According to March of Dimes , about 10-15 percent of recognized pregnancies will end in a miscarriage. That’s a devastating statistic and yet, it wasn’t until my husband and I experienced miscarriages ourselves, did we suddenly become aware of how confusing it was for those around us to support us.
It’s understandably difficult to know what to say to someone who never gets to hold their baby. The fear of saying or doing the wrong thing often keeps people from saying anything at all, leaving the grieving family left alone to navigate the painful waters. It shouldn’t be that way.
Here are some tips to help a family member or friend going through the loss of their child.
- Send a card or flowers. Confirm that their loss is real, their grief valid, and that you are sorry for their loss. Chip in with friends to send a bouquet of flowers or leave some at their front door. Long-lasting plants, like orchids or bonsai trees are great ways to stretch the sentiment. Written words of sympathy and encouragement go a long way.
- Be there. Listen if they want to talk or cry, scream or laugh. Sit with them in the silence or distract them with movies, stories or time out of the house. Don’t freak out at their sorrow or be afraid to enter into it with them. Share that you’re there whenever they want to talk and don’t push them. It may take some time.
- Bring food. Drop off dinner at their door. Take initiative. Instead of “Let me know if you need anything," tell them “I am bringing you dinner. What day is better, Tuesday or Thursday?” Cooking and eating is the farthest thing from their minds, yet incredibly important. If you can’t cook, send a gift card. Use containers they don’t need to worry about returning. They may not want to see anyone so a doorstep drop-off should always be offered.
- Ask the important dates and make note of them. Tenderly ask them the baby’s due date when the time is right and make note of it in your calendar. Follow up around that time and let them know you are thinking of them. A card, text or Facebook message goes a long way.
- Remember Mother’s and Father’s Day. These days are incredibly painful. They are parents, even though they don’t have a child to hold on earth and chances are they feel abandoned and forgotten on these days. Reaching out to them will make them feel remembered and loved.
- Give them time while still acknowledging their sorrow. Pick up your phone and send a simple “Thinking of you, no need to reply” texts. Let them know you care. Share encouraging songs, bible verses or words of comfort without the pressure for them to engage if they aren’t up to it.
- Treat this like any other death. Acknowledge their loss when you hear about it. You may be afraid you will say the wrong thing, but the worst thing you can say is nothing or minimize their loss. The best thing to say is “I am so sorry this happened to you.” Try to avoid statements like “You’ll get over it,” “Everything happens for a reason,” “Heaven needed another angel,” or “There’s always next time, this is really common.” If you have been in their shoes, share that. Letting them know you have been there too and it sucks makes the grief less isolating.
- Help them take care of themselves. Put together a care package with something to cuddle, like a teddy bear or soft blanket. If you can gift a pedicure or massage, do so. Small goodies like bath salts, wine, magazines, or chocolates let them know they are cared for.
- Remember that grief lasts longer than a week. Check in with your friend a few weeks later. A month later. Several months later. Grief is cyclical. There will be constant triggers. Holidays, birthdays, watching someone else carry out their pregnancy with a similar due date. Keep caring when it’s not convenient.
- Pray for them .Their hearts are shattered and it will take time for them to process. Encourage them to keep the faith and when they can’t, you will for them.
Miscarriage. March of Dimes. Accessed April 19, 2016. http://www.marchofdimes.org/complications/miscarriage.aspx#