Supporting a Friend After a Miscarriage
My husband and I are a member of a club that no one wants to be apart of. It's a rather secretive club, because not many talk about their membership. We lost our first child. I miscarried our sweet surprise. I'm not going to go into details. This story, like everyone's story who has lost a child, is sacred. And I want to focus on something else today.
I decided to share this post nearly six years after our loss due to the loss of a friend of a friend. My friend reached out to asking how to support the bereaved. Because of the deeply personal nature of pregnancy loss, it is often kept quite. When people do share the people who should be a wonderful source of help suck at responding.
I cannot blame them. We suck at responding to death in general. I'm a Bereavement Coordinator for a Pediatric Hospice. Believe me...our whole society is just awful at responding to child loss. It's almost like people think it's contagious. And peoples' varying understandings and feelings towards an unborn child? Well that just makes people say stupid things...or run and hide.
I shared my pregnancy with very few people. Those nearest and dearest to my husband and me knew. And they tried to share in our loss. One dear friend said something so simple to me; "I hate this. I wish I could be there." Others were more at a loss and said some pretty unhelpful and even hurtful things. And I do not blame them at all.
What I learned was that the pain is continual and changing. It simmers after awhile. Then things bring it back up. The first twelve weeks of my second and third pregnancies were excruciating. Seeing other kiddos that are the same age of my first can be fine or can be a gut shot
All of this is a round about way of saying that when someone shares their loss with you, it is a moment in which you can be an amazing source of peace or another weight. Its also is to say, that everyone is different in how the grieve.
Here's what I wish people would know about how to be a source of peace:
Talk! But mind your words.
You're not going to know what to say. That's fine. You're going to be nervous. That's fine too. Please just say something. It can be as simple as "I'm sorry." But radio silence is hurtful. Also, please avoid cliches or large statements of faith or destiny unless you are echoing sentiments that the bereaved has already expressed. I know that hearing "it wasn't in God's plan" made me want to hurl or punch someone. I understood this comment was based on someone trying to rationalize what happened, their own pain, and to put it in the perspective of our shared faith. But no. Please just no.
Offer tangible support...or even just give it without asking.
I encourage that if you are looking to support someone who has lost a child, be there. Drop by with coffee, even if she doesn't want you to stay. Watch her kiddos while she lays in bed or goes for a walk. If she gets pregnant again, ask her how she's holding up. Saying, "please let me know if you need anything" is nice. But it puts the person in the situation to think of what kind of help she needs. It makes her rethink even asking and weigh the burden it will put on the helper. I've found its better to say, "I'd love to stop by with dinner. Is tomorrow or Thursday better for you?" Or buy a bottle of wine and doorbell ditch. You may not be sure you can keep your shit together while visiting. If you don't think you can, it might be better to take the silent strike approach.
Please be patient.
Months on, we might still be in a fog. We might still have days where all we can do it get out of bed. We may neglect our friendships to an unreasonable point. Please don't stop trying. It takes time to get yourself moving again. And it takes even more time to have the energy to return to all of what life looked like before. In some ways, having fun and doing things you love seems disloyal. It can be emotionally draining to be happy and then feel guilty about being happy. Please keep asking. And please don't take it personally when we say no.
Remember with us.
I would have been 36 weeks pregnant with our son while being a bridesmaid for a dear friend's wedding. The dress was bought with my pregnant belly in mind. One of my sweet friends, also a bridesmaid, pulled me aside and asked me how I was doing when she saw me staring at that damn dress. She simply said that she didn't know what it felt like, but she was sure it sucked. And she was sad with me. She remembered what should have been and was willing to talk about my baby. That moment meant the world to me.
If you know that your friend has named her child, talk about him or her by name. Consider calling or dropping by coffee on your friend's due date. Remembering important dates speak volumes to us.
I found these cards by Dr. Jessica Zuker. I cannot speak highly enough of them. There is a different moment in my grief process where I would have been so thankful to receive each of them. I hope that I will be able to support others with these sediments if anyone else confides in me their membership in the world's crappiest club.