The Thoughtful Friend: Miscarriage
The Thoughtful Friend is a new guest series about walking with people we love through life's experiences. I hope that these posts will encourage us to ask hard questions, listen well and love fully. Today's post comes from my friend Valerie. She is a wife, mom of three, behavioral specialist and the best salad maker I know. You can read more from Valerie on her blog Everything Is Ready.
It’s been four years since my last miscarriage, but I found myself writing about it a few days ago like it was new. My first pregnancy was a miscarriage, my second was a twin pregnancy in which I only gave birth to one child, my third pregnancy was a long and complicated miscarriage, while my fourth and fifth pregnancies concluded with beautiful, healthy babies. My first encounter with pregnancy loss was very overwhelming. There was an unnatural loneliness accompanied by intense periods of sadness, shame and confusion (although I soon discovered a wealth of comfort in the stories of other women).
Before my first miscarriage, I had no concept of how common the experience was. Approximately 20% of pregnancies end without a live birth. One out of five.
You know someone who has experienced a miscarriage.
So, what can you do when you find out a friend has experienced a loss?
Every experience is different, but I have compiled a list of things that I found helpful.
Acknowledge the Grief
A miscarriage is not a typical loss. Your friend or family member may not have told you that they were pregnant before you found out about their miscarriage. However, the experience can be true and tangible grief.
Many well-intentioned people have tried to comfort me with phrases like, “It wasn’t meant to be,” or “This baby was not part of God’s plan.” But to me, this was a life on par with a family member. Imagine your mother passed away and someone comforted you by saying, “Her life wasn’t meant to be,” how would you feel?
Mindfulness is as simple as coming into a situation without your own agenda and understanding that the person across from you might not even know their own needs.
So, what do you do?
People do not want to feel ignored or forgotten about and a simple, “I’ve been thinking about you. How are you doing?” could be the most meaningful response.
Fill a Need
Tangible needs are just as important as emotional needs.
“I’m here for you if you need anything.”
I feel uncomfortable when I hear this (honestly, even though I know I have said it myself). I believe this statement comes from a kind, good and true place, but can seem empty.
Think about your friend.
Does your friend have other children? Offer to take their kids to the park for a few hours.
Offer to bring a meal for her family. A sweet friend of mine brought me pumpkin pancakes the morning after my first miscarriage, and I still remember nearly 7 years later that it was specifically pumpkin pancakes delivered to my doorstep.
Even if your friend does not accept any of your gestures, your directed thoughts are likely to be meaningful.
Bring a Care Package
I was 14 weeks pregnant when I had my second miscarriage. I experienced varying degrees of emotional distress knowing that the pregnancy was probably not going to be viable.
By the end I was feeling so physically tired and emotionally alone.
After we lost the baby, a friend from my church watched my son and she sent home a care package. I’ll never forget how validated, cared about, and remembered I felt.
I’ve since developed my own care package when I find out about a friend’s loss. The package generally contains: a card, something sweet, some kind of granola or protein bar (for days when making a sandwich seems too hard), peppermint tea, a big bottle of water, a candle to light and remember/be meditative, some kind of luxury personal care item (nail polish, a nice lotion), a gift card for a date night, or really anything you think the person would enjoy.
Pregnancy loss can be difficult to talk about, but there are so many ways to be thoughtful.
I encourage you to acknowledge.
I urge you to just be there.
Remember your friend a week later, a month later, a year later.
And never underestimate the power of a simple, “How are you doing?” It can make a bigger difference than you realize.