1 in 4 pregnancies ends in miscarriage or infant loss. Here are 4 ways to show your support after the loss of a child.
By Megan Kaye
Counseling Clinic Therapist
October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. One out of every four pregnancies ends in miscarriage or infant loss. This alarming statistic impacts moms and dads every day, and more than likely impacts someone in your life. Like most people, you may be struggling to find ways to support your friend or family member. What makes this loss even more difficult is that grieving parents often don’t know what they need or have the ability to ask for it if they do. But here’s the good news: helping your friend or family member may be easier than you think.
1.) Say Their Child’s Name
One of the best ways to help a grieving parent is to say their child’s name. It may seem awkward at first, but this kind gesture will help grieving parents know their child has not been forgotten. It could be as simple as saying “I was thinking about (child’s name) today. I bet you really miss him/her.” If the loss was earlier in the pregnancy and the child does not have a name, it will still be helpful to say you are thinking about their baby. Mentioning the baby’s name may bring tears to any grieving parent’s eyes, but please don’t be discouraged from offering this kindness again. Remembering their child with them is the best gift.
2.) Offer Specific Help
In the early days of grief, bereaved parents hopefully have people coming to show their support. Unfortunately, that support can fade quickly, and they are left with thoughts of “let me know if you need anything.” Expecting grieving parents to identify what they need, know who can fill that need, and summon up the energy to ask requires more effort than they have. Early in grief, parents have all they can do to face each day without their child. Instead, try offering something specific for your friend or loved one. Prepare meals, create a care package, walk the dog, or run errands. Even if the offer is declined, try again later. It’s possible you caught them at a bad time, but the effort will certainly not go unnoticed.
3.) Remember Important Dates
Keep track of due dates, birth dates, and loss dates. Those days are so special for a grieving parent, and they would appreciate it if they were special to you, too. Put those dates on your calendar so you don’t forget to reach out. Send a card or flowers, or perhaps donate to a special cause in their child’s name. Sometimes with grief, we think that those who are grieving just have to get through the “year of firsts,” and then it will get better. That couldn’t be further from the truth for grieving parents. They will not see their child for the rest of their life, but knowing they have people who remember their child with them is the best medicine for their broken heart.
4.) Dads Grieve, Too
Dads are so often the strong ones in child loss. They are taking care of their wife who is likely recovering from a pregnancy and delivery. They are making phone calls they don’t want to make, asking for breaks from visitors so their wife can rest, and are going back to work so they can provide for their family. The dad will no doubt get asked how his wife is handling the loss, but who is asking him how he is doing? Sadly, not many people are checking in on the dads, but you can change that. When you ask how the mom is doing, ask dad, too. Offer to take him out to lunch, or just spend quiet time with him. Even if he is not sharing his feelings, he misses his baby just as much as the mom.
Even for close friends and family, it is natural to avoid a traumatic and out of order death like pregnancy and infant loss. We are all human, and no one is equipped to handle experiencing this loss or supporting someone who is living their life without their baby. Of course you will make mistakes and wonder if you are doing the right thing. Showing up for a grieving parent regularly and remembering their child will help them more than you will ever know.
Megan Kaye is an outpatient therapist at the Counseling Clinic of Family Services. She has worked with children, adolescents, adults, and their families in an outpatient setting since 2010.