How to Support a Friend Grieving Pregnancy and Infant Loss

Helping a Friend Grieve the Loss of her Baby #grief #pregnancy #neonatal #perinatal

October 15th is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. To all of you grieving your own baby or wanting to support a friend or family member, I’m sending you a virtual hug. Experiencing neonatal loss was one of the hardest things I’ve been through. Grief is always hard no matter the type of loss. Pregnancy and infant loss presents us with some unique challenges as our babies lives were so short.

For more information about my personal story and coping with pregnancy and infant loss, please listen to my interview with Dr. Christina Hibbert on Motherhood Web Talk Radio.

 

How to Support a Friend Grieving Pregnancy or Infant Loss

Things that help:

  1. Mention my baby’s name. This simple act means so much to a mom who rarely hears her child’s name spoken. Yes, it may bring tears to her eyes, but I guarantee it will also make her heart sing to know you remember her precious child by name.
  2. Let me know you haven’t forgotten. A call or card on anniversaries, holidays, or October 15th (Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day) means a lot. Sadly, after a couple of weeks the rest of world has returned to normal and those grieving are now alone.
  3. Don’t take it personally if I don’t return your calls. There will be times when I just can’t muster the energy or find the words. It’s not personal. In fact, your effort is sincerely appreciated even though I’m emotionally not in a place to let you know.
  4. Be patient. I will not be back to normal in weeks or even months. Understand that healing is a long process. Don’t give up on me or judge me because I haven’t healed according to your time table.
  5. Sit with me, allow me to cry or rage (or feel whatever feelings I have). You don’t have to know the right things to say. Your presence is comforting.
  6. Help me with practical stuff, but don’t wait to be asked. Offer to help with a specific tasks like a meal, an errand, or babysitting my living children. Many well-meaning friends simply say, “let me know if you need anything”. Chances are I’ll never ask even though I really need the help.

 

I know that everyone means well. You aim to help, but sometimes say or do the wrong thing. We are extra sensitive while grieving and easily feel hurt or slighted by your missteps. I hope these suggestions can help.

Things that don’t help:

  1. Minimizing my loss. Comments like “you were only 6 weeks along” or “better it happened now” or “it wasn’t meant to be” minimize my loss. These comments
  2. Suggesting my child is replaceable. Another baby will not heal my heart. This was a real, wanted, and unique baby. And don’t assume I can have another baby. Sometimes it isn’t possible.
  3. Saying nothing. Please don’t ignore my loss. If you don’t know what to say, offer a hug or simply say, “I don’t know what to say”.

I wish you well on your healing journey. Please remember, there is hope and healing. I know because I’ve lived it.

 

Additional Resources:

Dr. Christina Hibbert

Still Standing Magazine

Remembering Our Babies October 15th

MISS Foundation

March of Dimes

Compassionate Friends

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Sharon Martin, a licensed counselor and psychotherapist in the San Jose area, specializes in helping adult children of alcoholics and others who struggle with anxiety, perfectionism, and self-criticism. She has a private psychotherapy practice in CA where she is available for online counseling. Sharon is also the author of The CBT Workbook for Perfectionism and write the blog Conquering Codependency for Psychology Today.

2 Comments

  1. There are some really good suggestions here for counseling a friend who has lost a child in pregnancy. I’m surprised that mentioning a baby’s name makes it better I thought it would make it worse because it is a reminder. Hopefully I never have to use these tips but if I do I want to be ready. I’ll keep this in mind for the future, thank you.

    • Thanks for reading, Patricia. What a great comment/question. Yes, mentioning a baby’s name (or the name of anyone who’s passed away) can bring sadness and/or tears but also tremendous comfort in knowing the baby is remembered.

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