The picture above is a badge made by the wonderful people at Faces of Loss, Faces of Hope for their I Am The Face campaign. October 15th is National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day and the goal of the I Am The Face campaign is to try and take away the taboo and shame that goes along with a pregnancy loss. People don't like to talk about it and they don't know how to talk to or support someone going through it plus so many women never tell anyone that they are experiencing a loss because they are embarrassed. Either way, the grieving Mother usually ends up feeling isolated and alone and the I Am The Face campaign is trying to change that. If you check out their website, you will see that they have the faces of 2,000 women that have experienced this kind of loss, representing the 2,000 people that this happens to every day in the United States alone. I am face # 406.
Since it is October 15th, I wanted to post something about what to do if you know someone that going through miscarriage/stillborn/infant loss. I have read a lot of articles about this, talked to a lot of women in my support group and gotten their suggestions and just sat and thought about my own experience. These suggestions are a combination of ideas from those sources.
Before I get into my What to do/What not to do lists, I want to say something about support. Supporting someone is not always the easiest thing to do. A woman going through this might seem like they don't want your support/need your support...they do. They might not even realize it themselves. They probably do not want your advice. They definitely don't want you to explain why this happened. They might not even want to talk about it at all. But it is better for you to do something rather than nothing. A card, e-mail, or text message saying simply that you are thinking of them goes such a long way. You might not get a response because they might not be ready to respond. Giving a grieving Mother support is not always easy or convenient. They may seem "unapproachable" which makes giving support that much more difficult. If you care about them and their pain, go out of your way for them. They appreciate it even if they don't show it at the time. That being said, here is my what to do/what not to do lists that I complied from my own thoughts, suggestions from my support group and some great articles.
What To Do
- Say "I'm sorry for your loss."
- Let her talk about it as much as she needs to
- Let her NOT talk about it as much as she needs to
- Set a specific date/time to see/support her. She may not be emotionally capable of reaching out to you so you need to reach out to her.
- If the couple has other children, offer to help out with them
- Cook them a meal and drop it off. Comfort food is always a good thing.
- Let them feel how they feel for as long as they want. Be tolerant of them. Intolerance of their pain from loved ones is sometimes worse than the pain itself.
-On the same note as above, ask them how they are doing a month, 2 months, 6 months later. The pain doesn't go away when the bleeding stops.
- Give something that can act as a memorial. Be careful with flowers because some find it painful to watch them die. A plant that can be planted in the yard and blooms every year is a great idea though.
- Say something kind to them on Mother's Day, the Estimated Due Date of the baby, and the Anniversary of the loss. These milestones are hard, even years later.
What Not To Do
- Do not say any of the following: "It was God's plan, It was for the best, Everything happens for a reason." These cliches are not comforting. You do not need to explain away why this happened. "I'm sorry for your loss and I'm thinking about you" is much much more supportive and comforting.
- Do not ask if they are going to adopt now
- Do not say "You are still young."
- Do not say "It was early, it wasn't a baby yet." I know that seems OBVIOUS but to some it isn't.
- Do not say that you know how she feels. Even if you have experienced a loss yourself.
- Do not say "so-and-so had a miscarriage and she's pregnant now."
- Don't not talk about it and do not avoid her.
- Don't talk about her with others in your family or mutual friends. By that I mean, don't have conversations when she is not around that consist of "so-and-so is still depressed...she needs to get over it" and "so-and-so is so unapproachable now." It WILL get back to her and it WILL hurt. Badly.
- Do not try to cheer her up. Doing this may feel like you are not acknowledging her grief.
- Do not say "At least you know you can get pregnant."
I hope that reading this helps those who have a loved one going through this kind of loss to support them and to those that are going through a loss, I hope reading this helps you to realize that your feelings are valid and that you are not alone. Our society wants to sweep pregnancy loss under the rug and make it a hush hush topic that no one ever talks about but by doing that, we are making the aftermath of the loss so much worse for grieving parents. I think we can all agree that no one wants that.
Some articles to refer to: