Pregnancy loss is one of the hardest experiences to watch a loved one endure. Even after I experienced my own loss, I often felt powerless to ease the suffering of my loved ones that entered the darkness of pregnancy loss. But the reality is that your loved one doesn’t need you to take their suffering.
They just need you to be with them.
We were mostly surrounded with people that allowed us to grieve without attempting to fix it. But we did have people that love us and mean well that didn’t know how to respond and made the experience a little harder.
I’ve decided to write for the ones watching someone else experience a pregnancy loss. Because it is hard. It is hard to see someone, whether it is a loved one or an acquaintance, in the midst of unresolvable grief. But here are a few tips to help you sit with someone- or just not hurt them more.
It is not your job to fix their pain.
The desire to make someone feel better when they are suffering often comes from a place of love. But attempting to fix the pain of someone who has experienced pregnancy loss is impossible. When you attempt to fix it or try to make it better in some way, most of the time, this is hurtful and confusing for the person suffering.
Whether you are trying to support someone you know and love well or an acquaintance, please do not try to fix them. They need to grieve. Allow them the space and time to do that.
Ask what they need.
Instead of fixing their pain or attempting to help them “move on”, it is okay to ask them how they need to be supported. They may not know right away.
Not everyone grieves the same. I needed to tell my story, talk about my emotions and my loss. Many people I know don’t need to talk, but they need silent space to process and grieve. Sometimes they need alone time.
No matter how well you know someone, you do not know exactly how they need to grieve this loss unless you ask them.
Don’t use platitudes.
The most maddening thing was hearing platitudes that provided no comfort to me but allowed the person “supporting” me to move on.
This varied from sayings like “all things happen in God’s timing” to “everything happens for a reason” to “at least you know you can get pregnant”.
As much as it pains me as a lover of Jesus, sometimes platitudes included Scriptures. Scriptures that were shared with me were meant as encouragement, but they often focused on focusing on the good instead of letting my pain be present. There is a time for that, but it is not immediately. Listen for their hurt.
If you can’t sit with them, help them find someone else that can.
It is absolutely okay to recognize that you are not the person to be with someone while they grieve pregnancy loss OR recognize that you don’t know what to say.
Naming your experience is better than saying something empty. Simply saying “I don’t know what to say” or “I would love to help you find someone to talk with”.
And again, simply asking how you can help them or what they need is a kind way to support and love someone in grief.
If you don’t know how to be with your loved one in the grief, or even if you do, recommend they visit Glory Babies, a monthly support group for pregnancy loss. Or recommend a therapist or spiritual director to help them sit with their unanswerable questions and raw emotions.
Look for acts of service.
When people at my church found out about our pregnancy loss, they voluntarily brought dinner. They came and prayed. They called and texted and wrote letters. I even had offers to clean my toilets!
If the mama you know has other kids, offer to take the kids for a few hours so she can have space to grieve or just breathe. Take dinner, take dessert, offer to clean house, take mom and dad to coffee.
Because there are biases for the way men feel and handle their emotions, dads are often overlooked in this grief process. I beg you, don’t forget dad. Most likely on top of experiencing his own grief, he’s trying to figure out how to support his partner.
Even though I lost my baby early in my pregnancy and now have a precious son, I never want to forget that little life. I do not want the people around me to forget that life. Precious ones in my life gave me jewelry to commemorate the baby I’ll never know. One of the elders at my church had marked my due date in his phone, so when the time came, he came to me near my due date and told me he had been praying for me. Even though I was pregnant, he acknowledged that the grief was still present.
If the parents want to remember their pregnancy and their child, remembering due dates or anniversary dates of the loss bring deep meaning and healing to grieving hearts.
There is no wrong way to love someone in this time, but there are ways that can be more helpful than others, to those who are already suffering.
Above all else, if I had one thing to say to anyone wanting to support someone in a time of pregnancy loss, please allow them space for their grief—grief without a timetable. Allow them to feel the anger—anger about their loss, hurt in their hearts. There are comparisons and jealousy—why me? Why not them?
Whatever emotions arise, be present for them. This is the truest way to show love and to take care of a loved one’s heart.