“I’m sorry, but your pregnancy won’t last.” The doctor’s words echoed in my ears after I put down the phone. The pain hit hard this time. This was my third miscarriage, and I was exhausted on every level. My body had been through a lot. My emotions were a roller coaster. And my thoughts were full of “what ifs” and “I should haves.” I was asking God, “Why?”
I’m not alone in this experience. One in every four women have gone through a miscarriage. Add to that list those who have experienced infant loss, failed adoptions, infertility, and loss of hope for more children, and our club is a pretty big one. The problem? Because of the very personal and sometimes private nature of our losses, the pain often goes unacknowledged or sometimes acknowledged in an unhelpful way. Too many of us feel isolated and alone in our grief.
It’s difficult to know what to say, how to react, and what to do when you see a friend hurting in this way. Too many of us offer support immediately after the event, but then leave our loved one to grieve on their own. Or we are so afraid to address the loss—not knowing the correct action to take—that we do nothing at all. After querying women who have gone through these types of loss, and having been through it myself, I’ve compiled five ways to offer your love and support to a grieving friend.
Listen and offer a hug.
Our ears and our arms should be the most active parts of our body when we are comforting a grieving friend. Our words should be few and far between. A hug in particular can communicate more than what we realize. Researchers say that touch can communicate our emotions accurately without using words. Most women I talked to said this was what they needed most.
Say, “I’m sorry.”
These two words can mean so much more than grand gestures. They let us know that you are right there with us and you recognize the loss. It is not helpful to say things like:
“Just relax, it will come.”
“This happened for a reason.”
“You can just try again.”
“They are in a better place.”
“Maybe God just wanted you to have one child.”
Remember with them.
The pain of the loss doesn’t end after a month. Don’t put a time frame on grief. Let them know that they are not alone in the memory of what happened. It can be so comforting to know that the pain is being shared. Simply ask how they are doing. Tell them that you are remembering with them. Send a text or an email if you aren’t able to speak face-to-face.
Ask what they need and help with practical day-to-day things.
I always appreciated when someone asked what I needed. Some women may need space. Others may need help with meals, taking care of their kids, grocery shopping, or running errands. And don’t forget about the spouse in the relationship. Ask what the spouse needs as well.
Give them a memorial gift.
At times, it’s comforting to have a tangible object to act as a memorial to the one we lost. One way to honor your loved one and what they are going through is to give a gift that shows you understand that the loss is more than just a blip in their life. Women expressed appreciation for gifts like a special ornament, perennial plant, or jewelry.
We need each other—and even though we may not know exactly what to do at times, we can be a support to our friends who are hurting. If you know someone who has received devastating news like I did, my best advice is this: doing something is better than doing nothing.