Grief runs deep in my bones. Five times I’ve had to say goodbye to my babies. At different stages in my pregnancies, their tiny hearts gave out, and I may never know why.
Each time we have experienced loss, we’ve seen the importance of community in a time of need. We’ve learned what has been helpful and what hasn’t as we’ve been given room to grieve our losses.
For too long, miscarriage has been swept under the rug, and women have been left to navigate all the confusing emotions alone. As I’ve walked this road, I’ve become passionate in joining the choir of voices breaking the stigma, and letting other women know that they are not alone; they do not need to grieve silently.
I want to give women the freedom to grieve, to speak their babies’ names, and to provide insight into those around them on how to best support them as they walk this journey.
I’ve compiled a little list on what we’ve found helpful support-wise in our grief journey. I hope that you find it helpful too.
How to Support Someone Walking Through Pregnancy/Infant Loss
- This has been by far the most helpful thing for us. The last thing I wanted to do after our losses was cook. I was tired, emotional, and in pain (physically and emotionally). I was in recovery, much like after giving birth to a living child. If we bring meals to parents of a new baby, we should also bring meals to parents suffering through pregnancy loss. A friend of ours organized a meal train using Take Them a Meal. This way we weren’t getting a million meals on the same day and packing out our freezer. It’s also super helpful to know that sometimes the parents don’t actually want to visit when you drop off a meal. I’m super social so I don’t mind interacting face to face during meal drop-offs, but not everyone wants to, so be mindful of that.
- For families with living children, the parents may need help with child care, or may just need a break. Offer to take their kids to the park, or out for a play date, even if it’s just for an hour so mom can rest. You could also offer to walk their older kids to school or to pick them up.
- If you are close enough with the family, show up and start cleaning. Even if it’s just tidying up the dishes, sweeping, or whatever. It helps alleviate a tedious task that they most likely do not feel like doing in their time of grief.
- After experiencing our 5th loss, we were and are in desperate need of a vacation. We have two living children, and we have never actually been on an extended family vacation. A close friend of mine knew this, and she rallied for friends (and even people we don’t know) to donate towards a trip fund so we could go somewhere as a family. I legit cried when she sent us the money; uncontrollable sobs. This has by far been one of THE most generous ways our community has supported us. You could also rally people together to raise money for whatever other needs arise. Some families may need to pay for medical expenses (if they are in the USA), or extended work leaves (currently most workplaces do not give you a leave of absence when experiencing a miscarriage).
Send a book
- If your friend likes to read, send a book related to loss or grief, that may help her/him walk through all the complicated emotions of pregnancy loss. I’ve listed some of my favourites in a blog post here: Book Resources The one I like to send the most is “Grieving the Child I Never Knew” – it’s a short devotional that walks through various aspects of the grief journey, and I found it the most helpful in my own journey.
Send a Card
- In my opinion, sending a card is always a good idea. Even if it’s not acknowledged right away, know that your friend most likely has opened it, read it, and cried a few tears. It shows that you are thinking of them in their time of loss, and making the effort to send a card means a lot. One of my favourite card makers, specific to loss, is The Noble Paperie.
Send a Memory Token
- For example a necklace with the baby’s name (if they named baby), or one that symbolizes baby. A couple of friends have sent us beautiful pieces - one from Seeded Hope with seeds that symbolize all our babies, and one from Smile Sophie that is a nest with eggs. Other examples are stamped jewelry with initials, stuffed animal, custom embroidery (Little Nest Embroidery), etc. Again, this one is dependent on your friend and what she likes/dislikes.
Gift Package for Living Children
- If your friend has living children consider bringing them a little something. Things we’ve loved are colouring books with crayons, hair bows, stuffed animals, etc. Even the smallest of things that make the children smile.
Send flowers, or a plant
- Some people love flowers (me!); they smell nice and they are pretty. But for some, it can feel like a funeral home if A LOT of flowers are sent at the same time (we legit ran out of places to put all the flowers). If your friend is a plant person, consider sending a plant that lasts.
Say their name
- If they named their baby, acknowledge the baby by name. Don’t be afraid that it will upset your friend. Your friend has not forgotten their baby existed, and they have not forgotten their name, so say it. It won’t make them sadder, they will be glad to hear the baby’s name.
Acknowledge Key Dates
- Send a message or card on key dates such as – Original due date, date baby passed away, mother’s day, father’s day, etc. Key dates can be ridiculously hard, and it’s comforting knowing others are thinking of us and our baby on those dates.
Be Mindful of your Words
- Blanket statement platitudes, even though well-meaning, can be hurtful. For example: “Everything happens for a reason”; “God gives and takes away”; “at least you can get pregnant”; “don’t worry you will have another”; “at least you have living children”; are NOT helpful. Instead say something like: “This really sucks”; “I don’t know why this has happened to you, but it sucks”; “I’m here for you”; “I’m thinking of you and ‘baby’s name’”, etc. When in doubt, just say “I’m so sorry for your loss.”
Listen and don’t force your friend to talk
- Don’t offer advice, just listen. Give your friend the space and freedom to bring up the loss when they are ready to talk about it. Just sit with her/him, and let them verbally vomit all over you if they are ready.
- When in doubt, wine… always wine. One of the best things during our 4th loss was when a friend came over with a bottle of wine and just sat with me on the couch, and said “this f#*!ing sucks” and let me just cry it out. Coffee also works too, if your friend is a coffee or wine drinker. Again, depends on the friend.