Long-awaited pregnancies can bring immense joy to expecting parents.
But when one faces a miscarriage, the feelings of loss can be tough to cope with. Whether it’s a loss at three months or a miscarriage at six months, it’s indeed an incident to grief over. It can be even more challenging as a bystander if one does not know how to approach the situation.
If you have a friend or a close relative going through such an unfortunate situation recently, read on.
#1: Keep it simple
In a situation where someone you know has lost a baby, the most effective way to communicate is to keep your sentiments brief and straightforward.
Lengthy messages can be emotionally taxing for people who have just experienced a tremendous loss, even if the messages intended to provide comfort. Simple statements such as, “we are here for you if you need to talk” or “we are thinking of you, and your family” are easy to process, sincere, and meaningful.
#2: Acknowledge the reality
Losing a baby causes tremendous, deep-rooted grief. When a person mourns a lost baby, it is crucial to understand that there is no replacement for the baby that they bore.
While no single prayer or conversation can ease their grief instantly, we mustn’t simply pull away from reality. Yes, it might be difficult and awkward to talk about it. However, acknowledging the miscarriage and being present with a grieving friend can provide a safe space for them to talk about their loss openly.
“When you bring a healthy baby home from the hospital, everyone wants to come over and see the baby and talk about the baby. When your baby dies, people don’t want to come (to) visit; they don’t want to talk about your baby — and that hurts. I wish people didn’t assume we didn’t want to talk about her,” shared a mum who lost her daughter at six months.
#3: Read the room
This is a time to be sensitive, and one way to do that is to read the room. Whatever situation you find yourself in, it is okay to follow the parents’ lead.
Listen to their tone and the language they use, then try to mirror their chosen words and phrases in your conversation. If the parents are referring to their baby by name, follow suit. If they are using another term, such as “our baby”, follow their preference.
For those holding on to religious or spiritual beliefs, listen and subtly acknowledge their thoughts even if you may disagree. This is not the time to share your views, start preaching to them on what you trust or oppose the bereaved’s feelings.
#4: Allow silence
Know that there may not always be the right words for a mother who has lost a precious child. If you do not know what to say, keep silent.
Gossip, meaningless chatter, over excessive verbal sympathies may sometimes do more harm than good. Everyone grieves differently, and as a bystander, simply being present and tolerating silence can make a massive difference to the affected parties.
With that said, do avoid such phrases:
- It’s meant to be.
- This is all God’s will.
- Maybe it’s for the best.
- He/she is in a better place.
- Everything happens for a reason.
#5: Present open-ended offers
It can be hard to know what to offer to someone who has lost a baby. Sometimes, we might try to guess what they need out of goodwill and miss the mark completely.
Thus, sometimes it may work if you ask them directly. An open-ended question is best. For example, “What can I do to help you?” or “Is there anything you need?” is an excellent way to open a direct line of communication.
Another way to make an open-ended offer is to volunteer for a specific task that might need to be done. If they have a young child to take care of, offer to babysit them after school so they can get some quiet time. Or you could also help pick up their groceries from the supermarket or even share a dish for dinner.
#6: Check-in regularly
A psychologist shared in her book that it can take a few years for a mother to conclude the episode of her baby’s death.
Since no one person is wired in the same way, different individuals may get over the intense grief at various periods. If there’s something you can do, it is to check in regularly with them. Make it a habit to listen rather than just comfort whether you’re on the phone or seeing them face-to-face.
Being available to listen, especially when paired with an acknowledgement of what happened, can be a powerful way to help someone who is processing the loss of their baby.
Facing a miscarriage is a heartbreak no one can understand unless they’ve been through it before. Even so, it can be very different between mothers who carry their own stories and pregnancy histories.
More often than not, well-intended words and phrases offered as comfort may come across as belittling, downplaying, or simply just unhelpful. Heed the advice given above if you know not where to start, but if you’re too afraid, then sometimes just being silent but physically available can be an appropriate way to approach a friend who has lost a precious one.