At some point in our lives we will be faced with supporting a friend through loss. Even though grief is inevitable in all of our lives, we are left wondering "What should I say?" "What should I do?" "How can I support my friend?"
Here is a list of 5 ways you can support others through loss.
1. Practice Empathy
Be empathic, not sympathetic. Be willing to sit in the roughness of grief, don't sugarcoat it. Let them know their feelings are valid, and you are holding space for them. Watch the video by Bréne Brown on empathy - it’s an eye opener.
2. Don’t Say Stupid s#%*
Do not use "at least" statements - at least you already have one, at least you know you can get pregnant.
Do not tell them not to worry - especially if they are pregnant after loss, they have every reason to worry.
Don’t use cliche statements - god needed another angel, everything happens for a reason.
Instead say things like, "I'm so sorry this is difficult for you, you are not alone"; "I really don't know what to say right now, but I am so glad you told me. I am here with you.”
Acknowledge the fact that it's difficult, don't try to sugarcoat it, and be okay with not having to say anything.
3. Take Cues from the Griever
Some statements are helpful for some people and not helpful for others - especially when it comes to religious clichés. Take cues from the griever and pick up on the language they are using. If they are not religious, or are not into spirituality, do not use religious clichés. Do not tell them god has a better plan - when all they want is their baby back in their arms; god did not cause their baby to die.
Also read the grievers cues if they need space or need to talk. If you are reaching out and they haven't responded to you, don't be offended. If it seems like they don't want to talk about their loss, don't push them. Change the subject.
Give them space to navigate their grief, don't get offended if they don't show up to events, sometimes it can be too overwhelming.
4. Help Practically
Organize a meal train. Drop off groceries. Offer to help with the kids. Drive them to appointments. Don’t be afraid to ask them what they need, and follow through if and when they ask. For more practical suggestions head to my post How to Practically Support a Friend through Pregnancy & Infant Loss.
5. Educate Yourself
The best thing you can do is educate yourself around grief. Read pregnancy loss stories and other grief journeys to help better understand what people are going through. Everyone is different, everyone deals differently, everyone has different needs. It’s important to have some understanding of what grievers go through if you want to be there for someone who is grieving. So do your research and don’t expect your griever to teach you. Head here for some of my top book suggestions, or download my Pregnancy and Infant Loss Resource Guide.
The most important thing to remember is you can't fix this for your friend. You can't take the pain away and you can't bring their loved one back. Your friend needs you to simply listen and hold space for them to grieve.
I hope you find these suggestions helpful. If you have any more suggestions for what has been helpful or not helpful for you let me know in the comments below. I would love to hear!