It is not easy to deal with pregnancy loss and sometimes, we do not know how best to comfort a friend during her time of loss. At times, what we may think is helpful may end up being hurtful; here are the top 10 do’s and don’ts when supporting a friend or family member after a pregnancy loss.
#1 Be there
Being for a friend even when there is nothing that can be done to bring back the lost baby is important. Sometimes, it is not what you say or do, but just being there. You can ask if you can drop by her home, and just sit with your friend to offer a hug and a listening ear.
#2 Validate her feelings
Your friend may not know if it is ‘right’ to feel a certain way, or may not want to show how sad she is. Let her express her thoughts, and help her talk through her feelings. You can let her know that you are sorry for her loss and acknowledge her pain.
#3 Reassure her
Your friend may also think that her pregnancy loss was due to something that she has done – reassure her that she is not at fault and that she has done what she could. If your friend thinks that she should be up and about instead of grieving, encourage her that she should allow herself the time she needs to grieve.
#4 Help with the physical recovery
After a miscarriage, your friend may still go through physical pains such as contractions, vaginal bleeding or breast discomfort. You can ask how you can help with easing her physical recovery, such as preparing a warm meal or helping with household chores.
#5 Help with rest
Grieving can take a toll on someone, and if your friend needs to rest, you can volunteer to help around the house. Sometimes rest can also take place outdoors, where you can accompany your friend to where she would like to enjoy some breeze and peace.
Your friend may not be ready to talk right after the pregnancy loss; follow-up with her a few weeks after the miscarriage to see if you can drop by her house or call her to talk. Often, people do not know how to follow-up and ended up leaving the friend alone – this may lead to the latter feeling neglected or abandoned by friends.
#7 Acknowledge the baby
This may seem obvious but some people may think that not acknowledging the baby may be helpful. However, doing so may end up trivializing the loss of the baby. If you do not know what to say, it is alright to let your friend know that you do not know what to say, but you are sorry for the loss of her baby.
#8 Ask her partner how he is
If you are around the house and sees your friend’s spouse, also show concern for him. The pregnancy loss not only affects your friend, but also her spouse. If you are asking him about how your friend is over the phone, be sure to also check on him. Sometimes just having someone ask how you are helps.
#9 Expect her grief to fluctuate
Be patient with different levels of grief that your friend may be feeling; sometimes there may be periods whereby she seems to be coping well, while at other times even months or years later, the grief may be overwhelming. Your relationship with her may also change overtime.
#10 Get external help
If your friend’s behavior is very worrying, such as hurting herself or someone else, you may want to encourage her to seek professional advice.
#1 Ignore the pregnancy loss
Pretending that the miscarriage did not happen or not talking about it only makes the elephant in the room gets bigger. It may either isolate your friend or make her feel that she is “wrong” for grieving.
#2 Trivialize the miscarriage
Not acknowledging the baby as a person by calling the baby an “it” or dismissing the miscarriage because the baby has not been born is hurtful. Sometimes people do it thinking that it is helpful, but it usually ended up hurting the friend.
#3 Put on a cheery front
Sometimes we think that being cheerful, or talking about ourselves will help our friend to get life back to normal. However, your friend may need her feelings of sadness and grief to be validated and needs the time to process her loss.
#4 Start talking about the next pregnancy
The miscarriage is as real as losing a child and having another child does not make the loss easier to bear. Do not assume that there will be another pregnancy or start making plans for her to try for another baby.
#5 Talk negatively about the lost baby
Do not ever say things like “there was probably something wrong with the baby” or “it could be a blessing in disguise”. From your friend’s viewpoint, she is grieving the loss of her baby that she has been expecting and saying that the baby is possibly imperfect does not help.
#6 Expect life back to normal
The grief is real after a miscarriage as your friend has been physically and emotionally preparing for her baby – it is normal that life is disrupted and you should not impose on your friend to be back on her feet. Instead, be there for your friend – offer a hug and listening ear, and call regularly to check on her.
#7 Explain the loss
You are not a doctor and even a doctor will not know or be able to predict all instances of miscarriage. Do not try to explain the miscarriage as you may end up sounding like you are blaming your friend for what happened – such as linking the miscarriage to age, diet or lifestyle.
#8 Tell the whole world
It is up to your friend who she wants to tell – do not alert the whole world of her miscarriage. If you have a piece of good news, do share with her privately before sharing with a larger group of common friends.
#9 Forget the rest of her family
Your friend’s spouse, parents or children are also sharing in her loss. When you are comforting your friend, do not ignore the rest of her family as they are also undergoing pain.
#10 Forget to call often
Your friend may not call when she needs help or feels lost; it is therefore helpful that you call regularly to check up on her instead of expecting her to call for help.
Support in Singapore
There are various clinics and support groups for couples who have undergone a miscarriage or loss of a child.
1. NUH Women’s Emotional Health Service (WEHS)
The team provides counseling and support after fetal loss. They can be contacted at National University Hospital, phone 6772 2037 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
2. KKH Women’s Mental Wellness Service
You can make an appointment at KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital, phone 6294 4050.
3. Child Bereavement Support Centre
Monthly support group meetings are held, refer to website for further information www.cbss.sg
Be supportive to your friend, and most importantly, simply be there for her without judgement.