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How to support a loved one through miscarriage or loss

Young woman comforting depressed friend at sofa

Today is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. Though the pain of losing a child is ever-present, today is a day set apart to allow grieving families to come together to find support and love, from each other, and their loved ones. Oft times it is difficult to know how to reach out and support those of your family and friends who are suffering such a loss. It’s hard to know what to say and how to act in a manner that will be helpful and healing. Here are five ways that you can support a loved one through a miscarriage or the loss of a child:

Be prepared to talk about baby.
Truly listening to your loved one’s experience about his/her baby can be healing. Let the person speak about baby, baby’s name and what they are feeling. Validate and acknowledge all who are affected. (For instance, you can ask how your friend and her partner are feeling.) You don’t necessarily need to verbally respond, but make eye contact and be fully engaged in the conversation. You don’t have to provide answers or try to “fix” the problem; sometimes all that’s needed is a good listener.

Don’t minimize their grief.
A loss of a child is devastating no matter how far along in a pregnancy you are. So please don’t fall into the platitudes of “well, at least you were only _ weeks along,” or, “at least you have can have another baby.” Just … no. To my shame, years ago I said something similar to a dear family member after her miscarriage, and immediately regretted it. I could tell I had hurt her, even though I had been trying to help her feel better. My intentions may have been good, but my execution was not. I’ve learned my lesson. A simple, but sincere “I am so sorry for your loss” goes a long way.

Encourage the expression of emotions, and emphasize that these reactions are normal.
By allowing your friend to work through feelings of sadness, anger, guilt and frustration, the process of grief and healing occurs. When appropriate, encourage communication, and understand that there isn’t a timeline for grief. It is an individualized experience that will vary from person-to-person.

Respect and remember anniversaries.
Some people have a difficult time when the date of the loss, due date, or other milestone date comes around. Be aware of these dates, and allow your loved one to grieve. If you feel it’s appropriate, acknowledge these anniversaries with a card or token of remembrance. Even a text or an email that says, “I’m thinking about you today,” can be helpful and healing.

Love them!
A dear friend of mine, who has unfortunately experienced more than her fair share of loss, said this to me, “all I ever wanted was for people to love me when I wasn’t very lovable.” Stick with your friend or family member, even if they push you away. Let them know you will be there for them, no matter what. When the times comes that they need you, be there. Whether it’s a call in the middle of the night or just a hug, your presence and love will be felt.

– Contributed by Lauren Soderberg

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Kathryn

Thank you so much for writing this! I lost my daughter in 2014 from unsafe sleeping conditions due to child neglect in her child care center. I lost a lot of friends because they avoided me afterwards. I guess they thought loss was contagious. These are great tips for everyone…including spouses. Now that I’ve had my son, the only way I can sleep is the use of our Owlet! It is so amazing. Thank you for helping bereaved parents sleep.