you also tend to her grief unto itself? Meaning, not just her loss relative to your experience, but her loss?

I’m not accusing here, just exploring. Sometimes it’s not what we said or did but what we omitted that causes someone pain.

It could also be that she’s in a bad way and doesn’t want to bring you down, or is in a bad way and seeing your happiness makes her feel worse.

This gets touchy, because I think we all would hope we could push far enough through our pain to be at least somewhat present for a best friend’s joy. But the reality of it can be so devastating that I don’t think anyone who isn’t there can judge someone who, sadly, is. We can only be open, patient, compassionate and mindful of how much we don’t know.

I’d say keep the gentle contact going to show you’re there when she’s ready.

Readers’ thoughts:

· I think your friend told you about the miscarriage because she doesn’t want the friendship to be over. It would have been much easier to ghost you at that first text if she didn’t want to remain friends. Give her time and space to heal, but don’t give up on her.

· I had a miscarriage last year at 20 weeks, and there have been moments when it is hard to be around pregnant people. One of my good friends told me she was pregnant a few months later, and the feelings were so mixed. Although I am thrilled and happy for her, there are times when it feels like a punch to the gut. We are both being sensitive to each other.

· Keep in mind that everyone grieves differently. Some people will be upset you didn’t reach out more. Some people will secretly be thinking, “Why can’t this person just leave me alone for a while to be sad?”

· After each of my three miscarriages before my son was born, it was too painful to be around babies and pregnant people. Although I should have been more communicative and gracious, just disappearing would have been preferable to my angry lashing out. The pain of miscarriage is hard to express. Give her time.