Trigger warning: This essay describes a woman’s emotional journey with miscarriage.

The moment I saw those two pink lines on the pregnancy test, I held an enormous amount of hope in my heart. Those first few weeks were both exciting and agonizing at the same time. I was frightened every day that each cramp, ache and pain could possibly mean impending doom.

I went to the bathroom more than I ever imagined possible. I was tired—exhausted, really. My breasts felt swollen and so did my uterus. I had trouble concentrating because I was constantly filled with so many different emotions. I had to get numerous blood tests and felt like a human pin cushion. But it was all for a good cause—my precious baby—so I didn’t really mind.

At times, I found myself reveling in feeling all these symptoms because it meant I was actually pregnant—that this was actually happening. Holy moly, I was pregnant! After all those years of trying it was finally my turn.

And then one day I got a call from my doctor and learned that I “may have an unviable pregnancy.” That my last blood test showed my HCG count had begun to decline, typically indicating miscarriage. The words “unviable” and “miscarriage” hung in the air and I felt like I had been punched in the gut. HARD.

I tried to hold it together. I went to work and shut my door and cried. I put on a brave face and hoped for the best but I was so sad and beyond scared and I just wished the world around me would stop and give me a moment to catch my breath.

Didn’t they know that I was dealing with this life-changing news?

When I scheduled my “final” ultrasound, I held out hope that I’d somehow hear a heartbeat…even though I knew I wouldn’t. So, I cried. I tried to come to grips with reality. Then I cried some more.

Days went by so slowly. My breasts still hurt. I still felt that swell in my uterus. I wondered when and if I would start bleeding. And I still felt a twinge of morning sickness, or what I thought was the feeling of morning sickness, but I couldn’t tell, because, really, I wanted to throw up any time I thought about the fact that this was happening.

And all I wanted—more than anything (besides having my baby back)— is for those symptoms that I was so excited to feel, to just go away.

I didn’t want to feel pregnant anymore because, essentially, I wasn’t…except I kind of was…You see, what nobody told me about having a miscarriage is that it’s a long process. My body took a while to recognize that it wasn’t carrying a healthy baby. Oftentimes when you miscarry, you’ll need a procedure to end the pregnancy or you’ll have to take a pill to start the process.

So I had to wait. I waited and felt like I was losing my baby all over again.

The friends that I had shared my happy—then sad—news with asked how I was doing. I lied and said I was doing fine because I didn’t want to say, “I’ll be okay once I pass these clumps of tissue from my body.” They didn’t really know what to say to me, which was okay—because I didn’t know what to say either.

And until the nightmare I was in, that was once a dream, was over, I felt like I was in limbo—not quite pregnant, but not quite not pregnant. People said things to try to be helpful and I know they meant well—I just needed time to process and heal.

What I did learn, though, are a few things not to say to a woman who has just experienced a miscarriage. Things like, “You can always try again,” or, “At least it happened early on,” or, “Everything happens for a reason.”

For many women, getting pregnant in the first place is just not that simple—they don’t want to hear about trying again in this moment. Hearing about your miscarriage happening earlier rather than later is a dig to the heart, too—no matter when you lose a baby it is heartbreaking. And even if “everything happens for a reason”—most likely the woman experiencing such a grave loss is not able to see any reason for feeling this incredibly broken.

I have found that sometimes the best thing to do is to admit the situation is hard, and heartbreaking. And to just sit with the person grieving and be with them.

Suffering from a miscarriage means that you are forever changed. You’ll still feel the pain from time to time, even years later. But at the same time, you’ll be grateful in a sense that you got to experience what it was like to see those two pink lines in the first place—even if it didn’t pan out the way you hoped.