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Pregnancy Loss: How to Help a Loved One Heal

By Edited Nov 29, 2015 0 0
Broken Heart
Credit: Kiomi

A Glimpse Inside Her World

Pregnancy loss is often an excruciatingly painful and lonely experience.  While friends and family become aware of a woman's pregnancy, the mother is the only one who actually knows her baby.  For this reason, the mother who suffers through miscarriage, preterm birth, neonatal death or stillbirth, often feels like she is the only one who comprehends the immensity of her loss.  There is an intimate bond between mother and child from the very beginning; a bond more powerful than death.  

Think about it; motherhood starts at conception.  The pregnant woman eats and breathes for her baby.  She rocks her baby in her womb.  She endures morning sickness and other pregnancy related symptoms and conditions. She becomes the first to learn about her baby's personality through food aversions and fetal movements. Regardless of how many weeks into the pregnancy she is, or whether or not she experiences symptoms, the pregnant woman is physically and spiritually connected to her baby on a level that is beyond words.

For mothers reading this who have not lost a child, please think about how protective you are of your children. It is no different for a woman who has experienced a loss. She also has the maternal instinct to soothe, nurture and protect her little one. However, she must literally leave her baby in God's hands, and somehow muster up the strength to walk away.

The loss of a baby is a life sentence for the mother. When friends and family have long forgotten, she will find herself randomly mourning throughout her life.  Subsequent children will never replace the one she lost.

#sb10060989b-001
Credit: Image courtesy of Getty Images. Richard Kolker.

How to Be Supportive to a Loved One Coping with Pregnancy Loss:

  • Listen: Listen to her memories, thoughts and feelings as many times as she wants to express them. Your loved one is working through her grief by verbalizing it. The more she talks about it, the more she will heal. It is these conversations that are the most intimidating for people who are unfamiliar with a loss of this nature. Many people simply have no idea what to say.  Rest assured, all you need to do is offer her your ear. Remind her that you are available to listen.  

          Find tips and pointers on how to listen here.

  • Acknowledge: Acknowledge her baby. If she has named the baby, refer to the baby by name. If she has not named the baby, refer to the baby by whatever endearing name she calls him/her.
  • Remember: Let your loved one know you are thinking about her baby, especially on the baby's birthday. If she wants to celebrate the baby's birthday, celebrate with her. It may sound counter intuitive, but remember she is celebrating a significant and special life.

  • Check in: Check in on your loved one and see how she is doing physically, emotionally and spiritually. Depression often coincides with grief. However, for the grieving mother organic grief and depression are sometimes compounded by postpartum mood disorders such as depression/anxiety. If necessary, refer her to resources such as books and support groups.  You can also recommend that she seek professional help from her OBGYN or a licensed counselor. 

          Find out more about postpartum depression here.

  • Offer: Women are so reluctant to admit they need help. Offer to help your loved one prepare meals, or take her out to dinner. If she has other children, offer to babysit for a little while so she can pamper herself. You could also offer to take her children to the park to give her time to rest, think and feel. Wherever you see an opportunity to help, offer your assistance.

Refrain From:

  • Telling her you know how she feels if you have not experienced the loss of a baby.

  • Discouraging her from holding her baby or taking pictures.
  • Telling your loved one she will have another child.  First, you can't guarantee she will have another child.  Second, this statement insinuates her baby is replaceable and that her grief will be cured by having another baby.  Statements like these, while said by those who mean well, are dismissive and inaccurate.

  • Referring to her child as an "it", or a “fetus.”

  • Downplaying her grief and experience.

  • Telling her she needs to move forward or get over it.

 Book Recommendations:

Miscarriage: Women Sharing from the Heart

Miscarriage: Women Sharing from the Heart
Amazon Price: $22.00 $3.00 Buy Now
(price as of Nov 29, 2015)

I Never Held You: Miscarriage, Grief, Healing and Recovery

I Never Held You: Miscarriage, Grief, Healing and Recovery
Amazon Price: $13.99 $10.05 Buy Now
(price as of Nov 29, 2015)

Knocked Up, Knocked Down

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