5 Ways to Comfortably And Confidently Support Your Friend After She Experiences Pregnancy Loss
The day a woman finds out she is pregnant is usually one of the best days of her life. And, it’s likely that quickly after confirmation, she starts to plan for all the wonderful changes that are coming her way, from decorating the nursery to picking out names. Over the course of her pregnancy, she becomes increasingly connected to her baby as she envisions what their new life will be like together.
And this is why pregnancy loss is so devastating. It’s more than losing a life, it’s also a loss of hopes and dreams.
When someone you love experiences a pregnancy loss, you can feel moved to help, but you might not know what to say or do in such a delicate situation. Because you don’t want to “say the wrong thing” you avoid connecting with her. Unfortunately, when you avoid your friend, out of fear of doing something wrong, you end up making her feel as if you don’t care about her. When you do finally reach out there may be some distance in your relationship due to this misunderstanding and it can be hard to reconnect.
Despite not knowing what to say or do, one of the most helpful ways to support someone you care about is to be there. To listen to them when they are ready to share and to validate their feelings of sadness and loss. This will also go a long way in preserving your friendship even though your loved one is grieving.
The situation is often similar to something like this:
Recently, while you were out for a girls’ dinner, you learned that the real reason one of your friends had to skip dinner was because she lost her baby just last week. When you heard this news, you felt shocked and devastated for your friend.
You wanted to talk to her and comfort her, but you have no clue how to even imagine the pain of what she was going through. You and your friends talked about what you could try to do to make her feel better, but no one knew what would be best. So, all of you sat there feeling guilty, helpless, and uncomfortable.
When something so distressing happens to someone you love, you can end up withdrawing from them and the situation because you don’t how to be a source of support. You may believe that they would prefer to be left alone, rather than you reminding them of their suffering. But the truth is, it’s completely normal to struggle with feeling unsure of the right thing to do in order to not make things worse. You’re not the only one to feel guilty or uncomfortable when someone you care about is grieving, yet, you can show up for your friend in helpful ways that will help her get through her loss. And know that your friend is suffering, despite anyone’s actions, and she will continue to until she is further along in her healing.
It’s true that grief can be a challenging situation, especially when it happens to someone you care so much about. Sometimes, this leads you to disconnect a bit to protect both of your feelings. However, if you can learn to feel more comfortable in offering your support, you will feel better during the process. It is entirely possible to feel guilt-free, comfortable, and confident when supporting your loved one.
So keep reading for five ways to do just that.
Uncertainty Leads to Disconnection
Pregnancy loss robs the expectant mother and everyone she knows of an imagined and desired future. And it can be especially difficult to know what to do or say when someone you care about goes from anticipating wonderful changes to completely let down in a matter of an instant. When you care about someone, you are invested in their well-being and when something so devastating happens you don’t want to do the wrong thing.
But, the downside of not overcoming your worry about saying or doing the wrong thing is that you will continue to doubt your ability to support your friend. You may even start to internalize this doubt and become distant or uncomfortable around your friend even though you know her well.
At the very least, you find yourself feeling ill-equipped to support your friend’s grief. But withdrawing is perhaps one of the worst things you can do when your friend is in such need of your comfort and love.
Acknowledge Your Anxiety Around Death and Act Anyway
Although you struggle with knowing the best ways to show up after your friend loses her baby, you have the potential to overcome your discomfort and act as a beacon of hope throughout this loss. By first acknowledging that there are no words that you can say to take your friend’s pain away, you will realize that simply being present and acknowledging her suffering is often enough.
Often, it is your own misgivings about death and loss that are preventing you from opening your heart to your friend. Yet, when you choose to acknowledge your own fears and then takes steps to overcome them in a way that’s comfortable for you, it is easier for you to guide your friend through her own grief. This will help you feel more confident in how to show up for her and you will have the ability to feel closer to her as a result of supporting her through this heartache.
Your Own Feelings Are Keeping You from Supporting Your Friend
Yes, it is true that discomfort in times of loss can increase the distance between you and your friend. But you can discover a way to deal with death that does not include withdrawing from the situation. The key to helping yourself feel more confident in supporting with pregnancy loss is to stop worrying about saying all the wrong things or how to fix it and to focus instead on simply being present. This way you can be with your loved one in whatever capacity she needs.
Here are five tips for cutting through your own uneasiness and supporting your friend in the ways she needs.
#1 Acknowledge your own feelings about death and grief
You may have never experienced death or pregnancy loss, so you might worry about how to comfort your friend. Maybe it’s difficult for you to listen to her pain for more than a couple of minutes, as it makes you feel sad, anxious, or helpless. In turn, it may be hard for you to remain present and listen, even if this is what your friend truly needs. But by taking ownership of how uncomfortable you are with death, it can help you feel less pressured to do things perfectly.
Here at Postpartum Health & Harmony, we work with parents who have experienced pregnancy loss as well as their family and friends who are struggling with offering them support. We encourage our clients to move at the mother’s pace while also taking their own needs into account.
So, if listening is not comfortable for you, maybe you can bring her a meal, walk her dog, or help her clean. The goal is to find a way to offer support that is comfortable for both of you. When you do this it’s a lot easier to remain connected to your friend while she grieves because you can manage your own anxieties and focus on meeting her where she is at.
#2 Educating yourself about typical grief responses
When you educate yourself about the process of grief, you will worry less about saying or doing the right thing because you will realize that grief is not linear and has no timeline. Some days are good, and some are bad, but the best way to help someone through it is to make them feel understood and cared about. Try not to pressure them to “feel better” quickly. Instead, allow them to go through the process at their own pace.
We often educate our clients on the stages of grief and give them tools around how to cope with loss in their life. When you do this at home, you have an opportunity to truly understand what your friend is going through and to be a source of support for someone who is really struggling.
#3 Reach out to your friend and let her know you’re sorry for her loss
You don’t need to say a lot to a friend who is going through grief. Often a simple sorry is enough.
At Postpartum Health & Harmony, we teach that less is more. Grieving mothers tend to be really overwhelmed emotionally, so offering your condolences means a lot. Doing this will help her feel cared for and ease some of her heartache.
#4 Just be there
Don’t try to fix the situation or say things to comfort her.
It’s likely that what she needs is to be able to feel her feelings and express them without people rushing to change them. Also, continue to reach out every so often, even if you don’t hear from her. You can send a text or email, just to say you’re thinking about her and you are there when she is ready to connect. It will mean a lot to her that you are acknowledging her grief and that you have not forgotten about her loss.
#5 Ask what she needs to feel supported, but don’t expect her to know
Everyone’s grief is different and so are their needs regarding support. By being gently direct with your friend you will find out how to best support her.
Oftentimes bereaved parents do not know what kind of support they need right now. They are hurting and it takes a lot out of them to just do the bare minimum of getting through each day. So don’t be surprised if she can’t identify how she wants to be supported. Try offering a suggestion and honor whatever her response is.
When you come to Postpartum Health & Harmony to learn more about pregnancy loss, we will work together to practice communicating about grief, so you feel comfortable doing this with your friend.
Being able to support someone you care about after pregnancy loss can be a great thing for your friendship, but your uncertainty with grief may be keeping you back. By taking the time to acknowledge your own anxieties around death, and moving through your fear, you will feel more comfortable reaching out to your friend and connecting with her.
You absolutely can feel confident supporting those you care about through pregnancy loss, and Postpartum Health & Harmony can help. For more tips on how to support your loved ones with pregnancy loss, click here to sign up for our email list where you will receive fresh updates when new articles are posted.
Disclaimer: Models in photo above are posing to depict grief and are not people actually struggling with grief.