How To Help Someone Through Loss

It is painful, breath-taking, life changing, emotional, confusing, and lonely.

If you have a family member or friend who has just told you that they had a miscarriage, stillbirth or neonatal death – here are some ways that you can help:

Listen but don’t push:

Perinatal grief is confusing.  It is not openly talked about, not overly understood so it can be difficult to navigate.  Allow her to time to talk but also allow her the space if she doesn’t want to talk about it.  Be with her and offer your ear (or your eyes if she would rather write you).  Only say it if you mean it.  We need people to listen.

Be mindful of what you say:

We all know that people are honestly good and trying to help so don’t beat yourself up if you have said them or will say them. It’s better to be present then to back off worrying you will say the wrong thing.  Just be mindful that you don’t minimize what she is going through.  Don’t say you understand if you’ve never been there.  Be honest and say you don’t know what she’s going through {if you dont} but that you are there for her.

Send a meal/chocolate/wine/flowers:

If you cant be there physically with your friend because you don’t live nearby or something else is going on send something physical.  Send a poem, meal (or gift card), chocolate, flowers or wine.  A physical token that you are thinking of them will do a world of good.

Refer to support:

If you have not been through perinatal grief or you are not in a good space to be able to support your friend it is always okay to refer her to someone.  If you have another friend who has been through it or you can connect your friend to a support group offer that information to your friend.  It is still important that you are a support for your friend as well, but sometimes it can be beneficial to connect to someone who has been there as well.

Write a note:

Let your friend know you are thinking of them. A quick email or text message telling your friend you were thinking of them and checking in to see how they are doing is a good thing.  It lets your friend know that you haven’t forgotten & that what they are going through and their loss has not been forgotten.  The reason i like to support this way time and again through text is because then it gives them the space to respond when it is a better time while letting them know that you care.

Acknowledge her loss:

Do not shy away from talking about her child & her loss.  That child mattered to her and bringing that up will not make her hurt more.  Acknowledging the fact she lost a pregnancy, a dream and a child is very important.

Be patient / Understand circumstances:

She has been through something traumatic and life changing – no matter how far along the pregnancy was or how soon after birth she lost her child.    Don’t expect her to be over it right away if it is ‘affecting her longer then you think it should be’.  Try to be understanding of certain circumstances.  If you are pregnant try to understand if she is being distance since her loss.  It can be hard to support and grieve a the same time. It is important to give her that space to try to figure out those two very conflicting situations, but don’t just assume she wants space. Communicate.

The most important way to help your friend really is to be there for her.  Acknowledge her child and her loss and let her know you are available to support and ask her what you can do to help.  If she says nothing – just listen and check in.

Devan McGuinness

is the founder of the online resource Unspoken Grief , which is dedicated to breaking the silence of perinatal grief for those directly and indirectly affected by miscarriage, stillbirth and neonatal death. Using her own experience of surviving 12 miscarriages, Devan has been actively supporting and encouraging others who are wading through the challenges associated with perinatal and neonatal loss.

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