It's Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day, and this is how you can help a loved one heal from the pain of a miscarriage, stillbirth, or the death of a newborn.

By Julia Pelly
October 15, 2019

Last month I lost my third baby.

My first pregnancy, a beautiful surprise, was my first loss. Ten weeks of bliss that ended in tears and broken hopes and a lifeless baby scooped from my womb as I lay on an operating table. My third pregnancy, the one that was supposed to bring my son a sibling was my second loss. Seven weeks of love that ended with blood and tears and relief; that one had been in the wrong place and I was lucky, if devastated, that it had resolved naturally.

And then last month. My fifth pregnancy, a miracle-first-month-trying-spring-baby-to-be. Twelve weeks of family joy and an already rounding tummy and little hands patting my belly with gleeful exclamations of “hello baby!” again, scooped from my womb while the IV dripped and I lay on the operating table.

If my three losses have taught me anything, it’s that grief is unpredictable. When I found out that the baby in my belly was lifeless, I lost my breath. I cried. I sobbed. And then, the next day, empty now, I went apple picking with my two living boys. I laughed as they pulled ripe fruit from the tree and then, when the sun caught my younger sons eyes and I saw a flash of him as a baby, I began to cry. And the last month has been much like that. Deep grief, interspersed with life and laughter and the going’s on of a family that doesn’t stop.

Each time I’ve experienced a loss I’ve had friends and family ask, over and over, what they can do to help. And each time I’ve been too overwhelmed with the fact that no one can give me what I really want—a healthy baby on my due date—to tell them what I crave and need. With time and reflection though, it’s clear that there are some things that have been immensely helpful and healing in my times of grief. While we often worry about what to say when someone is grieving, what we DO can be so much more important. If you know someone who has experienced a pregnancy loss, here are seven things you can do to help.

Write them a card

One of the hardest parts of pregnancy loss is that it is utterly devastating to the person experiencing it and nearly invisible to the rest of the world. Mourning potential and promise while never having had anyone to hold in your arms is difficult. Acknowledge their loss in a concrete way by taking the time to sit down and write a card. Don’t worry about getting the message perfect or saying the wrong thing, just let them know that you’re thinking of them and their loss.

Be present

When someone close to us experiences a loss, it can be tempting to give them "space" because we’re uncomfortable talking about loss. While some people really do crave space, it can be important to stay present in people’s lives as they navigate the first few days and weeks of losing a pregnancy. Send a text each day to let them know you’re thinking about them. Call them and just listen. If you’re close enough, ask if you can come over when they feel ready.

Bring them a meal

When sad things happen in our world we often show support for others by bringing them a meal so that they can nourish their body even when they don’t have the energy to cook. Losing a pregnancy is draining. It hurts physically and emotionally. It’s hard and sad. If you’re looking for a way to help someone who's recently lost a pregnancy, bring them a meal.

Ask about their plans for the baby

Just because a pregnancy ends in miscarriage doesn’t mean that the parents didn’t have hopes, dreams, and plans for the baby. Acknowledge that their baby was a real and whole being by asking about these hopes, dreams, and plans. Ask if they’d thought about names or made plans for a nursery theme or thought about what they might look like. Giving someone the gift of space to talk about their baby can be very healing.

Take their other children to do something fun

If your loved one has other children, mourning a miscarriage can become even more complicated. While they may want to throw themselves in bed, break down and cry, or spend an afternoon journaling, doing so with other kids can be nearly impossible. Parents must also navigate caring for their living children and the guilt that sometimes comes with not being at 100% as a parent. Give your loved one a gift and take their children out to do something that will make them smile. Not only will this give them some space to grieve and rest, it will also help them to feel like their other kids are still doing okay despite the sadness the family might be feeling.

Acknowledge their ongoing grief

Grief is unpredictable and can wax and wane as time goes on. While many people have lots of support in the immediate aftermath of a pregnancy loss, that support tends to fade. While their grief might not feel quite as crushing a few months after a loss as it does a few days after a loss, I guarantee they can still tell you how far along they’d be if they were still pregnant and that the pain is still present. Check in with your loved one weeks and months after their loss, not just days.

Take note of their due date

The due date of a lost pregnancy can be an especially difficult time for an individual who has experienced a miscarriage. Take note of when your loved ones due date was and, when the time comes, acknowledge it. A simple card or call or text can go a long way towards helping them feel supported and validated.

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