I remember scrolling instagram and discovering that yet another one of my good friends had lost a pregnancy. It left me breathless. How was it fair that I was holding my happy, healthy one-year-old son while her arms remained empty?
The sad fact is 15% of pregnancies will end in miscarriage, and 24,000 babies will be born stillbirth.* Our sisters, friends, and neighbors have suffered through it. Our co-workers and acquaintances have cried themselves to sleep because of it. Perhaps, even you have felt the grief of infant loss.
Everything in my heart wanted to stand with my friend- to support her, to let her know that she didn’t stand alone.
But I froze. What could I offer her?
The truth is, I didn’t know.
There is an innate desire to show compassion and empathy for our sisters when they are grieving, especially when our hearts have been touched by our own baby’s hands. If you’re like me, you often find yourself wanting to help, but standing on the sidelines, frozen with a desire to be supportive.
I was done standing on the sidelines.
I finally reached out to my friends and asked how they were best supported during their time of infant loss. The sheer number of women that responded to my request honestly shocked me. They were my cousins, my companions, my church friends, and my neighbors. Many of these women were my close friends and had never announced publicly that they experienced loss. Yet here they were, showing up.
They left me with sacred words of wisdom and hope that I know can inspire everyone.
The following suggestions include direct quotes from some of my loved ones:
“They said [my baby’s] name”
There are many babies that pass away with names given to them by their parents. A very simple but powerful way to keep their spirit alive is by remembering their names. Refer to them by name. Include them in a list with their siblings. Remember their birthday and celebrate it. A great suggestion is to give a piece of jewelry or a momento with their baby’s initial.
“Don’t ask “what can I do?” Instead give two or three options of things you are willing to do for [her]”
Think of how many times you have said “let me know how I can help.” Now, think of how many times someone has actually taken you up on it. The sad reality is most people don’t like to inconvenience their loved ones, even when they are in need. I love the suggestion of offering a couple of suggestions for them to choose from. Avoid phrases like “let me know if you need anything” and instead say “Would you rather I watch your kids this afternoon or pick up some groceries for you?”
Give the gift of a potted plant
I had a sweet friend relay the story of her stillborn that passed away tragically, and she mentioned that someone had gifted her a potted plant. She said the gift was particularly meaningful because “as everything else began to die the rose bush remained alive. Even now it is planted at my parents’ old house. It somehow became so meaningful to me to have something stay alive.”
I love the idea of giving a symbol of life and beauty to a grieving family. Perhaps instead of sending flowers, opt instead to write a purposeful card with a potted plant that your friend can nurture into something beautiful.
Offer to pay for a photography session
A sweet family member of mine experienced infant loss and a local photographer donated her time and talent to capture pictures of their baby. My loved one said “I will cherish those pictures forever.”
This may not be an option for mothers who experience miscarriage, but photography can be a way to capture a moment in time- and give the family a way to recognize growth in the future. It is a very sacred and personal gift, so exercise discernment when gifting this, and listen to your heart to know if it would be a good fit for your loved one.
“Offer to watch her children”
This suggestion was mentioned earlier, but it is simple and effective. Think of all the places your friend needs to be and (doesn’t need to be.) There could be a long list of doctors appointments. Perhaps she hasn’t had a moment alone with her husband. Maybe they wish to connect with God at a church service. By watching her kids, you are giving her time to grieve without having to deal with a lot of the pressures and burdens. Time is a precious gift.
“I needed a listening ear and for others to check in and remember me.”
This was by far the most common suggestion. It is easy to be intimidated that you will say the wrong thing during a conversation. I think that’s why a lot of us just decide to avoid the subject at all. But by doing so, it often isolates our friends. Show up for your friends and instead of talking- listen! If she feels like talking about it, she will. If listening means sitting in silence while she cries- do it.
One of my friends told me, “I just wanted to feel heard, to have my feelings validated.” How important is that? Because miscarriage is often a taboo subject, women often feel alone while experiencing it and it can cause a lot of emotional and physical trauma. We can be of great support to women by hearing them. It’s okay to be upset about loss. It’s okay to feel angry. Acknowledge their emotions.
Another one of my friends said “I [had] one person offer to come sit with me while I waited for my husband to get home from work so I wasn’t alone.” That comment made me a little emotional. What a sweet gesture.The power sometimes doesn’t come from the wise words or the sage advice. Most of the time it comes in the company. It really is the simple things.
Miscarriage and infant loss are very personal experiences. Everybody grieves and processes differently. These suggestions are meant to aid you in giving support, but please remember that only you know your loved one. Some women need company. Others need space. Listen to your gut and if it comes with a pure intention, know that your best will always be enough.
If your gut is yearning to help- do it. It’s so easy to feel intimidated by a situation you don’t understand. I know. I’ve been there. I hope this has been helpful in giving you ideas and inspiration to take action. If you take anything from this article, please let it be this: show up. Take inspiration from religious leader, Thomas Monson and “never postpone a prompting.” Don’t ever question a good gesture. If it’s a good thing, and your intentions come from a pure desire to lighten the load, do it. Be there, support her, and mourn with her. You got this, mama.
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