Have you ever wondered how you could do a better job supporting a friend in pregnancy loss?
Guest Post by Gabrielle Daigle of Mama Gab
I used to feel completely inadequate about supporting a friend in pregnancy loss. I hadn’t been through it. It seemed like none of my efforts could possibly be enough.
And you know what? They aren’t enough.
She lost a baby, not just a pregnancy. No pithy statement or Hallmark card can possibly be enough. Miscarriage, stillbirth, and infant loss are incredibly painful.
But friendship is powerful. It’s a tool that God uses to minister to women when they lose their baby.
And now I’m on the other side of it. In July, we walked into my doctor’s office for a 20 week sonogram and walked out completely bereft.
Our baby was gone.
After a few days of labor, I delivered our precious little boy, Elijah.
Stillbirth has shown me what it means to be held, both by the Lord and by precious friends and family.
I’ve found that I wasn’t that far off in my efforts because it’s not really rocket science. It starts with being a good friend.
1. Say Something.
Say anything. I know we live in an era of “What not to say” lists, but honestly, I’m over it. I don’t want anyone walking on eggshells around me.
People are becoming so concerned about the right thing that they say nothing at all. It leaves a grieving mother feeling incredibly alone.
Miscarriage can be such a silent pain. Your friend needs that loss acknowledged, even if your words are inadequate.
For us, our loss was more obvious because I was visibly pregnant and now I’m visibly not. Yet many people still avoid discussing it altogether, and it hurts. And then I’ve had plenty of people say the “wrong” things to me, but I’m just glad they cared enough to say something.
You might worry about reminding her of her loss when she’s doing so well, but trust me, she’s thinking about it. More than anything, she longs to talk.
Do avoid empty platitudes and please be compassionate. But say something.
What do you say? A simple hug, “How have you been?” or “I’ve been praying for you” are all good places to start. You can find suggestions on announcing a new pregnancy here.
2. Call the baby by his name.
She won’t hear her child’s name on awards night or graduation day. If you can be one of the few people who speaks her child’s name, you’ll bring a little bit of joy to her every time you say it.
Look for opportunities to use his name instead of “the baby.”
I had someone call my baby an “it”once, and that stung a little. But see point #1? I was just glad she said something.
Something is always better than nothing when it comes to caring for a grieving person.
3. Act, don’t just offer.
Grieving people don’t always know what they need, so blanket offers to help can be fruitless. What if she’s interrupting you at a bad time? How would the logistics work of child care?
She doesn’t have the mental energy to figure it all out, so get specific. Tell her you’re coming over to clean her house. She can choose between Monday morning or Tuesday afternoon.
What does she need? A meal, maybe even an extra for the freezer.
Help out with child care, especially for follow up appointments.
Get creative like my friends did, since we moved out of state last year. They sent flowers, cards, chocolates, gift cards, and books. Some made donations in Elijah’s name, and women who have lost babies too mailed books to me that comforted them.
4. Remember the important dates.
Try to keep up with her due date, date of loss, and remember her on holidays like Christmas and Mother’s Day. Send a card or even just a text to let her know you’re thinking about her and praying for her today.
I like to buy a small Christmas ornament for the baby so that the family can have something tangible for him on their tree. It’s also a sweet way to remind your friend that you remember too, and that you miss the baby that should be there, celebrating his first Christmas.
5. Check in on her, even months later.
I have a friend who texts me every week or two with one question: How can I pray for you this week?
Others simply text or call just to check in. This is the kind of support that can be a lifeline for her especially if grief or depression become oppressive.
You’ll never fix her pain, but you can help share her grief load. And that’s what real, authentic friendship is all about.
If you’ve lost a baby, what made you feel supported the most ?
Gabrielle Daigle is a former English teacher and mom of 4. She loves crawfish, Jesus, and Jane Austen books, though not necessarily in that order. She writes about motherhood and homeschooling at MamaGab.net.
The last two are the most critical, imo. Months, years later everyone has seemingly forgotten that your little one ever existed. I have a Mollie Bear with 2 buttons to represent our 2 lost littles. It’s nice to have a tangible representation of their memory (especially since, in a fit of grief, I threw away all my ultrasounds from my second miscarriage). A friend of mine has a necklace in memory of her’s.
I am so very sorry for your loss of your sweet baby Elijah. I have had 3 losses and I think your suggestions are right on the mark.
Perfect advice, Gabrielle. I am so sorry for your loss. I lost a baby in July, as well, at 11 weeks. Never something you can truly understand unless you’ve been through it. Writing about it has been very helpful for me. I hope it is for you, too. Praying for your family’s continued comfort!
Lisa @ This Pilgrim Life
I definitely agree with the first point. There were many people who never said anything, and it hurt a little feeling like I wished they would have. Reminding people that they are praying for you is a comfort, because the prayers are so important and it is an acknowledgment that they haven’t forgotten.
And checking in months later is important too. We lost our son in July and are approaching his due date in a little over a month. Yesterday was really rough because I got an email about a sale on receiving blankets and the reality hit me that I should be shopping for newborn things right now. I’m not, but I haven’t forgotten or “moved on” either, and hearing people talk about James is helpful.
Thank you for sharing in the midst of your grief Gabby. I know it’s helpful and a blessing to many.
My prayers will be for you and your little Elijah tonight and onward. Im very sorry you lost your little one. In my 29th week the dr told me our youngest son had died. After 12 hours of induced labor I was threatened with a csection, I just couldn’t bear the thought of recovering from another csection without the bundle of joy to speed recovery. It was Good Friday, I got home on Easter Sunday and mum suggested I join the usual large family gathering. I sat quietly in the corner just watching until my sisters asked what the problem was. After explaining, saved for me to do, I got one too many comments of, ” it’s just like having your period”. That ‘period’ weighed 5lbs his name is B. Michael, I bled, in tears in the tub so no one could hear me, for five months. I don’t think I’ve forgiven them now that I write this. I will pray for that too. Maybe sometimes just a hug is best.
“…we walked into my doctor’s office for a 20 week sonogram and walked out completely bereft
Our baby was gone.
After a few days of labor, I delivered our precious little boy, Elijah.”
We experienced this very same thing….excited about going to see our 20 week baby at the u/s appointment and having our excitement shatter at the news that our baby had died….
we delivered our son, Elijah Joseph, a few days later (Feb. 19, 2009). I am so sorry you have had to walk down this road. May you feel the great comfort and care of the Lord through the loss of your precious son, Elijah.
– See more at: https://thehumbledhomemaker.com/2015/09/supporting-friend-pregnancy-loss.html#sthash.1Ru7CIEL.dpuf
For me it has been 31 years and six months. I have had four more children and grandbaby seven is on the way… Life continues.
I look forward to meeting my child one day…
I think the thing that helped the most was being allowed to refer to my baby as a person and not miscarriage. I was in the second trimester. She was a part of our lives. Just being allow to feel and not suppress.
We will always have that space even if years have made it an unspoken topic.
I am so sorry for all of you dear mothers who have had stillborn children! May each of you find peace and comfort in the promises of God.
I have a question, though. What if they don’t tell you about their loss? I have had multiple family members have early miscarriages, and did not tell me. I found out through someone else, or found out months later. If they don’t acknowledge it, should I? I feel bad saying nothing, but they didn’t want people to know, so it’s as if they don’t want it talked about. I know some people who acknowledge miscarriages and say things like, “I have 4 children…3 with us and 1 in heaven.” But others, including my own sisters, didn’t want people to know. Any thoughts from anyone?
That’s definitely a tough situation. When my husband and I lost our first, Noah, we didn’t tell anyone. No one knew we were pregnant. I thought it would be easier if no one knew. I had seen other women walk this path and I had seen the pain inflicted by people’s words and I didn’t want to deal with that. But not telling people brought it’s own troubles. Miscarriage is a very lonely experience and when no one knows it’s even lonelier.
You may not have found out from the person directly, but you know, and I personally feel that people have a responsibility once they know something. Think how that person might feel if later one they found out that you knew but never said anything. It may seem as though you didn’t care.
I could be totally wrong and people may not agree with me. But I know for me I would have wanted the people who found out about Noah to have said something to me. If you do choose to do that jut be gentle. You could send a card or flowers telling her you are thinking of her and praying for her.
I completely agree with Lanae’s advice. Occasionally, I’ve learned about miscarriages from other people instead of from the person directly. In those situations, I try to find a moment to let the mom know that she’s in my prayers. Something simple like “I heard about your baby and I’m praying for you.” This actually happened recently for me. While on a retreat, I learned that a woman I was rooming with also had a stillbirth. I wrote a brief card and dropped it into her suitcase before she left. But she found it, and we ended up in tears, hugging in our cabin while we packed up to go home.
Don’t let her decision to handle things privately keep you from supporting her. I’m sure she needs you, whether she realizes it or not.
Dearest Mommies – I really needed this help today. I am friends with two grandmom’s whose daughters recently lost their babies, one at 39 weeks, one in the first trimester. I needed to hear what you said, I will use the babies’ names and let the mommies know I know. I am so sad for them and cradle them in my heart. Thank you for being brave and selfless enough to share your private feelings hoping to help another. You have. And I will remember you too.
I am so sorry for her loss!!!
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