So… your friend suffered pregnancy loss. What now?
Before I lost my daughter, June… before I heard the blank, empty sound where there should have been the steady pumping of her heart beat, I had been that friend.
I had been on the other side of the fence not knowing what to do to help her, not knowing what she needed and so afraid of saying or doing the wrong thing, therefore causing her to feel worse.
I was the friend who cried for their loss, but I was aslo the friend that felt like running away. I was scared. Nervously talking to fill the empty air. I was afraid I would put my foot in my mouth as I have, so often done, before. What do they need? What should I do? How do I comfort my dear friend who I love so much???? Should I wait for them to call? Should I just show up? I didn’t know.
Because I have been in that position, I have tried to openly communicate to my friends what it is like and what I need now on the other, dreaded, side of the fence.
I think it is important to mention that everyone is different, and grieves differently. I think the best way to support your friend is to ASK them directly how they are feeling and what you can do to help. Keep in mind that many people, myself included, have trouble accepting help. While all help is appreciated, if asked I will most likely decline, as to not impose anyone. This is why my friends often help in the form of a surprise.
I am so lucky to have the most amazing friends possible. They are a huge supportive network of people who go above and beyond, moving me to tears by their love and generosity. It is because of them that I even have suggestions to offer others. My friends make up those who have and have not suffered the loss of a child themselves. These are some of the ways they are helping me to navigate this confusing path.
It started when the hospital gave me a bear donated by those in the baby loss community. I was confused at first, but then 2 days later clinging to this bear, having realized I hadn’t let it out of my sight, understanding hit me. Oh. I get to take this home. Having tangible and physical keepsakes has helped to heal my heart. While I get to watch my boys play, the necklace around my neck says I have a daughter, too. When thinking of her my hand will find the engraved charm with feet just about her size. The added charm to a braclet with my children’s birthstones on it says she is a part of this family, too. I will not ever get to carry her on my hip, but I DO get to carry these tokens of her short but cherished life.
Clicking an image will take you to where you can purchase it.
There are many options at a wide range of prices on Etsy. Click here to see other options.
Returning home from the hospital without my daughter was despairing. Walking through our door to find our home had surprisingly been cleaned from top to bottom had filled it with love. I was relieved to know that a service had been hired, and one of my friends had not been scrubbing my mildew and hair covered shower. (Insert sigh of relief) Together my friends had organized a break in and cleaning. There were flowers on the table accompanied with mine and the boy’s favorite candy, and my husband’s preferred brand of snuff. The note had many names on it and was signed with love. It was lead by one friend, but many eagerly jumped in desiring to help. My refrigerator and freezer had been cleaned out by another friend to prepare for the onslaught of food I was to receive.
In the midst of a hormonal upheaval, physical recouperation from labor and a procedure, and my husband needing to return to work; I couldn’t stop being the mother of my 3 sons. My family still needed to eat. (And Boy do they put food away!) Everyone who came to visit came with food ready to eat or a casserole to put in my freezer. Friends offered to go to the grocery store, or simply brought a few staples like bread and lunch meat. The food lasted into the weeks when I started lactating, wich was painful in more than one way. The food was there when my children were hungry. The food was there when my physicaly and emotionally drained husband came home from work. The food was THERE and most of the time that was the only reason I ate at all.
There have been moments I have been afraid to be alone with my thoughts, or alone at all. The constant stream of visitors to take my mind off of things or to figuratively regurgitate all of my emotions upon, has been a great comfort and most valuable. I found myself sharing in laughter as well as tears.
The cards received in the mail with prayers and consoling words in them will forever be cherished. They are kept in a special place with other tokens of my daughter’s life. They will be revisited and a reminder of the love and thoughtfulness in which they were sent.
Text or phone call
The simple “Thinking of you” and “How are you doing today” that come almost daily from a few friends have provided me with a place to unload. They often come at a time when I am struggling and it is a comfort to know they are there. Sometimes typing out my feelings via text is easier or helps me to better organize my thoughts. The more often a friend checks on me, the more inclined I feel to reach out to them when I am needing support.
Others do not have to believe what you believe in order for you to ask God to help them. I love The Lord and every single time someone shared scripture with me, I felt comfort. Prayer, especially those written out, have been so greatly appreciated. Prayers are what I asked for most. Prayers for my husband, prayers for my 3 sons, …prayers were all that sustained me through her delivery. If you say nothing else to your friend, let them know you are praying for them. Even better, offer to pray with them.
Some things to avoid:
Please do not act as if nothing happened. Please acknowledge the existence of their child and the significance of their loss.
Avoid clichés, because while they might help you fill the silence they can be offensive or hurtful.
“Well at least you have your other children”, “you can always have more”, “at least you weren’t further along”, “God’s plans are better than ours.”… Please understand that they are working through this and sometimes statements like those (however well intended) can feel like a punch in the stomach. Yes, I am well aware of my blessings, but they do not erase this pain. Let me grieve. Trying to cheer someone up while they are grieving feels like you are putting a cap on their feelings, as if to say “I am done hearing you now.” You just might be the only one your friend has opened up with. Let her get it out.
Gauge the questions you ask to the closeness of your friend. If you are an aquaintence asking if they have thought about becoming pregnant again, it might come off nosey and insensitive; while a close friend asking the same thing might just be the lended ear they needed.
There are lots of blog posts that tell you what Not to say, but if you can do these two things 1) Avoid clichés and 2) gauge your questions, you should do alright.
I am touched that you have read this and are planning to reach out to someone in need. God bless you.
A special thank you to my big sister who watched my children while we were in the hospital.
Knowing they were with you, surrounded in happiness while you courageously postponed your own grief was a huge gift. I know you do not think you did much, but I didn’t have to worry about them and was able to be entirely in the (gone too soon) moment with June. Thank you for being my family’s safety net.
If you have any stories of how someone comforted you through loss or vice versa, I would love to hear it. I would be especially interested to hear from dads, and how their friends have supported them; as that is not my personal experience to write about. Please share in the comments section.