Supporting someone close to you after pregnancy loss.
IN the UK alone 1 in 4 women will experience pregnancy loss and 1 in every 100 women will experience recurrent miscarriage which is when a woman suffers more than three pregnancies losses. Whilst more research is being done to try and reduce the number of losses in the UK by charities such as Tommy's losing a baby is still all too common so it is likely that you will know a woman who has a miscarriage and you may be wondering how best to support them. Losing a baby is a unique time and no two women will respond the same to the grief but there are some ways that you can be there for anybody you know and love after pregnancy loss.
BE MINDFUL OF YOUR WORDS.
It can be difficult to think of the words to express just how sorry you are for their loss but avoid reaching for insensitive cliches such as “everything happens for a reason” or “god only takes the best”. Comments like this will feel hurtful even if it is said with the best intentions. Instead stick to "I love you and I’m here for you". It might not feel like enough but in that moment those words mean the most.
A WOMAN CAN BE SAD AND HAPPY AT THE SAME TIME.
This may sound really selfish but immediately after experiencing a pregnancy loss many women will find it difficult to be around new babies or pregnant women. That doesn’t mean she isn’t happy for you or excited for your pregnancy but ultimately when she sees your bump or new baby it will be a painful reminder of her loss. Let her know you are there if she needs you but that you understand if she can’t be around you right now. It won’t be forever and your friend still loves you and your baby very much and its important to be understanding of all of her feelings.
A NEW PREGNANCY WILL NOT CURE GRIEF.
It’s easy to assume that after pregnancy loss getting pregnant again will be the first thing on a woman’s mind and for some it may be but for many there will be a period of time that will be the worst idea. For some women the thought of becoming pregnant again feels like disloyalty and for others the fear of experiencing pregnancy loss again is crippling. To be on the safe side don’t ask when they will try again or mention “giving it another go” instead send lots of love and hope that soon you will hear some wonderful news when your friend is ready.
A BABY IS A BABY.
When experiencing pregnancy loss the gestation is irrelevant. Whether you lose a baby at 6 weeks or 6 months the pain and sadness is unrivaled. Comments like “it’s not even a baby yet” are incredibly hurtful because whilst it may only be a mass of cells at 6 weeks your friend has already dreamed of their graduation and it is that loss of future life that they are grieving. Acknowledge this and be accepting of her grief, even if you cant quite understand it.
JUST LISTEN. EVEN IF YOU ARE UNCOMFORTABLE!
1 in 3 women who experience pregnancy loss say they felt like they couldn’t talk about their loss. That it made people feel uncomfortable or that people were dismissive (see comments above!!). Talking is a huge part of the grief cycle and being able to talk about their feelings and feel heard will really help your loved one to heal. Listen and nod, there aren’t any words you can say that will make the pain go away but just being able to share the pain will make all the difference.
Finally there are a number of charities that can support those through pregnancy loss.Many have support groups like SANDS that you can attend in your local area and The Miscarriage Association have a number of helplines including an out of hours service.
If you feel like your friend may need more than the help you can offer then encourage her to chat to someone. More than half of the women who suffer a pregnancy loss say it had a large negative impact on their mental health so it’s important to know the signs and keep talking.