The ringing phone reverberated through my quiet office. Without taking my eyes off of the file I was reading, I reached across my desk and picked up the receiver:
“Expectant Heart Pregnancy Resource Center, this is Mary K. How can I help you?”
“It’s Emma…I…I lost the baby,” my sweet client said, dissolving into tears.
Six months had passed since I opened the doors of Expectant Heart. I did so with the intention of helping women welcome a new baby into their world. Naively, I never considered I might also be called upon to help some of them say goodbye.
I had met Emma a mere two months before, when she and her boyfriend came into the center for a free pregnancy test. Their baby was never unwanted, but it was unplanned. Over the course of a few weeks, I had the incredible opportunity to meet with them several times. We worked through how to tell their family about the baby and what immediate and long-term changes they might make to prepare for this new life. They were excited to be parents and instantly in love with their child.
As Emma told my about her loss, we cried together, heartbroken and unbelieving. She asked if I would come by the hospital and sit with them before her procedure. As I drove to meet them, I worried about what I would say and wondered how I could be of any comfort to them.
I have never experienced a miscarriage, but that isn’t to say I’ve not been affected by it. I have a cherished “nibling” (what my family calls the baby, as we don’t know if it is a niece or a nephew) in heaven and I have several dear friends who have walked the long road of infant loss and miscarriage. But I am an outsider to their grief and I struggled to know how best to support the women in my life through this terrible loss. Maybe you do, too.
Five Ways to Support Your Friend Through a Miscarriage
With 1 in 4 women (nearly 700,000 a year) having experienced infant loss, this is a very common experience to womanhood. Yet, there is stunningly little support or conversation around it. I dream of a day when this will not be the case.
During my time directing Expectant Heart, I walked with several women through their losses. I learned that while I could not fully relate to their grief, I still had things I could and should offer to my hurting friends. Here is my list of five ways to support your friend through miscarriage or infant loss:
The ministry of presence
When I visited my friend that evening in the hospital, my presence powerfully communicated she was not alone. And over the next few months, I continued to communicate that to her, as I met her for lunch, brought her coffee, and took walks with her around her neighborhood. Grief can be isolating and while she did not always feel like talking about her loss, she mentioned taking comfort in the company.
The gift of silence
For many people, the greatest source of anxiety surrounding grieving friends is not knowing what to say to them. I have learned a fool-proof solution for that problem: Don’t speak, just listen. Don’t try to fix it. Don’t offer explanations for why it happened. And don’t try to ease their pain with platitudes. Instead, allow them the opportunity to process the grief with you in their own time, in their own words.
The time to grieve
This is kind of a trick suggestion because the truth is you never stop grieving a lost child. Yet many women feel there is a time limit on how long they are allowed to publicly mourn. This is even more complicated for women who miscarry a child before they start showing. I would LOVE to see this pressure eradicated- and that change begins with you and me and how we love our friends. Make a commitment to allow your friend all the time they need to grieve.
The provision of food
Before walking with my clients and friends, I didn’t realize the physical process women undergo throughout a miscarriage. It is as physically taxing as it is emotionally draining. The last thing anyone wants to think about in the first days of grief is meal prep. Bringing them a meal or two is a tangible way to be there for them while they recover.
The commitment to remember
Perhaps one of the most profound ways you can love your friend is by committing to remember their sweet baby. If the child was named, use their name when talking about him or her. On the anniversary of the due date, or the date of the loss, do something to let your friend know you are thinking of them. Write her a note, send flowers, or organize a balloon release. Often people fear bringing up the baby because they don’t want to cause their friend any pain. But I promise you, their child is always on their mind, and there’s a certain comfort in knowing they aren’t alone in remembering their baby.
Cheering you on,
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