• Danielle Delomas

Support Through Loss

[F I V E ] Ways You Can Support a Friend Through Their Miscarriage, Stillbirth, or Infant Loss

{ It’s October, which brings us Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. As a mama to two rainbow babies and as a bereavement doula, this month holds a special place in my heart and in my work. All month I will be sharing pregnancy loss and infant loss information, stories, and resources. }

Several times a year I receive an email or phone call (through my work with Birthwaves) from a concerned friend or family member wondering how they can best support someone they love through a loss. No matter the stage of pregnancy or age of baby, the experience of losing a child is incredibly isolating and traumatic. We know that grief is not linear, everyone experiences it differently and everyone has a unique timeline for each stage of grief. Few things can bring comfort to someone experiencing the loss of a child, but there are a few actions you can take to make them feel less alone.

1. Carve out time to hold space for them. If you can be there in person, visit them. Do not put any expectations on this visit, force them into any activity, or require anything of them. A simple “can I come sit with you for a bit?” Is all that is needed. Remember that your presence is enough. However, if they need more, gI’ve it. Cry with them, let them talk (and simply listen), and hold their hand. If you cannot be there in person, be specific about the time you have made for them to talk or text:

“I cleared my calendar this afternoon. If you’d like to talk, I am here for you. If not, it’s okay, you are on my mind and I will make myself available when you are ready.”

This lets them know that they are not alone, you are thinking of them, but gives them the opportunity to decline if they are not ready to talk.

2. Do not be afraid to talk with them. Many times friends and family can make the mistake of assuming a grieving parent does not want any reminders of their pregnancy or baby. Do not assume this, simply ask them if they would like to talk about it. Ask them how they felt about the pregnancy or how they had already bonded with baby and listen while they share their thoughts. Follow their lead. If they use the baby’s name, use it too. If they don’t feel like talking, don’t push them. Remember, your presence is enough. Acknowledge important milestones like due dates and birthdays, they will likely be emotional on those days and will need extra support.

3. Validate their loss. As I stated above, no matter if the pregnancy ended at six weeks or their baby passed at six months, the loss your friend is feeling is extremely real and the emotional pain can be vey intense. Reassure them that they are still a parent, their feelings are valid, and that it is okay to grieve. Do not trivialize their pain ("it was only...") or try to put a silver lining on their loss ("at least..."). Instead, validate their pain and be supportive:

"I am so sorry this happened. I am so sad and am grieving with you."

4. Don’t forget partners. While partners will not be experiencing the same physical trauma as the expectant parent, they are absolutely still experiencing emotional trauma. Acknowledge that when you call or visit. Create space for them to share their pain and be a good listener. If needed, help them locate a support group in the area designed for fathers and partners.

5. Do ALL the things. It can be very difficult to ask for help, or to even know what you need help with, when you are grieving. Chances are a grieving parent will not ask for much, but will need a lot of support. The best way to support them physically is to offer specific suggestions of things you can do for them, or to simply perform a few small tasks without being asked. Help them with chores around the house (dishes, laundry, vacuuming, pet care) when you stop by. Bring a hot meal when you visit. Research bereavement support groups in your area and find an (in person or virtual) meeting for them. If they have kids, offer to take them for the afternoon so their parents can have some time alone. If they are planning a memorial, offer to make calls or organize flowers or food.

There you have it! Thank you for taking the time to read through my five ways you can help someone through a loss. This is not a comprehensive list, but a guide to help get you started as you prepare to support a friend or family member.

What was helpful for you during your loss? What do you wish had been done?

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