7 ways to support a friend who experiences pregnancy or infant loss — and what you should never do
- Pregnancy and infant loss is common, but many people don't know how to respond. Here, five moms who've experienced loss give their tips.
- Allowing parents room to grieve and talk about their loss is helpful.
- Saying 'everything happens for a reason' is not.
- Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.
Chrissy Teigen recently took to Medium to pen a touching post about her experience losing her son Jack, who was stillborn at 20 weeks in September. In the post, she talked about the ways that support from loved ones and strangers helped her get through the loss.
"I didn't really know how I would start this, no matter the room or state I was in, but it feels right to begin with a thank you," Teigen wrote. "For weeks, our floors have been covered in flowers of kindness. Notes have flooded in and have each been read with our own teary eyes. Social media messages from strangers have consumed my days, most starting with, 'you probably won't read this, but…' I can assure you, I did."
Pregnancy and infant loss is common, and yet many people don't know how to support friends or family when they experience a miscarriage or stillbirth.
Here, five moms who have experienced loss share how you can support the people in your life at one of their most difficult moments — and the things that you should never do.
Just show up
When Taylor Bjorgum, of Minnesota, delivered her son Kane stillborn at 36 weeks, she appreciated the friends and family who were there for her and her husband, without being intrusive or trying to make things better.
"Grief is uncomfortable to watch. We tend to try and fix the situations and people," Bjorgum said. "There isn't fixing this, we lost a child, our arms are physically aching."
Send food to your friend
When you're grieving food is the last thing on your mind, but sustenance is still important.
"If you're unsure how to help send food! If you can't send food then send gift cards for food," Bjorgum said. "I wouldn't have eaten if I wasn't sent gift cards or freezer meals. Taking care of such a basic need is essential."
Send a card — an actual card
While social media condolences can be comforting, as Teigen wrote, there's something particularly meaningful about an old-fashioned card sent in the mail.
"Let us know we're in your thoughts and you love us. It's more personal than writing on a Facebook wall," Bjorgum said.
Say the baby's name
If the child had a name, use it.
"People who would say my lost daughter's name, Charlotte, when they spoke of her made me (and her) feel loved," said Erica Houskeeper of Vermont.
Take action, even if you don't know what to do
When Nora Luongo, of New Jersey, returned to work after her loss, a coworker told her they wanted to reach out, but didn't want to bother her. That made Luongo sad.
"I would have really loved if they'd reached out," Luongo said. "It's okay not to know what to say."
You can even verbalize that to your friend.
"When someone said that to me, I'd always reply that I didn't know what to say either, but I appreciated that they were even thinking of me," Luongo said.
Step in without being asked
When Jenna Fletcher, of Pennsylvania, delivered twins, one of them died and the other ended up in the NICU. She was grieving while also recovering from a cesarean delivery and caring for her living son, so she really needed the support of people who stepped in to help. Her friend flew across the country to help plan a funeral; other loved ones drove her to and from the hospital; others watched her older daughter.
"It was all appreciated and honestly kept my family going," Fletcher says.
Offer physical remembrances
When Kirsten Ott Palladino, of Georgia, delivered her baby at 16 weeks due to medical conditions, she wanted to hear: "Your baby was real. Your baby was loved."
Her father took pictures of the baby, and Ott Palladino still has items from the birth.
"Twenty-four years later, I still have everything, from his blood-stained christening gown to my hospital ID bracelet," she said.
Other women have found comfort in having a tree to plant, a baby blanket, and other physical reminders of their child. In the immediate aftermath of a stillbirth, you can help organize photos, although hospital staff often helps with this too.
The well-meaning responses that you should skip
Pregnancy and infant loss can also make well-meaning people say things that fall flat. Here are six things you shouldn't do or say when someone experiences a loss, according to Bjorgum.
- Do not say things like "God needed another angel" and "Everything happens for a reason."
- Never use "at least" in a sentence.
- Don't tell them how they should or shouldn't grieve. "Don't tell them they should keep photos or thoughts private. You're allowed to celebrate a live baby, why can't we celebrate ones that are no longer here? It's hypocritical, and hurtful. We went through months of pregnancy, appointments, sickness, delivery just like a mom with a living baby," Bjorgum said.
- Don't abandon them. Although your friend is sad right now, they need you to be there for them as they return to normalcy, Bjorgum said.
- Don't compare losses. "That's comparing apples to oranges," she said. "Unless we specifically ask about yours, don't share. It minimizes our experience and hurt."
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