Do you know someone who has experienced the loss of a pregnancy or child? Initially, the purpose of this article was to help parents muddling through dark waters of miscarriage, but the reality is, losing an unborn baby is loss, and the same help is often encouraging when a friend has lost a loved one. Kidding Around’s Taryn has some ideas about how you can best assist those grieving in both intangible and tangible ways.
Intangible Help for Those Experiencing Loss
Validate Feelings: This is not the time to try to look on the bright side or encourage your friend. Do not encourage the person that “everything will work out” or “_______ is happier where they are now” as this glosses over the very real grief your friend feels. Grief is good and natural. When listening, use phrases like:
- “That is hard.”
- “I hear you and agree.”
Do not wish you could take away their pain. Their pain is all they have left of that person in the first days following loss. Most importantly here, however, is do not remain silent. While silence might seem the most helpful, it doesn’t acknowledge that you’re thinking of your friend in their valley. It should not be, “I don’t want to bring up pain”, but “I know you’re in pain, and I’m here to be with you in that pain.” Your friend is already in pain—the most hurtful thing you can do is not acknowledge it and pretend that life is normal.
Now is the time to send a brief message telling your friend, “I love you, and you are so important to me. I am ready to listen should you ever be thinking you need to talk to me. Please do not respond unless you are already thinking of speaking to me and no longer need space. Big hugs to you.”
And just be there in spirit. Every few days, you can check back in briefly. When you see your friend, don’t be afraid to ask, “What do you need today?” or “What is the hardest part of this goodbye?” Just listen, acknowledge, and offer tissues. Your friend doesn’t need a motivational speaker or counselor right now, but a nonjudgmental ear.
When a sibling, parent, or other loved one dies, we don’t think twice about using their name in conversation. The same should be true for a miscarriage. Call that baby by it’s given name if the parents had one already selected. Such a small gesture means that you understand the significance of that little life. That baby’s life was loved and imagined in that special name. If you aren’t sure, asking if the baby was given a name is also an appropriate and thoughtful question.
Mark Important Dates in your Future Calendars
One of the most appreciated gestures is to mark the date of loss in next year’s calendar and, if possible, include any other special dates (due date, birthdays, anniversaries, etc.). On those days, send your friend a message or a small gift to let them know that you remember their loved one (by name) and are thinking of your friend.
Tangible Help For Those Experiencing Loss
Tale as old as time here, but it works. So that your friend doesn’t end up with endless leftovers crammed into the fridge, bring freezer meals in ziplock bags that can be stored flat and used at their convenience. The last thing most grieving individuals want to do is make a messy kitchen or brainstorm nutritious meal options. Let’s make that easier for them. Alternatively, bring food gift cards or send them money online. That takes the mess and crockpot dishes right out of the mix! The obvious inclusion here is coffee shop beverages. Nothing warms the heart like a free drink—whether by gift card or delivery—so if finances for you are tighter, just send a favorite coffee or a $5 gift card.
If older children are part of the larger picture, taking them out for a couple of hours can provide your friend much-needed space. If complicated car seat transfers are involved, though, you can simply come over to supervise the kids so that your friend can lock up in their room and rest. Both are wonderfully hospitable and give the kids some one-on-one attention in all the upheaval.
This suggestion is fully dependent on your friend’s personality, but one gesture appreciated by those more extroverted is a friend coming over just to hang out. One mother I know visited a grieving mother bringing along her yoga mat and a new loose leaf tea. The two women simply did yoga together silently and then chatted over sipped tea. Sometimes, just being the safe friend in proximity is the most beautiful help a person can receive.
Give Meaningful Jewelry or Comfort Items
Find an Etsy shop whose style your friend would love and have a custom piece created. Dear Mushka is a popular jewelry site for just this occasion whose purpose is to send out beautiful pieces to customer-friends in need of a smile. Jewelry is a permanent gift that pays tribute both to grief and the lost one’s life, however long or short.
Blankets and loungewear are another helpful and comfortable option for those grieving. Choosing something with a special monogram or pattern would be extra special, but just the basic new warm throw can offer comfort to someone home and in need of some privacy.
Offer Specific Help
How many times have we used the phrase, “Let me know if you need anything?” We sure mean well, don’t we? But the reality is, the person probably will not have the energy or courage to ask for help. Instead, choose a task and ask what day you can complete it:
“What day can I come pick up your laundry? I’ll return in cleaned and folded the next day.”
Unless you can tell that your friend is honestly uncomfortable with someone helping in this capacity, be insistent if the initial offer is rejected.
I once had a friend who insisted she come over for just one hour to make beds, load the dishwasher, wipe down the bathroom, and transfer laundry around. She didn’t complete tasks the same way I did, but that didn’t matter. My life was less chaotic after she left, and she didn’t stay long enough that I felt like I needed to offer her anything.
Gift Quiet Activities
One thing you’ll read from those reeling from a loss is the need for distractions at home. If you know your friend well, a new book (not necessarily about grieving) can offer that. Other options are new crossword puzzles, word searches, magazines, jigsaw puzzles, or an adult coloring book with fine-tip markers included.
For kids, gift the family a children’s book focused on losing a love one. I Miss You: A First Look at Death is a beautifully presented text that covers not only miscarriage, but death in general. Parents have a hard enough time grappling with death on their own terms—this book can help them navigate the uncharted territory with their kids, too. You can buy it on several sites including Thrift Books.
Every individual personality will respond differently to the above suggestions, so use careful understanding to know how best to help your friend when they lose someone close to them.
Looking for support or just someone to talk to about your experience? Share Upstate is a local pregnancy loss support group that meets on the 3rd Tuesday of each month at St. Michael’s Lutheran Church from 7-8:30 pm. Both mothers and fathers are welcome to attend these meetings. Share Upstate also has a private Facebook group where people can receive online support.
No matter your time or financial availability, we at Kidding Around hope that this list helps you settle on useful ways to support a grieving friend.
Have some ideas to share? We’d love to hear them.