What to do/say when a friend experiences loss {infant loss/miscarriage}

Do you know Julie?
I’m sad if you don’t.
I’m so blessed to call her my friend.
When she volunteered to write the final post for this series…she went above and beyond.
She wrote a post on her own blog asking her readers about their own experiences.
119 comments.
She printed them all out.
25 pages worth.
And wrote this post…a post that must have been so hard to write.
A post that I pray helps others for years to come.

When tragedy and loss occur to those we love, it is so difficult to know exactly what to do.

The fear of doing or saying the wrong thing often keeps us from helping those who are in need of us the most.

It is my hope that you can take a few things from this list to better equip you to be a comfort in time of loss.

It’s not easy.  It’s scary.  In fact it is downright messy.  But you will never know how much your effort, strength, and presence can mean in a time of grief.

Reading through the beautiful comments on this post, some reoccurring themes were woven throughout.

It is my hearts desire to give them justice, to honor them, to give practical action steps. I encourage you to take time to read through the beautiful and real stories to better understand the hearts of grieving parents.

1.  Don’t try to offer an explanation.  Don’t attempt to “fix” them.

Bad things happen in our world.  Simple reasons don’t make those bad things hurt any less.  Most often there is no reason.  Explanations discount and negate grief.  They don’t bring back what was lost, or suddenly make the grieving parent think “well, I guess it was worth it then…”

They miss their child.  Words and platitudes won’t change that.

“I suggest letting the parents talk about the baby.  I suggest they say the baby’s name.  It is sweet balm to hear others talk of my baby. Listen, listen, listen.  No advice! Hugs & ears.  That is all you need.”

2.  Be there when it is difficult.

It will be difficult.  It will be overwhelming.  Do not stay away because you feel like you have nothing to offer, or you aren’t strong enough.  Your presence alone is enough, and you never know your strength until you test it.  Show up.   Don’t feel like you need to be prepared or equipped.  Meet them at the hospital, the funeral home.  Support often means action.  Cry with them.  Sit in silence with them.  Listen to them.  Be there for them.

“..my cousin sent me a very simple card she made… one piece of card stock, in her own handwriting, it said “I am here to listen to you.” and then in the corner she wrote her work phone number… even though I have those numbers… that was five years ago and I still carry that card with me.”

“A friend of mine called me and said “I’m here, no matter what. To listen, to cry, to laugh, to get yelled at if it makes you feel better. You name it, I’m here” That meant a lot and truly helped me through.”

3. Remember due dates and birthdays.

This one is a big one.  Often people are afraid to acknowledge dates for fear that the parent will be reminded or upset.  The thing is, the parents need no reminding.  The dates are always there.  Always looming.  Even years and years down the line.  Your remembering will be comforting, not harming.  Get out your calendar.  Mark down birth dates, death dates, due dates.  Send a simple “thinking of you” card. Make a quick phone call.  Do not be afraid to use the baby’s name.  You will be a little light in a very dark day for them.

“I think one of the most important things we can say to a woman who has lost a baby is that it is OK to be sad.  For a really long time.  That you will miss the baby always and that you are allowed to.  Supposed to.  A year later, ask her how she is doing and let her know that you still care.  It will help so much.”

“When a dear friend lost her baby mid pregnancy, I called another friend who had the same experience, and asked what would be the best thing to do… her response was to remember her due date in a special way.  She had one friend who remembered and sent her a very sweet card on that day… she said it meant the world to her that someone else remembered the date that was cemented in her head (you know how we all new moms get about their due dates… it is THE day!)… months after her miscarriage, someone else was thinking about them still, praying for all the continued healing and blessings…”

4.  Continue to check in.

Right after a loss everyone wants to help.  Everyone is thinking about the grieving family.  But as time moves on, life moves on.  Sadly, grief is not so quick to also move on.  It settles in deeply often at the same time that support begins to wane.  This is when it is so very important to keep checking in.  Keep calling.  Keep showing up.  Grief does not follow any tidy timeline.  Often it settles in for much longer than others might feel is appropriate.  It is a long and painful journey, made better with continual support from loving friends and family.

“Remembering is huge and meaningful. Giving advice is not. Let us cry, rant, grieve, whatever it takes and love us anyway. Think about how situations with new babies may bring up raw emotions and feelings. Don’t dismiss the hurt. Hug, check in, pray, and care…don’t try to fix things just be there.”

5.  Don’t compare.

Everyone has a story.  Some much worse than others.  But in the midst of loss, the only story that matters is their own story.  Being told of worse stories minimizes loss and pain.  Keep comparisons to yourself.

“I hated hearing things like “don’t worry, you will get pregnant again” or “I had ____ many miscarriages and look now I have healthy kids”. I was never concerned with that. I just lost my baby. I wanted THAT baby. The death was what I wanted mourned not the pregnancy.

The best thing said, was nothing. I had a friend come over and offer to just sit with me. We sat in silence, eating icecream. In that moment, I felt like my world wasn’t ending.”

6.  Do something.

Often people grappling with loss and grief cannot articulate what they need.  Basic daily tasks often seem impossible.  This is when you need to just show up.  Just do something.  Organize meals.  Clean their house.  Wash their laundry.  Take care of their children.  Take over yard work.  Take them out to the movies.  Send them off for a weekend getaway. Look for a need and step in an meet that need.

my third pregnancy was a miscarriage. i was devastated. a few days after coming home from the hospital my friend jenny came over and looked at me on the couch. i could not move. i could not bear to get up. she took my children to play….she cooked….she did the dishes….and i laid there thinking “get up! don’t let her do that for you” get UP!!” but i physically could not. i was so broken. i couldn’t even talk. so i laid there and realized what a wonderful friend she was. she did what i could not. she didn’t make me talk. or wait until i asked her to help. she just got to work doing mom stuff. and she didn’t even have children yet! she just did what was needed. i have loved that moment in my memories for 11 years. she was awesome that day.”

Those friends and family who just showed up and held us, made meals for us, sat with us and cried with us… those are the things I will never forget. We didn’t have to ask for anything or for anyone to come.. they just did! Asking a person who just lost a child what you can do to help is kind of a silly question. To be honest we don’t know what you can do to help because at that moment we feel so helpless ourselves. Just being there and giving love is so important. My husband and I would never of made it five months without the love and support of our family and friends. Be their rock and love them like you have never loved before!”

“In a time of loss, people often ask what they can do to help.  I find that it’s often hard to ask people for help, even when they offer.  So instead of asking, just do!  Bring over food, flowers, show up and help.  Be there for people.  And acknowledge that there are no words for comfort, other than I’m sorry, I love you, I’m here.”

7.  A simple “I’m so sorry.” goes a long way.

When words fail, actions fall short, know that a simple “I am so very sorry.” is often the only small bit of comfort that you can offer.  It might be the support that they need to get through the next minute, hour or day.  Similar phrases like I am thinking of you, I am hurting for you, I am here for you can be helpful too.

“I think the most important thing is to be sensitive to , and respect how the parents want to grieve.  Just because something helped me, it doesn’t mean it will help them.  Support them in their grief… sometimes that just means saying “I am so sorry, I wish I could help take some of this pain away for you.” and then being available.”

****

I have loved this series.

It’s been a difficult series.

So much pain, and yet, so much hope.

I hope it’s been good for you too.

If you’d like, you are welcome to share your story here.  So many beautiful hearts shared in one space.

Our fundraiser benefitting the Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep Foundation is nearing its end.

If you’ve been meaning to give and haven’t, please consider doing it now.

Providing a tangible reminder of a very real child to parents crying the ugliest of cries…I truly cannot think of a gift more precious.

The work of NILMDTS photographers is important.

The Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep Foundation (NILMDTS) administers a network of more than 7,000 volunteer photographers in the United States and 25 countries. At a family’s request, a NILMDTS Affiliated Photographer will come to your hospital or hospice location and conduct a sensitive and private portrait session. The portraits are then professionally retouched and presented to the families on an archival DVD or CD that can be used to print portraits of their cherished baby.

Let’s help them in their mission to provide comfort.
(Fundraiser will close Sunday, June 5th).

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

jeannett
I'm a mom to four. A wife to one. I believe in story. I love telling you about mine and would love to hear yours. There's really no sense in wasting our suffering and not sharing in each other's joy. We're all in this together...even if it doesn't always feel like it.
jeannett

Comments

  1. 1

    Saw this in my Twitter newsfeed and clicked to read it. I love this post. I love Julie. I love Jeannett. This series is so heart-breaking and so comforting all at once. I miss my babies everyday.

  2. 2

    Molly Piper also has an excellent list in her sidebar of what to do for grieving moms, in case you were looking for more (but they are all along the same lines as this great list).

    (I am too lazy to cut’n’paste the link to her blog. This is a new low for me.)

  3. 3
    Merced Wright says:

    Thank you so much for your series on Infant loss/miscarriage. I somehow found the blog, Joy’s Hope and then somehow found your blog through it… either way, I stayed up an read every one of the posts from the series. It blessed my heart so tremendously. There are times when I feel alone in my sadness and it was so helpful to hear other women share their pain and their stories. I loved that you saw this as an important series to do, because is it oh so important to us who are still grieving. I also LOVE that you are doing a fundraiser for NILMDTS I have been blessed by their ministry personally. I lost one baby at 8 wks and my other baby Liyah Mercy at 21 weeks :(

    Thank you again.

  4. 4

    Thank you Julie. Thank you Jeanett. It is difficult to even comment on a post like this, but I want you both to know how grateful I am for you pouring yourselves out into this. Thank you.
    AshleyAnn´s last blog post ..Summer Fun super heros- nature parks &amp water fights

  5. 5

    jeannett, thank you! i cannot even describe how rich this series has been to me.
    this post finishes it perfectly-thank you, Julie, for sharing.
    god is so faithful to us, praise him. can’t wait to see my babies again! xoxo

    Habakkuk 3:17-19
    Though the fig tree should not blossom,
    nor fruit be on the vines,
    the produce of the olive fail
    and the fields yield no food,
    the flock be cut off from the fold
    and there be no herd in the stalls,
    yet I will rejoice in the Lord;
    I will take joy in the God of my salvation.
    God, the Lord, is my strength;
    he makes my feet like the deer’s;
    he makes me tread on my high places.

    Psalm 57:7
    My heart is steadfast, O God,
    my heart is steadfast!
    I will sing and make melody!
    hannah´s last blog post ..five holla

  6. 6

    I’m a fellow babyloss mama and want to thank you for putting your heart in to this like you have. I just linked to it from my blog (and used your quote from Joy’s Hope) and think it’s a great equipping tool for anyone who wants to learn how to love and minster to their loved ones better in their darkest times. I wish this series didn’t have to exist, and that this list never needed to be compiled….so it makes me long even more deeply for the full redemption we will have in the face of Jesus in the Kingdom of God!!!
    carrie´s last blog post ..I will have sympathy as long as you have grief

  7. 7

    so beautifully said.
    i hate that anyone has to go through it.
    thankful that God can handle how big our pain and sorrow can be.
    meg duerksen´s last blog post ..the summer list

  8. 8

    sweet Joy has forever touched each of our hearts. thank you Julie for this beautiful post. I wish I had it posted on our front door during our hard times…
    ingrid´s last blog post ..sunshine

  9. 9

    Have you read the book Holding On To Hope by Nancy Guthrie? It’s her own journey of loss and healing, and full of wisdom – including what to say to someone who has lost a child. I found it so comforting. She also has a “One Year” book by a similar title.
    Thank you for your series. It’s so sad that there are so many of us – but what a testimony all these stories are to God’s love and faithfulness, and to His ability to bring beauty out of ashes.

  10. 10

    Great post!! I agree 100& with everything. Along with the remembering due dates and birthdays I would say send a Mommy’s Day Card. Mommy’s Day is especially difficult when your tummy was full but your arms are empty.
    Cheryl@SomewhatCrunchy´s last blog post ..This Weeek- Lows and Highs – Weight Loss and Savvy Blogging

  11. 11

    This article is so wonderful. I am so glad I found this. So many of us angel moms hold in our true feelings, at least I know I still struggle with that a year later, I just wish I could scream it out to my friends/family…Just be there for me…please!!!! I am posting this on my blog, and I pray that this article helps so many. Losing a child is nothing anyone could ever prepare you for, whether you’re the parent or a loved one, its a pain like none other, an unspoken hurt that pierces through the heart. It’s important for family and friends to be there as much as they can, I try my hardest to be there for my friends who have gone thru this same loss, just because I know how alone I felt in those first few weeks and months, and even sometimes now. Tre, Mommy can’t wait to hold you again one day!!!
    Stephanie´s last blog post ..What to do and say when a friend loses a baby

  12. 12

    sweet and helpful words. thank you for writing this, Julie. and for posting it, Jeannette. may the Lord continue to comfort and uphold those of us who have experienced loss.

  13. 13

    Very good post. The one thing to remember is that the father/husband lost a child too! And if there are siblings, that they lost a brother/sister. I find most often, speaking from personal experience, that most people pamper and console the mothers but the father is often left out. As my husband always says “I lost my son too! He wasn’t just your child, he was mine! WE lost a baby!” And my oldest son will tell you that he has a brother in Heaven so when someone asks how many kids we have he gladly says 3 with one in mommy’s belly! He says “We have me, one up there(and points to Heaven) and Landry!” He is very proud to let the world know that his baby brother is in Heaven. So please just remember to not only think about the mother but the other family members as well. My mom took it just as hard as I did. She says that she not only has to grieve for the loss of her grandson, but she grieves for the hurt that I am going through.
    Thanks for a great post and keep up the good work! All too often pregnancy/infant loss is a taboo subject and nobody ever wants to talk about it!

  14. 14

    My husband and I serve as NILMDTS photographers so we get thrust into these situations with families who are usually complete strangers. But I’ve also had friends and relatives who have experienced this kind of loss; I appreciate a post from someone who has been there to help the rest of us figure out how to help rather than hurt.

    Blessings to you.

  15. 15

    You cuodln\’t pay me to ignore these posts!

  16. 16

    Loss is something that’s hard to forget. Good thing you listed some tips on how to deal with it. A true friend is someone who will comfort you when you loss something or someone. And you are one of them. :)
    Kelly Patterson´s last blog post ..EcoTools & Earth Month – The Living Beautifully Community

Trackbacks

  1. [...] What to do or say: by life rearranged [...]