Close to 30 per cent of pregnancies end in miscarriage, by one estimate. And yet so many mums and dads still suffer in silence. How do you support a friend or family member who has lost a baby? October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month, and in a powerful Reddit thread, people shared what you can really do to help.
You may be sincere when you say “Please let me know if there’s anything I can do to help,” but your offer puts the responsibility on the person suffering. Instead, letsmakeart writes, just get up and help.
The best advice I have gotten about helping a friend or family member through a hard time, like a loss, is not to ask them what they need but to just do it. It can be really hard for some people to accept help, or to even recognise/remember what they need help with. Don’t ask her if she needs anything, just be there and do it. Bring her groceries or a meal, come over and offer to clean while she takes a nap or watches a movie or something. If she has other kids - esp young ones who might not understand fully what is going on - go over and take them out somewhere for a few hours. If they are involved in activities like soccer or piano lessons, show up to drive them. There really isn’t anything that will ease the hurt of her situation, but you can ease the burden of everyday life as she deals with the hurt.
The pain is both emotional and physical, as YtrapEhtNioj shares.
I never considered the physical aspect of a pregnancy loss until it happened to me. I was losing blood, I was weak and in pain. Add to that the emotional toll. It was so hard. People brought by soup and easy meals to digest. I didn’t want anything fancy. The best was when someone brought by homemade chicken noodle with some soda crackers and cookies. It was so comforting. I could hardly care for myself at the time. I didn’t care much to eat but knew I had to. I certainly would not have made food like that for myself. It was nice to have it there for me when I was ready to eat.
Stop trying to help them make sense of it all
When you don’t know what to say, you might start asking questions or try to make them feel better with some positivity. This is not helpful. If they’re in a dark place, the only thing you can do is sit in that place with them. Writes 357Magnum:
And there is nothing that can really be done to make anyone feel better. Everything that everyone says doesn’t help. ... No one wants to be told that this is part of a grand plan. No one wants to be told that it could have been worse. No one wants to be told that it will all work out fine next time. No one wants to be asked what the plan is. No one wants to be asked if we have looked into adopting yet (we have - we’ve done and read literally anything that anyone can think of.) No one is going to tell us anything new or useful, so they just need to stop trying. The only thing that has ever felt good for us to hear is for people just to say “that sucks.” Just to acknowledge that it is terrible, and that it is OK to feel terrible about it. Because it just fucking sucks.
Know that some well-intentioned comments are not only unhelpful, but hurtful
F-f-fuckit explains why comments like “It wasn’t meant to be” are dismissive and triggering.
Our family has suffered from multiple miscarraiges as well and the dumb stuff people say in an effort to comfort and console never fails to stun me. “It wasn’t meant to be,” “it’s not really a loss more a disappointment at this stage,” “at least you’ve got one” were the ones that stuck with me.
“It wasn’t meant to be” is so hurtful (for me) because it dismisses the heartache you’re feeling and doesn’t offer anything remotely constructive. It’s not like a doctor coming at me and saying the pregnancy wasn’t viable due to X y and z. It’s about as empathetic as the phrase “shit happens” and when you’re talking about a much wanted child if that’s the best you can say you should have said nothing. When someone says that my emotional gut reaction is like “oh, was I not meant to be happy?”
If the baby had a name, say it aloud
Or at least write it in a card or text. It shows them you understand that the baby truly mattered. Kallynn1215 writes:
For me, the biggest thing, especially in the beginning was: how am I going to survive? Well, I’m still in pain. I’m still miserable. But there have been some times where I’ve laughed. Where I’ve thought about my baby and smiled. She was loved. She mattered. ... SHE MATTERED. She was here and she was real, and she was important.
Encourage people (if you can bear it) to use her name. To talk about her. Don’t let people pretend it didn’t happen. They don’t have to be afraid of talking about her. She’s your daughter. She always will be.
Be mindful of how you talk about pregnancy and kids in front of them
They don’t need to hear about how hard it is to avoid sushi for nine months or how your baby’s noisy grunts keep you up at night. RancidLemons explains:
A co-worker of mine suffered two or three miscarriages. Shortly after the most recent, her sister-in-law got pregnant. Her sister-in-law spent her entire pregnancy bitching about how miserable she was being pregnant, how sick she felt, how she wished it could all be over already...
Don’t do that. It’s not to say “don’t complain” but be mindful of who you’re complaining to. There are people who’d give anything to feel morning sickness.
The same goes for sharing your own pregnancy news
Don’t let them find out on social media because it’s “easier”. Writes byakuyabankai:
Speak to her face to face if you can. Explain the fact that you’re pregnant and wanted to tell her face to face instead of her finding out randomly via facebook.
Explain you’re empathetic to her feelings and don’t want to hurt her which is why you feel you have to tell her.
Don’t forget about the dads
They need a space to talk, cry and get angry, too. As byakuyabankai explains:
I do tend to find that a lot of the time dad’s are forgotten in the whole childloss process. People will always ask how my wife is when it gets close to anniversaries and not ask how I am too.
I would love to tell you about some of the comments I have got but I don’t think its appropriate to tell as they weren’t very nice lol. But everyone acts differently.
I think as males we are expected to suck it up and get on with stuff, we are there to take care of our partners while they grieve then we grieve in silence. I was lucky in the fact my partner ensured this didn’t happen, she is still my rock when I am having a tough time as I am hers too. We both lost a child, not just one of us.
The high of learning your wife is pregnant, especially for the first time, could never reach the depths of the despair that tears you apart when you learn she will miscarry. But that is just the beginning.
You don’t get to decide how much pain they should feel, or how long they should grieve
The sting may lessen over time, but as jonnyg112 shares, the loss will always be real.
... it doesn’t matter how far along she was, that was her baby. She had all the hopes and dreams in the world for it and now she’s in mourning. It’s a loss she’ll never be able to forget or get over.
The best way to support her is to treat this like any family member has passed. She needs a shoulder to cry on, someone not to judge her as she blames herself and most importantly someone to just listen and understand as best as they can.