October is Pregnancy Loss Awareness month. Though 1 in 4 pregnancies end in miscarriage, the statistics don’t make the loss any easier. As someone who has suffered and watched loved ones suffer from losing a baby, I have discovered there are many different ways to grieve as well as offer support. This post is written to give advice to those who wish to offer support to a friend facing pregnancy loss.
After asking several friends and family members who suffered from pregnancy loss what they needed during their grief, the first thing I realized was the differences in responses. Some craved notes of kindness and sympathy while others felt a card was an easy way out because it said “sorry for a misfortune” without having to take any action. Some wanted visits full of conversation and questions to help walk through the feelings of fear and heartache, while others simply wanted to be left alone.
Here are six pieces of advice for offering your friend support after a miscarriage:
1. Identify Your Friend’s Love Language.
Your response to loss should depend on your friend’s love language. Without this, you may not give your friend the best support. If your friend feels loved by quality time, make yourself available whenever she needs you — not just the days after but the weeks and months to follow as well. Does your friend feel loved by acts of service? Take a meal to her home, do the grocery shopping for a month or clean her house while she takes the time to rest. If she has other children, offer to babysit so she can get away with her husband and they can grieve together. Long letters or written prayers may be just the right thing for your friend who feels loved by words of affirmation. Give hugs often and put your arm around your friend who needs physical touch to heal. And finally, if gifts make her feel loved, put together a self-care package filled with all of her favorite things.
2. Ask Genuine Questions.
Questions are typically a “go-to” whenever conversing with friends, but not all questions are helpful. For example, “How are you?” is often a loaded question for someone who is facing loss. A friend of mine told me that this question after her miscarriage was difficult because she was confused and frustrated by her internal state. Instead, she appreciated questions such as: “I’ve never been through losing a baby. What has this been like for you?” Firstly, this acknowledged that if you haven’t been through this, you don’t understand. Secondly, it gives your friend space to express herself in a way that isn’t as broad and deep as: “How are you?”
If you have gone through a miscarriage, here is a statement you could make and a question to ask: “I would love to share stories of the short time we had with our babies. Could you share your story with me?” This provides comfort to your friend knowing that you do understand and can be trusted with her story.
3. Give A Gift That Honors The Memory Of The Baby.
After miscarrying, my grandmother gave me a bracelet with a charm of two baby footprints. The gesture made me feel loved, and my grief felt acknowledged. I’ve heard of others receiving plants or small trees they could put in their yards that had plaques attached with the baby’s name or a short poem. One friend said about the magnolia tree she was given: “It helped me to care for something as we grieved the loss.”
4. Don’t Put A Timeline On The Grieving Process.
Everyone grieves differently. For some, it’s a few short months, others it’s years, and some never fully heal. And all of this is okay. There are many times I think I’ve made progress, but then I read others’ stories or share my own, and it takes me right back to my miscarriage; I’m left raw and broken with arms aching for the baby I have never held. If my loved ones ever expected me to be past these feelings, I would be left feeling misunderstood and alone. Keep this in mind when helping your friend grieve. Be open to the topic being brought up as many times as she needs, and never make her feel as though enough time has passed.
5. Do SOMETHING!
Sometimes I worry so much about doing the perfect thing or getting it wrong, and sometimes I do respond wrong, but doing something is far better than doing nothing! You may not be close to the person who faced a loss, so the idea of knowing her love language is close to impossible, but ask someone close to her or just pick a thoughtful act of kindness and run with it! Always choose to act when it comes to giving comfort.
6. Treat Pregnancy Loss As A Loss Of Life.
These babies were very much wanted and loved. The loss of their lives was not just an unfortunate event. It was not a blessing in case there could have been a “problem” with the baby, and it’s not a positive feeling to “at least know you can get pregnant.” A miscarriage is a loss of life that should be treated as such and mourned the same if that’s what the friend facing this loss needs. Don’t dismiss the event as a difficult circumstance. Friends of mine who have faced loss said they felt the most loved when their friends treated their miscarriage as a lost LIFE.
“Grief is like the ocean. It comes in waves, ebbing and flowing. Sometimes the water is calm, and sometimes it is overwhelming. All we can do is learn to swim.” –Vickie Harrison
For those of you reading who have suffered loss, I’m so sorry for what you have gone through or are going through still. You are loved. Your baby was wanted and loved as well. Remember, you are not alone while swimming through your grief.