Suppose someone you love has recently experienced a miscarriage, stillbirth, or pregnancy loss, and you’re searching for ways to support them. Even as a close friend, it can feel difficult to know what to do or say when it comes to helping someone else through the grieving process.
While pregnancy loss may seem to be relatively “common” (with miscarriages happening in about 20 percent of known pregnancies), it can still be an isolating and difficult time for those going through it, no matter what trimester the loss happened in. Some reasons for this can be lack of acknowledgement, validation, or support from those around them.
Acknowledging a grieving friend’s miscarriage is more than sharing your condolences, convincing them to go to a support group, or bringing by a meal the first few days after the loss happened. Although those things can help, there are things you can do as a friend to support the grieving parent that can help them feel heard and validated with their own feelings.
Continuously show up
One of the most important things you can do for someone you love after the loss of a baby is to continuously show up for them. Whether daily or weekly, check in with your loved one regularly. Loss support through the act of “showing up” may look like sending a text message, bringing a meal, keeping them company, or even offering childcare if they have other children.
When someone goes through a devastating experience like a death in the family, they are usually surrounded by friends and family for the first week or two. However, after those initial days and weeks, people tend to stop calling, checking in, or offering a hand, which may make the bereaved feel isolated and alone in their grief. Continuously showing up for your loved one means that you provide support long after the loss happens and help as they navigate what comes next. Most importantly, you never want them to feel like they’ve lost support from you.
Remember important dates & milestones
Unless you’ve experienced pregnancy loss, you may not realize how important specific dates are for a bereaved parent. Following a loss, there may be many days when the grief feels heavier, such as Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, certain holidays, and the due date when the baby should have been born.
One thing you can do as a support person is to mark these dates on your calendar and acknowledge them as they pass. A text message that says something like “I know that today may be difficult, and you’re in my thoughts. I’m here to listen if you’d like to talk,” can go a long way.
Listening is crucial to providing a safe environment when supporting someone after a loss such as a miscarriage. You may even invite them to share more about their story and their baby.
The key to listening is to remember that silence is okay. You can provide support for someone without saying a word just by being next to that person as they discuss their loss with you.
Keep in mind that their emotional health and well-being is vital as they navigate their loss, so when the time feels right, don’t be afraid to ask how they might need support from you, or others. Would it be helpful for them to connect with others who have been through something similar? Or to speak with a mental health professional to help navigate and process their feelings? The answer might be yes, no, not yet, or I don’t know—regardless, the questions show your support, and show that there is more support available outside of just you, if and when they want or need it.
Respect their boundaries without judgment
Bereaved parents don’t all think alike or require the same level of support—some who have experienced loss may even create boundaries that let you know what they need and when they need it. Some of those boundaries may look like asking others to refrain from sending pregnancy-related news and content or offering unsolicited advice, muting accounts on social media, not wanting to hang out with other parents, or declining invites to specific events such as baby showers or kids’ birthday parties.
Send a meaningful gift
While many forms of support mentioned in this article are acts of kindness or empathy, traditional ideas such as sending gift baskets, meals, or flower arrangements or plants are also great ways to support a grieving friend or family member. Remember that an essential part of sending anything is adding a personal note with the gift or delivery.
Showing support can mean doing one or many of the suggestions listed above for weeks and even months after a loss. The fact that you’re researching this topic means that you genuinely care and want to give as much support to your loved one as possible. They may carry emotional triggers and trauma following their loss, and with your help, they will be able to cope by feeling a little less alone.
Supporting someone through pregnancy loss, or even infertility-related losses, is an important act and one that will leave a lasting impression on their journey.