1 in 4 Women Will Experience Infant & Pregnancy Loss
At some point in life you’ll find yourself wondering how to support someone you care about whose grieving an infant or pregnancy loss. Perhaps it’s you who’s lost a baby and you’re wondering; what sorts of feelings are normal, and what you should share and expect from others during this time. What happens when someone you know is pregnant and they lose their baby, be it 2 weeks or 30 weeks gestation? Losing one of the greatest gifts anyone can be blessed with hurts. Parents will grieve and they’ll need support whether they say so or not.
Life moves on. Meanwhile their life seems to stands still.
October is pregnancy and infant loss awareness month.
First Coast Doulas supports families as they bring their babies home and many who never get that chance. We receive more messages and phone calls than you could imagine. People reach out for support and to talk about their loss. We talk with them about what they’re experiencing and about being as comfortable as possible through this difficult time. We also discuss what they might expect next and how their loved ones can support them best.
It’s crystal clear that more people want to know how to support those they care about during pregnancy loss, they just aren’t always sure how.
First, you must understand that supporting others through a loss can pull at your heart strings and may feel awkward.
Imagine how hard it must be for them, they’ve lost their baby. We can do hard things. It will feel terrible and may feel awkward, show your support anyway. Don’t avoid the parents, embrace them. Be prepared to support them in a way that is best for them, not always what you might want. Each loss is different, unique, and tragic. Each baby is special.
Be present for them, even in silence.
Words aren’t always necessary. A silent supporter lets the parents talk, cry, or share any range of feelings they’re experiencing without interjecting their own perception or thoughts. You might make her a glass of warm tea and just be there by her side and acknowledge how much it sucks. There is no need to try and cheer her or fix her. Perhaps you stop by and lend a hand to the partner who is out doing some yard work, little to no words are necessary in this arena. Drop a card in the mail and include a gift card for dinner.
Talk about their baby, use their baby’s name.
It doesn’t matter how pregnant she was. This little one means everything to its parents. Ask them if they’ve given their baby a name, even if they didn’t know the sex of their baby a name is beautiful way to honor and remember them. When our grandmothers pass away we talk about them and we use their names. We keep their name and spirit alive that way. You can do the same and the parents may appreciate that someone else remembers their baby too!
Do not expect them to celebrate your pregnancy or birth.
Even if this is your best friend, do not expect anything from her during this time. If she does attend your baby shower or comes by after your baby is born to congratulate you, please acknowledge that you know this is difficult for her and that you love her and appreciate her for sharing in your joy.
Never put a timeline on someone else’s pain.
Everyone grieves in their own time. There are stages of grief and people don’t always move through them on the same timeline, some move forward while others move backward and forward. Please do not impose your own ideas on when someone should be “over it”, parents are never over it. They just learn to cope and deal better as time passes, but the place they prepared in their hearts for their baby or babies will always exist.
Tears are more than okay.
In fact, it may be very helpful for her to know that her baby was important and matters to more than just her. Even if you aren’t familiar with the grief of losing a child yourself, knowing you are grieving for her loss because you care so much for her is touching and it just feels good to be loved. Human kindness and compassion goes a long way.
Help out in whatever way you can, but be understanding if they say no.
Bring food, or go grocery shopping. Prepare some food for the family. You might offer to walk her dog or help by tidying up a little. Doing some laundry, taking kids to practice or to and from school help lighten the load. Another mom shares that her co-worker remembered her favorite dessert and she dropped it by with some coffee.
Don’t question or judge her choices. Trying to conceive, waiting to try, and timing are all very, very personal, especially after pregnancy loss. She will share when she is ready.
Allow her to grieve in any way she may need to and time to talk about her loss when she is ready.
Be kind with your words to all, you never know what others are going through.
Don’t forget to acknowledge the person’s partner/spouse.
Don’t dismiss someone’s loss because the pregnancy wasn’t planned or because they have other children.
When you are wondering how to show support through pregnancy loss, please avoid anything that starts or includes:
- Well, at least…
- Look at it this way…
- Maybe this pregnancy wasn’t meant to be…
- God has other plans…
Replace those with:
- I’m sorry, that sucks…
- I can see how much you’re hurting…
- I’ll never understand why babies are taken away…
- Your hopes and dreams for your baby were crushed, understandably you are disappointed…
We hope this blog is helpful to you and to those you share it with. In the words of Dr. Seuss, “A person is a person, no matter how small!”
Authored by: Elizabeth Luke
Owner and Doula at First Coast Doulas, LLC