Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month is particularly difficult for me and the many others out there who have experienced this type of loss.
Once I went public with my experience with recurrent pregnancy loss, I heard from countless friends and acquaintances who had been through similar experiences. It made me realize that it was possible I had said something hurtful to one of them in the past. For those who know they are pregnant, the loss rate is up to 15%, but it often feels like our pain to bear alone.
Grief is unique, layered, and not at all linear. There is no one-size-fits-all solution for those going through this kind of loss. But if someone trusts you by sharing their loss with you, here are some things to consider:
Never, EVER, start with “at least”
Anyone who has navigated any kind of infertility journey knows “at least” is the worst phrase in the English language: “At least it was early.” “At least you can get pregnant.” “At least you have another child.” These all hurt deeply and completely invalidate the real grief the person is feeling.
Avoid offering unsolicited advice
Everyone wants to help — to do something. This desire leads people to throw out tips and tricks they’ve learned somewhere. But suggestions about what to do or avoid are problematic in two ways. One, this assumes the person who is hurting wants a solution — but they are likely still in the depths of grief. And two, these suggestions lead the person with the loss to wonder if they had done X, Y, or Z, maybe their loss wouldn’t have happened? This can add to the blame and shame already felt.
Similar to giving advice, it is natural to want to relate and connect with someone when they share something personal. It can be easy to share about a loss of yours or of someone you know. The intention here is good, but it can depersonalize this person’s particular circumstances. Listening is best.
Acknowledge important dates
If someone has shared with you things like an expected due date, a future life moment they were anticipating, or the date they found out the pregnancy was no longer viable, put those in your calendar and remember them. Acknowledgment from friends on the dates we think only we will remember is incredibly meaningful.
Food is representative of any daily life task that seems impossible to complete while grieving a loss. The best kinds are deliveries with no obligations. “Just left a casserole on your stoop. Love you.” Or “Cupcakes are on the way,” or “Gift card is in your email.”
Life becomes difficult after a loss — particularly things that are heavily child-focused, like baby showers, birthday parties, or holiday celebrations. Letting people down while protecting yourself was extremely difficult for me. Know that we love you and the kids in your life, but we need to preserve our well-being. Letting us off the hook in advance helps, too!
Remove the pressure
We want to know you’re thinking of us, but we may not have the energy to respond. Sending messages that include “no need to respond” or “just checking in” are the kinds of things that let us know you think our loss is valid and you know grief can swallow a person up sometimes.
Consider a customized token
There are many beautiful items available in online stores like Etsy that memorialize a loss, including necklaces, blankets, and stuffed animals. Consider what type of item the person you’re supporting might appreciate the most.
Treat them like they lost a sibling or parent
When someone loses a person in their life who is very close to them, we know what to do, right? We show up, we bring food, we buy flowers, we take care of errands, etc. But for some reason, when it is pregnancy loss, we forget. When people ask me what to do when someone they know goes through this, this is the biggest piece of advice I give.
Don’t forget the partners
While someone may have physically gone through a loss and that impacts them in a very particular way, their partner is also grieving. And they are trying to figure out how to support their partner as well. Think about sending a text or connecting with them to show your love.