How to Support a Loved One After a Miscarriage or Infant Loss
October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. For a parent to lose a baby is devastating enough. But the silence from society in general and oftentimes insensitive comments that people make to bereaved parents after a miscarriage or infant loss makes the suffering even greater.
Let me preface by saying that I’m writing this blog post from the perspective of someone who has never experienced a miscarriage or infant loss. However, I have worked with a lot of people who serve women and couples who have. I’ve also heard many stories of the trauma parents endure when they lose a child, and the pain that they feel when family members or friends respond in ways that don’t appreciate the gravity of such a loss.
So what can we do to make a difference — to make grieving parents feel not ignored but supported, heard, and loved? A first step is to simply educate ourselves on how to best support women and couples who have experienced a miscarriage or infant loss.
So here are some do’s and don’t’s, plus a few practical ideas for how you can support a loved one or acquaintance who has experienced a miscarriage or infant loss.
Don’t say things that belittle or minimize their experience.
While researching for this article, I was aghast at some of the insensitive comments women received while grieving the loss of their children. Many women have heard things like “at least you know you can get pregnant,” or “it’s not as big of a deal because you lost your pregnancy early,” or “don’t worry, you got pregnant once, you’ll get pregnant again.” Pregnancy and infant loss are severely traumatic experiences. It is the loss of a child. We may not understand if we haven’t been through that ourselves, but we still must be careful to not minimize, be impatient with, or ignore the grief of others… even if it makes us uncomfortable.
Sometimes pregnancy and infant loss can be life-threatening for the mother and uniquely traumatic for the father. Before responding, take a moment to try to understand the gravity of this experience and consider how you would respond to someone who has just experienced the death of a child coupled with intense medical trauma.
Say things that are empathetic, supportive, and express your willingness to support them.
If you’re concerned you’re going to say the wrong thing, you’re actually on your way to being sensitive! What should you say when you hear a family member or friend has lost a baby?Focus on offering your condolences, and genuinely offering your support and a listening ear. Say, “I’m so sorry” and follow it up with something like, “What can I do for you?”, “How can I help you?” or “I’m praying for you” and most importantly, “I’m here for you if you want to talk.”
So many couples suffer silently after miscarriage or pregnancy loss. Your offer to listen or offer support — and just letting the couple know you’re thinking of them — will mean the world.
Offer practical support.
If you’re able, offer some material support. This may look like cooking a meal and bringing it to the family’s home, starting a meal train, or simply sending a gift card for their favorite local restaurant. It could even be as simple as offering to mow their lawn or walk their dog! Miscarriage and infant loss often involve hospital stays, so you can offer to do something simple that will take a little weight off the couple’s shoulders for a while.
Say the baby’s name.
Both now and in the future, don’t dance around the subject: if the couple named their baby and uses his or her name frequently, say the baby’s name. Fertility awareness instructor Holly Baril, who herself had several pregnancy losses, said in a recent Instagram Live on this topic that saying the baby’s name makes a huge difference. Doing so makes it clear that you understand and acknowledge that this little one was real and that his or her life mattered. It’s a recognition that he or she had a profound impact on the parents’ lives and will always be a part of their family and in their hearts.
Send a small gift or handwritten note.
Sending a small gift or handwritten note is a way to show the couple that you’re thinking of them. One especially unique way to show you care is by sending a Hope Box to the grieving mother. Hope Boxes are small gift boxes put together by an organization called Hope Mommies, and each contains gifts focused on helping the mother through her grief, such as a Bible, a journal, books on grief, scripture cards, and other comforting gifts like tea, lotion, and candles.
Check in more than once.
Being supportive can be as simple as sending a quick text to let the couple know you’re thinking of them. This is especially important to keep in mind around what would have been the baby’s due date and anniversaries of the loss and due date. Fertility awareness instructor Brigitte Diemand emphasizes that we shouldn’t be afraid to ask a woman or couple how they’re doing — we may be afraid to bring up their pain, but when we don’t ask, the grieving feel ignored or abandoned. So check in, and check in more than once.
Be a good listener.
And most importantly, both Brigitte and Holly emphasize the importance of letting the grieving woman/couple know that you’re there to listen if they want to talk. Even if this makes you feel a bit uncomfortable, your generosity and willingness to support them and be with them in their suffering will mean the world.
It doesn’t have to be complicated.
Supporting a friend, family member, or acquaintance after a miscarriage or infant loss doesn’t have to be complicated. And it doesn’t require that you spend a lot of money. Let the bereaved parents know that you’re thinking about them and are there for them if they want to talk or need help, and you’ll be offering support for which they’ll be truly grateful.
Share this article on social media so we can spread the word on how to best support those who have suffered a miscarriage or infant loss!
Huge thanks to Brigitte Diemand and Holly Baril for their assistance in writing this article!
Note: If you’ve suffered a miscarriage or infant loss and there is anything in this article that you feel is insensitive or unhelpful, please let us know.