How to Help Someone Process Pregnancy or Infant Loss
It’s estimated that about one out of every 100 pregnancies results in stillbirth at 20 weeks and that 24,000 babies are born stillborn every year in the US. Awareness of pregnancy and infant loss is essential for improving our understanding, empathy, and compassion toward those who have experienced this type of loss, but the additional reminder may also serve as a source of pain for those same people.
When you care for someone who has suffered a miscarriage, recurrent pregnancy loss, stillbirth, or infant death, words can seem meaningless, actions insignificant, and the idea of doing nothing impossible. It’s a difficult subject to navigate, and those who seek to comfort others want to do so in the gentlest, kindest, and most respectful way possible. In these uncertain moments, what can be said or done? Here is some of our advice on how you may bring comfort to those who have lost a pregnancy or infant.
Be a presence of comfort, even if you don’t want to intrude
Sometimes when people experience loss, there can be a surge of support that slowly dissipates as time passes. This is not done out of malice or negligence but because relatives and friends often worry about intruding, overstepping, or inserting themselves in situations that they shouldn’t meddle with. Unfortunately, the pain from loss can persist for a long time, leaving the person who has suffered a loss with even more pain compounded by loneliness. While the rest of the world has continued to spin, their world can feel stuck for some time.
Being considerate about someone else’s feelings after a difficult loss is admirable and in the spirit of being supportive, but it can sometimes have the unintended effect of isolating the person who needs support. Sending a text or offering to swing by for coffee may seem like small actions, but they can be huge gestures for someone who is grieving, especially in the days, weeks, and months that follow a loss. Show this person that you care for them and what they are going through by being present in their life.
Encourage utilizing all available resources
When a significant loss happens in our lives, there is an inherent sense that we are alone, but in truth, we are surrounded by others who have had a similar experience. This is true for pregnancy and infant loss, when many families may not realize there are resources that offer continued support to assist with the grieving process. Not only are there support groups, but there are also counseling services and other resources that may be available, both in-person and online. Providing someone with information about these resources and encouraging them to partake in them is an excellent way to offer support that can have a long-term impact.
Ultimately, it’s important to remember that the smallest things can make the biggest difference. By just being there for someone who has recently experienced a pregnancy or infant loss can be immensely helpful as they grieve.