There are few experiences in life that make us feel more helpless than the death of a child or baby. If you have a friend who is going through a miscarriage, stillbirth, or other pregnancy loss, you might be wondering what, if any, role you have in her life right now.
While there is nothing anyone can do to make a pregnancy loss go away or be “easy,” there are some things you can do to be a good friend and bring some comfort to your friend.
How You Might Feel as a Friend
Loss is an emotional experience. As a friend, you may thinking you don’t “deserve” to feel upset by your friend’s loss, or that you need to control your feelings around your friend so as not to “make it worse” for her. In truth, the opposite is true. Many grieving parents report taking great comfort in knowing the life of their baby mattered to someone one other than themselves.
Culturally, we tend to feel awkward or uncomfortable around death. No one seems to know what to say or do for bereaved friends. Don’t be afraid to express your feelings to your friend. Cry with her, laugh with her when she’s ready. Imagine how openly you would celebrate with your friend over the birth of her child. It’s OK to share sadness just as openly.
As time passes, it can seem difficult to maintain a friendship as it once was. Many friends tend to withdraw from grieving parents, feeling too overwhelmed by the discomfort of wondering what to say or do. You may even get cues from your grieving friends that they need time and space to grieve privately. But eventually, bereaved parents wonder what happened to their friends and can feel even more isolated than ever.
Grief may be hard to watch, and hard to survive, but if your friendship is important to you, try to find a way to keep up your end of the relationship.
What to Say/What Not to Say
You can find a lot of suggestions and specifics in the articles What to Say and What Not to Say here on the site. However, there are a few key pieces of advice that come from parents who have been there.
- Say the Name. Your friends see their baby is a real person. If they’ve given their baby a name, use it when you talk. Hearing it out loud can mean everything to parents.
- Keep talking about it. Your friend doesn’t need to talk about it just for the day of her pregnancy loss, or just a week. She needs to talk about it as long as it takes for her to integrate the experience into her life, and sometimes after that, too. It may get hard to keep hearing about a subject that makes you feel uncomfortable or helpless, but it will get easier and your friend will start to talk about other things as time goes on.
- Unless your friend initiates talk about God, it’s generally best to steer clear of talk about God’s plan or her baby being an angel. Some parents struggle with faith after losing a child, and can be angered or upset by the idea that God is responsible for their loss. If faith is important to your friend, she will work through it and you can certainly offer to pray for her and/or with her as she makes peace with her loss and her faith.
What to Do
Get educated. Find out what type of loss your friend had and do some quick reading so you can understand what she’s talking about. There are plenty of resources right here at this site to learn the basics. Then, don’t be afraid to ask questions. Part of integrating an experience is talking through it, sometimes more than once.
Listen! This is probably the most important thing you can do. When you ask how she’s doing, mean it and be prepared to really listen to the answer. Never be afraid to ask what you can do, what she needs, or any other questions you might have. If your friend understands she can talk to you about anything, you’ll have done more for her than almost anything else you could think of to do.
Take Action. We’ve all done it. In difficult times, we all say, “Call if you need anything.” How many times do people take you up on that? Have you ever taken someone up on that? When everyone says it, it loses meaning. Instead, it’s best to offer up something concrete. “I’d like to bring you dinner on Thursday, does that work for you?” Not only does it let you help your friend without her needing to ask, it takes the pressure off her to figure out which thing she might need help with.
Grieving moms aren’t thinking very clearly at first, and it can be hard to remember even the smallest household task, much less work up the energy to make a phone call. Try showing up unannounced and telling your friend you’re going to do her laundry. She might be embarrassed at first, but she’ll be touched by your help in the end.
Remember. One thing bereaved parents say over and over again is that it seems like everyone else forgets their child after a while. Eventually, your friend’s pregnancy loss won’t be the only thing on her mind, and eventually it will seem like her life has essentially returned to normal. That doesn’t mean she’s forgotten, though, and certain times of the year will be that much harder. Make note of important dates, like your friend’s due date and the anniversary of her pregnancy loss. Whether you just give her an extra hug those days or send a card, your actions will mean the world to her.
Resources for Friends
If you’re looking for information about a specific topic, you might find what you’re looking for in the list below.
- What Can Friends and Family Do for a Woman After a Miscarriage?
- 5 Things to Know Before You Talk to Someone Who Has Had a Miscarriage
- Should I Encourage My Friend to Talk About Her Loss?
- What to Do If Your Friend Miscarries While You Are Pregnant
- What’s an Appropriate Christmas Gift for a Friend Who Has Had a Miscarriage?
- Gift Ideas for Someone Who Has Had a Pregnancy Loss
- When Miscarriage Grief Becomes Depression