Written by Arden Cartrette, Certified Birth & Bereavement Doula and Trauma-Informed Support Provider
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 a difficult time. While pregnancy loss is relatively common, it's still isolating for those going through it. One element of isolation is a lack of acknowledgment, validation, or support from those around them.
Acknowledging a grieving friend's miscarriage is more than sharing your condolences or bringing by a meal the first few days after the loss happened. As a friend, there are supporting acts and services that you can take that will leave the grieving parent feeling heard and validated.
Five ways to support a friend or loved one through pregnancy loss may be continuously showing up, remembering important dates, listening when they speak of their loss, respecting boundaries, and sending a gift basket or flower arrangement.
Continuously Show Up
One of the most important things to do for someone you love is continuously showing up for them. Whether daily or weekly, you must check in with your loved one regularly. The act of "showing up" may look like sending a text message to check in, bringing by a meal, keeping the parents' company, or even offering childcare for their living children.
When someone experiences a death in the family, they are surrounded by friends and family for the first week or two. However, after the support falls off, people stop calling, checking in, or offering a hand, and it may make the bereaved parents feel isolated and alone in their grief. Continuously showing up for your loved one means that you provide support long after the miscarriage happens and help as they navigate what comes next.
Remember Important Dates (due dates, anniversaries, etc.)
Unless you've experienced pregnancy loss, you may not realize how important specific dates are for a bereaved parent. Following a loss, there are many days where the grief may feel heavier such as Mother's Day, Father's Day, religious holidays, and the due date of when the baby should have been born.
One thing you can do as a supportive person in the bereaved person's life is to mark these dates on your calendar and acknowledge them as they pass. A text message saying, "I know that today may be difficult, you're in my thoughts. I'm here to listen if you'd like to talk." goes a long way.
It may even be a conversation about handling holidays like Mother's/Father's Day because everyone has their triggers and sensitivities.
Just Listen and Let Them Speak About Their Loss
Listening isn't as simple as it seems, and as humans, we aren't great at not responding when someone else is speaking to us. However, listening is crucial to providing a safe environment when supporting someone after a loss such as a miscarriage, stillbirth, or infant loss. You may even invite them to share more about their story and 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 cry and discuss their loss with you. Their mental well-being is vital as they navigate grief, so don't be afraid to ask how they would best receive your support. Is it through listening or responding to relative stories?
Respect Their Boundaries Without Judgment
Bereaved parents don't all think alike or require the same level of support -- some may even have rigid boundaries that let you know what they need and when they need it. For example, emotional boundaries may look like asking to refrain from sending pregnancy-related news and content, not accepting unsolicited advice, muting accounts on social media, or declining invites to specific events.
Boundaries may also look like naming things they want you to do or say (or what not to say). Listen to their concerns and limitations, validate that you understand where they are coming from, and support them through difficult times.
Send A Meaningful Gift or Have Flowers Delivered
While many forms of support mentioned in this article are acts of kindness or empathy, traditional ideas such as gift baskets, sending meals, gift cards for meals, or sending flower arrangements are also great ways to support a grieving friend or family member.
An essential addition to sending an arrangement is adding a personal note with the delivery, but the support shouldn't end there.
It's important to know that showing support isn't just doing one thing on this list -- it will often include doing one or more of the ideas mentioned here for weeks and months following pregnancy loss. The fact that you're researching this topic and came across this article means that you genuinely care and want to give as much support to your loved one. Remember that they may carry emotional triggers and trauma following pregnancy loss, and with your help, they will be able to cope with feeling a little less alone.
Supporting a loved one, a friend, or family member through pregnancy loss or even infertility-related losses is a necessary act and one that leaves a lasting impression on their grief journey.