A New Line of Empathy Cards Aims to Open Up a Conversation Around Miscarriage

Because so often people don’t know what to say.

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Photo by drjessicazucker.com

Ten to 25 percent of pregnancies will end in a miscarriage, according to the American Pregnancy Association. But after her own miscarriage, Dr. Jessica Zucker, a clinical psychologist specializing in women's reproductive and maternal mental health, realized this particular type of loss was often still stigmatized—and set out to help change that with a new type of sympathy card.

It started with a hashtag: #IHadAMiscarriage. After her 16-week miscarriage that also endangered her own life, Zucker wondered: “How do we honor our losses, and the fact that life doesn’t always make much sense?” She took to Twitter to share her experiences, and her hashtag campaign went viral. The hope “was to show the world how many women are experiencing this and to show women ‘you’re not alone.’”

To reach even more women, and further de-stigmatize pregnancy loss, Zucker decided to channel her experiences, thoughts, emotions into eight cards—she considers them her “public health announcement.”

After her own miscarriage, she noticed that other mothers and people in her life moved away from her—both physically and emotionally. The process after pregnancy loss can be “isolating,” says Zucker. People were scared to talk to her about her experience—a mentality she hopes to change.

“This is not a disease,” Zucker says. “This is part of what happens when we endeavor to create life, we run the risk of losing life.” Zucker hopes the cards will make this type of loss more “normative”—although losing a parent or grandparent can be traumatic and painful, people tend to be better-equipped with sympathetic sentiments. Often, Zucker finds that with miscarriages, people don’t know what to say.

While Zucker's particular experience was about miscarriage, the cards cover the full range of pregnancy loss—offering support to families with stillborns, or infants who never make it home from the hospital. There’s everything from a card for friends who seem to go M.I.A., to a “grief timeline,” to a card for a woman who is pregnant again after a miscarriage—which Zucker says is a “terrifying” experience. She also decided to create baby loss announcements for parents who still want to celebrate their child’s short life.

Zucker is not the only one to use greeting cards as an avenue to discuss larger issues. Emily McDowell, a Los Angeles-based designer, launched a line of empathy cards last year to provide “better, more authentic ways to communicate about sickness and suffering” after she underwent nine months of chemo and radiation for Stage 3 Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Because of their immense success, McDowell is expanding the line in November to include “general cards for tough situations, and specific cards for chronic illness, depression, and grief/loss.”

“I've been in several situations in my own life, both as a sick person and as a friend, where I could have used cards like these, but they didn't exist,” McDowell wrote in an email. “Yet, when you're sick or hurting, a simple thing like a card can make more of a difference than ever.”

Zucker agrees. “There’s something important about going that extra minute to buy something and write a note,” she says of her cards. Her husband had suggested e-cards, but she knew handwritten notes would have more of an impact. “It’s too easy to send an email.”

Whether people actually buy and send the cards, or simply share them with friends on social media, Zucker doesn’t care. She just wants to inspire dialogue. “Talking about loss does not create loss,” she says. “I think it’s all the more important that we somehow live in a culture that sees this kind of loss as normative… whatever feelings emerge, should be able to be talked about. As though we’re talking about anything else.”

Zucker’s cards are available for purchase at shop.drjessicazucker.com.