Wisdom: What advice do you have for friends and family wanting to help a loved one who has experienced the death of their pregnancy/baby/child?
Don’t leave them to grieve on their own. I know one of the common phrases when someone is going through a stressful time is to give them space, but if everyone is giving someone solace, they end up alone. And feeling alone & lonely is the last thing you need on top of grief. Admittedly it’s a fine line, I know when I’m grieving strongly, my emotional energy levels are low and socialising is tiring and hard work, but there are ways of ensuring someone doesn’t feel alone without overwhelming them. Just a quick text or email, with no expectation of a response (make that clear when you contact them), even a letter or card, or drop off some baking, a meal, send flowers, buy a plant in memory of their loss. Suggest going for a walk together, keep inviting them to events, but always make it clear you understand if they can’t make it. Ask them what kind of social events they can cope with, or like, or want. And ask again later….people’s needs, wants, coping strategies etc change over time, and not in a linear fashion. Ask what situations are hard. Don’t assume that cos they look like they’re coping they’re doing ok….struggle doesn’t have a look. Think about when and how you ask someone how they’re doing…..if I’ve turned up at someone’s place for a catch up & as part of the greetings they ask how I’m doing I’m likely to say I’m ok, or fine…..but if you wait til I’m settled in with a cuppa or whatever, feeling more comfortable, & the ask how I’m doing, or how I’m coping, I might be more open and actually talk about….it depends on the day and how I’m feeling, I might be out for distractions and not want to think about it, in which case I’ll brush over it, but I also might feel like talking or more connection, in which case I’ll probably be more honest. Take the decision making out of things, the cognitive impact of grief shouldn’t be underestimated. If someone is grieving it’s probably taking all their brain power and head space to get through each day……if you say “let me know when you want to catch up” & leave the ball in their court, they have to think about suggesting a catch up, deciding when they’re up for it, when and where etc….lots of decisions…..if instead you say ” how about a coffee on such n such a day” they just have to think about yes or no…..much easier when your brain is struggling.
Also while to you it might feel like ages ago, and the person experiencing loss might look like they’re “over it”, but it’s also possible they’re faking it, cos society has the, feeling like they should be over it, and for them it quite possibly feels like yesterday, so keep checking in. I know for me, that for at least until the due date of the pregnancy I just lost, I’m always aware of how pregnant I should have been…..I’d already imagine these months, and now I’m having to live them in a totally different way. Things like birthdays and Christmas’s are always going to be tricky…..good times to check in. Or even just acknowledge that you’re aware it might be tricky for them, it might not be, but at least then they know it’s ok if it is tough.
And from my understandings of humans, we all just want to be heard and know our experiences are valid.