A few months after we lost our first baby, a friend sent me a private message on Facebook, asking my advice about how to encourage another friend of hers who had just suffered a miscarriage. “I’m sorry if this isn’t an appropriate question,” she wrote, “[but] I’m curious as to what were the most encouraging things other people did for you.”
It was absolutely an appropriate question, and I was so glad she asked! One of the biggest reasons Brett and I chose to be open about our loss was so we could help and encourage others going through the same thing.
Miscarriage is far more common than you might think – the estimate is that 1 in 4 women experience pregnancy loss. So the chances are high that, at some point in your life, someone you know will go through this tragedy. My hope in this blog post is to give you a few simple, sound suggestions for how to help when a friend tells you, “I lost my baby.”
1. Recognize that she’s in pain, and realize it’s a big deal that she shared it with you.
Many, many, many women suffer miscarriage very early in their pregnancy, often around 6 or 8 weeks pregnant. If they had not announced their good news yet, often they will keep the miscarriage quiet, too, grieving in silence. There is a sort of stigma around early pregnancy and miscarriage, in which our culture tells us we should “keep it a secret.“ That’s a topic for another day, but suffice it to say, if your friend opens up and shares her loss,
realize that is a big deal, and it took a lot of courage.
You also need to realize that your friend is in pain. If you haven’t experienced this type of loss yourself, you may not understand grieving for a baby you never knew, a baby who was no bigger than a pumpkin seed. But to your friend, it was her baby. She is a mother. She loved that little pumpkin seed from the moment she saw those two lines on the pregnancy test. And she is absolutely going through every stage of the grieving process.
2. Don’t avoid her. Even if it’s awkward.
In the days and weeks following my miscarriage, there were quite a few people who felt uncomfortable around me and didn’t know what to do or say, so they simply avoided me. Maybe they assumed I wouldn’t want to be bothered. I don’t know, but the avoidance hurt. It felt like they didn’t care, or like maybe they thought I was contagious or something.
So the people who braved the awkwardness were so incredibly encouraging. I’m sure it was uncomfortable for them, but pushing beyond their own comfort zone, they came to ask me how I was doing, to hug me, to cry with me, to keep inviting me to things even though I kept saying no.
I know it’s awkward and you don’t know what to say. But please, don’t avoid her. She needs you right now.
3. Know what NOT to say.
Some of the things people frequently say to a grieving mom really are just not helpful at all. There are several articles around the internet that highlight what not to say, so I won’t take the time to repeat. This post and this one are two good ones to check out. Trust me – I heard many of these platitudes and more, and they’re much better left unsaid!
4. Put yourself in her shoes, and reach out to encourage.
If you were in her place, what would you need or want from your friends? What would be comforting and encouraging?
People reached out to me in different ways. Some were unafraid to take the risk of asking me how I was feeling. Others simply offered silent hugs or hand squeezes. A few friends crafted a beautiful handmade card and left it at my front door. One friend came over and brought me a stack of chick flicks, knowing I wouldn’t feel like getting out much for a few days. Several people sent cards in the mail. Like I mentioned above, some would invite me to join game nights or hikes or trips to town, and even though I said no for a while, it was really nice to know I wasn’t forgotten.
5. Keep remembering and keep talking.
Knowing that people care is huge after a miscarriage, and even more so in the weeks and months following. I can tell you from personal experience that, after a while, the bereaved mom will feel like she is the only person in the world who still thinks about her baby. She will feel like everyone else has moved on and forgotten, like life continued on as if nothing ever happened. Occasionally, she will feel guilty or embarrassed that she still thinks about her baby so often. She may feel pressured from other people around her to “get over it.“
This is when your friend needs to know that you remember, and you care. A hugely
encouraging moment for me was receiving this text from one of my best friends:
“I just wanted to tell you that you’ve been on my mind today. I know this month would have been baby’s due date month, and I want you to know I’m praying for you!” I also received several cards and messages from people on Mother’s Day, acknowledging that I’m a mom even though I don’t have a baby on earth.
You bringing up your friend’s baby is not going to make her suddenly remember her loss and get sad. Believe me, her baby is never far from her mind; you aren’t going to remind her of something she’s forgotten. On the contrary, you talking about her baby will mean the world to her! It’s just good to know that someone else remembers and cares.
Have you had the opportunity to encourage someone after a loss? How did it go or what did you learn from it?
Mamas who have lost babies – what else would you add to this list? What has someone done for you that was especially encouraging?