The loss of a preborn child is deeply felt by a parent, but the resulting grief can be misunderstood by society. Some believe loss is something a parent should quickly get over and move on from — or simply try for another baby. But the loss of a child at any age — including a child in the womb (through miscarriage, an ectopic pregnancy, or a stillbirth) — is devastating for parents, and the loss is real and painful. Some mothers and couples have suffered repeated pregnancy losses and wonder if they will ever carry a baby to term.
While many may feel there’s no way for them to offer help to these bereaved mothers (and fathers), finding ways to offer support is the best thing anyone can do.
Listen. One of the most important things you can do for a friend who has suffered the loss of a preborn child or infant is to listen. She needs someone she can share her true emotions with, someone who understands that she is in pain, someone who doesn’t try to make it better, and who has patience with her as she tries to move forward.
Speak cautiously. There will be times when you want to offer comfort through words, but be careful with what you say. Encourage her to cry or yell if she needs to do so. Refrain from minimizing her loss or telling her that she can “try again” for another child, as no child can replace the one she has lost. Let her know that you are there for her whenever she needs to express her grief.
Help with tasks. While she’s grieving, she may struggle with day-to-day tasks. Help her with laundry, groceries, meals, taking her other kids to school, getting her mail, or whatever need she has that you may notice. Eventually, she will want to do these things herself again, but there will be times when she needs you.
Say her child’s name. Acknowledge her child by saying her child’s name and talking about him or her. She doesn’t want her child to be forgotten and she wants to talk about him or her just like any mother would. Allow her to do that and let her know that you haven’t forgotten about her child’s existence. You might even consider giving a remembrance gift featuring her child’s name or birth stone.
Don’t exclude her. Don’t forget about her when it comes to events that you would normally invite her to. She may not be ready to be out in the world celebrating anything for a while, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ask. Even if she says no the first ten times, continue to invite her until she is ready.
Cry with her. When she cries, cry with her. Don’t hold back your emotions because she will be glad to know that someone else feels the pain of the loss of her child and has sympathy for her and her suffering.
Remember the anniversary. Send her flowers or a nice note on the anniversary of her child’s passing. That day will always be in her heart and she will be comforted to know that someone remembers.
When a woman suffers the loss of an infant or child in the womb, it can be hard for those who love her to know how to support her. But it isn’t complicated. What she needs is a friend who listens, doesn’t offer advice, cries with her, and finds ways to remember her baby and help her when she needs it.
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