October brings with it bright colors on trees, pumpkins, costumes, and excitement over cozy sweaters and warm coffee. And while this month and season tend to be known for illustrating the beauty brought forth through changes and transitions, it is also a month dedicated to remembering and reflecting on the tragic losses many endure. If you have experienced pregnancy or infant loss (First of all, I am so incredibly sorry), or if you know someone who has, you may know that October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month.
From my own experiences with infertility and loss, I understand the significance of acknowledging and addressing these experiences with sensitivity and support. And for those who do not currently know someone who has experienced pregnancy or infant loss, it is likely that you will at one point or another, so being equipped with ways to be supportive in the face of tragedy can enable us to better connect with those around us in the face of loss. Below are some of the supports that can be meaningful and helpful to those who are grieving the loss of a pregnancy.
7 Ways to Support Loved Ones Through Pregnancy or Infant Loss
Hear from Dr. Colleen Reichmann below on disenfranchised grief and pregnancy loss and how recognizing this concept can be an important first step in supporting those enduring loss.
1. Acknowledge the Loss
When someone shares their journey or loss, acknowledging their pain is crucial. A simple, heartfelt acknowledgment can mean a lot and can help your loved one feel seen and supported. If they have given the baby a name and have been open about it, use the baby’s name in conversations about the loss.
2. Check In Regularly
A consistent, supportive presence, whether through a thoughtful text or card, goes a long way. These gestures signal that you care and are available should your friend want to reach out to you. Doing so consistently is just as important. Many people may send supportive messages and do kind gestures in the initial days or weeks following someone’s loss. Then, after a little while, the texts and calls taper off, people return to their own lives and routines, and the loneliness and feelings of isolation can become very intense. This is often when the most support is needed, so checking in weeks or even months later can be a life-giving source of support and connection that your friend needs.
3. Provide Practical Support
Grieving can make daily tasks and obligations feel borderline impossible. If you stop by, offering practical support by bringing a meal, a coffee, doing household chores, or picking up groceries can be immensely helpful. These gestures can alleviate the burden of a daily responsibility while also showing your support in a tangible way.
4. Extend Invitations
Unless your friend or loved one specifically indicates that they would like to be left out of social invitations for a little while, include them in invitations. Inviting them to coffee, dinner, or other outings gives them the agency to decide whether or not they want to participate. Isolation can compound grief, and your invitation may provide a needed sense of normalcy. And even if they say, “no” a time or two before they are ready to be in social situations again, the invitation reminds them that you value their presence and want to spend time with them when they are ready.
5. Thoughtful Resource Sharing
This is one that can certainly differ from person to person, but be thoughtful about sending books, materials, devotionals, or any other resource that would put that grieving person in a position to have to “do something” (i.e., read the book) to reap benefits from the gift.
In my own experience, I have found that this pressure to “engage with” the book or other given resource can be overwhelming in the midst of a miscarriage when making it through a day in one piece felt insurmountable.
If your friend or family member expresses a desire for a book or resource, this would be a good indication that it is appropriate to send one their way. If you’re uncertain, ask for permission before sending and emphasize there’s no pressure to engage with the material immediately.
6. Avoid “At least. . .” Statements (and others like it)
- “At least you know you can get pregnant!”
- “At least you already have one kid”
- “At least you were only [insert number] of weeks along”
- “You’re still young; you have time!”
- “Now you know you have an angel waiting for you in heaven”
These comments are often well-intentioned, but they can unintentionally minimize the depth of the grief someone is experiencing. Instead, offer empathetic statements that acknowledge their pain without trying to find a silver lining. And if you aren’t quite sure what to say, your presence is likely enough.
7. Repeat 1-6 for Recurrent Pregnancy Loss
In a case of recurrent loss, all of the above still apply. It is challenging to know what to say when you learn someone is experiencing a second or third loss. The most important thing to remember is that, for someone experiencing recurrent pregnancy or infant loss, – whether through a miscarriage, failed transfer, molar pregnancy, stillbirth, or otherwise – the loss experience does not get easier. One does not become desensitized to the loss of a child, regardless of “how far along” they are or how many times they have experienced loss. If anything, the grief – in my experience – only intensifies.
So while it can feel “inadequate” to offer support in ways that you have offered support through a previous loss, this is often the best approach. Validating your friend or family member’s experience can help to provide them with the network of support they need that will help them process and grieve.
When Supporting Those Enduring Pregnancy or Infant Loss, Your Presence Matters
Ultimately, the most important thing to remember when you are in a position to be supportive of someone else during their journey is that your presence in their life matters. Showing up for each other in the face of devastating loss is how we help one another cope with and navigate these experiences. When you are in a position of support and the “right words” feel hard to come by, the authenticity of saying, “I don’t feel like I have the right words to say, but I am here for and with you,” can resonate more deeply than anything else you could say. In these moments, it is the sincerity of our connection with each other that becomes the unspoken language of comfort and healing, reminding us of the strength found in compassion and connection.
By: Erika Muller, Assistant for Wildflower Therapy LLC
All images via Unsplash
How Can Wildflower Therapy in Philadelphia, PA Help You?
If you’re looking for someone to come alongside you to help you navigate and process through your own journey with pregnancy or infant loss, our therapists would be honored to help! You can get to know a little bit more about them here and book a free consultation here.
Other Mental Health Services Provided by Wildflower Therapy, Philadelphia, PA
Life is a unique journey for each of us and we all have our individual battles to fight. We understand that infertility brings its own unique set of challenges. Our therapists know there is no one-size-fits-all approach to any of life’s difficulties and we offer many unique perspectives and approaches to help meet you where you are with our Philadelphia, PA Therapy services.
We also offer services for eating disorder therapy, services for anxiety, and depression, and have practitioners who specialize in therapy for college students and athletes. As well as LGBTQIA+ Affirming Therapy. As you can see, we have something to offer just about anyone in our Philadelphia, PA office. Reaching out is often the most difficult step you can take to improve your mental health. We look forward to helping you on this journey!