How to Help a Friend Who Has Lost an Unborn Child
I hear often from friends who have not experienced the loss of an unborn child that they had no idea how to help or what to say when a friend or family member walked through it. It makes perfect sense, because the grieving the loss of an unborn child is so unique and different for each individual. The first thing to note is that no matter how early the loss, it will be grieved deeply and should be acknowledged.
Often, our lack of knowledge on the subject or worry of offending causes us to remain silent. This being said, if you have one take-away from this, it's that no matter how a person grieves or how far along the loss happened, everyone wants the life of their child acknowledged.
Here are some things you can do to help your friend in their time of need:
1. Acknowledge their loss; don't avoid it.
Find a way to reach out -- through sending flowers, text, mail, e-mail, or in-person. A simple, "I'm so sorry this happened" means so much. If they have named their child, call them by name. A sincere expression of your own sadness for their loss acknowledges the importance of their child, and helps to bear the burden.
2. Be willing to listen or just be there.
After the loss of our first child, a close friend texted and asked if she could come and sit with me. She brought coffee and just sat on the couch while I talked in circles -- emotions ranging from shock to devastation to anger. Sometimes we just sat there, sometimes we talked, and sometimes she sat and cried with me. She would tell you that she didn't do much, but to me, that was everything. The week following our loss, she would find ways to let me know she was available to come and sit with me if I needed it. I often took her up on it. Feel out the situation and be willing to just be there.
*If this is a loss you've experienced, be careful in sharing too much of your own story. There is a time to share, but often in the immediate aftermath of loss, the best thing we can do is listen.
*Take note that they may want/request to be alone. Read the situation and respect their wishes. We all grieve differently.
3. Avoid having the answers.
This sounds silly, because our first instinct when a friend or family member walks through tragedy is to comfort and encourage them with positive things, i.e. "It will all be okay," "You will get pregnant again," "Something good will come from this," "There's a reason for everything," etc. etc. While well-intended, in the immediate aftermath of the loss, encouragements like this make light of their pain.
4. Help with their weekly tasks.
Has a meal train been set-up for them? Not having to worry about cooking is a huge blessing in itself. If this hasn't been done, consider taking the lead on this. Contact them and ask if you can do this for them. Make sure to ask about any food allergies. https://www.mealtrain.com/ makes it easy to set this up.
Instead of asking how you can help, tell them when you're free. i.e. "I have some free time Wednesday morning and was wondering what I can do for you/your family. Can I run some errands for you?" If you know of a specific need that they might have, be specific in your message. Make it easy for them to accept help. Some people will not be open to help, and that's okay. If they decline, continue to let them know you're there to help should they need it.
5. Consider sending a gift to help acknowledge and honor the life of their child. For example:
- A plant or seeds that can be planted in their child's memory
- Encouragement cards (find them here). These are specifically designed to encourage during times of heavy grief. All proceeds go directly to supporting Still Ministry.
- A bracelet or necklace with a name/due date/birthstone, etc.
- An encouraging book or journal
- Pampering items in a gift basket
- An ornament or memorabilia item
Honestly, it's not so much the gift as the thought and care behind it.
6. Keep checking up.
Obviously this won't go on forever, but often we reach out once and leave it at that. It's important that those grieving the loss feel that it's not been forgotten. If this is a close friend, keep asking them how they are doing regularly. If this is an acquaintance, reach back out after a couple of weeks to see how they are doing and how you can help.
7. Pray for them.
Prayer is powerful and shouldn't be taken lightly. Pray for them privately -- specifically that God would heal their hearts and work within their marriage and relationships. Offer to pray with them in person. It doesn't need to be anything fancy or long. I had a friend approach me after church one Sunday and after giving me a hug, quietly asked if she could pray quickly with me. She pulled me aside and it was only probably a minute long, but she held my hand and carried some of the weight. I'll never forget it.
Parents will often feel alone in their grief, especially after the flurry of initial messages and calls. Having a friend that continues to check up, call, and ask about them is a gift. Mark the due date in your calendar so that you can be sure to reach out, send flowers, etc. Even a simple message that says "I'm thinking of you today" goes a long way.