Baby loss is an incredibly difficult journey to navigate, not just for the person physically experiencing the loss, but also for those close to them. Decades of silence surrounding the topic have led to a misplaced feeling of shame, resulting in a significant lack of understanding from those around them.
One in four pregnancies end in loss, a staggeringly high statistic, and with so many women experiencing this pain, we should be able to talk about it openly and honestly. As a society, we appear to abandon women when they need us the most. It is time to open the dialogue on miscarriage and baby loss in order to pave the way for others to feel empowered to do the same.
Where do we start? It can be difficult to know what to do if you are on the side lines watching someone you love navigating this devastating experience. With this in mind, we have put together 6 tips to help you support your loved one going through this terrible time.
1. Never start a sentence with ‘at least’
As humans, it’s very difficult for us to see others in pain. Our immediate reaction is to search our resources to give comfort. However, if we haven’t personally experienced baby loss, these resources can be limited. Sentences aiming to guide the listener to ‘look on the bright side’ often start with ‘at least.’ For example, ‘At least it was early’ or ‘At least you know you can get pregnant.’ With baby loss, there is no bright side to look on and when we hear these sentences, although we know they are well meant, it can invalidate our feelings, leading us to worry we’re not ‘normal’ for being so unhappy. This can result in an unwillingness to be honest about the way we feel, potentially hindering our grieving process and causing long-lasting mental health implications.
2. Check in, but don’t expect too much
We need to know you are there for us, but we might not want a face-to-face meeting. We might want to talk about our baby and the loss, but equally, we may not be ready. Sounds tricky, right? It’s a minefield for us too because our feelings and grief change from one day to the next. What we recommend is to send a text; let us know you’re thinking of us and tell us you’re there if and when we need you. However, don’t always expect a response. Sometimes even replying to text messages is just too much.
3. Saying something is better than saying nothing
The only way to increase the pain of pregnancy loss is to ignore it. We understand you don’t know what to say, or you worry by saying something it will remind us what has happened and upset us further. Our pain is always with us and saying nothing can make us feel you don’t consider our experience or our baby significant enough to acknowledge. It also further contributes towards this societal cycle of shame. A simple message saying, ‘I have no words, but I’m here’ will mean more than you can possibly know. If you don’t know what to say or do, try asking, ‘Do you want me to talk to me about your baby? How can I help you through this awful time?’
4. Don’t be offended by our boundaries – it’s us, not you
The grieving process following baby loss is a complicated, painful, and long one. Our world will suddenly become full of potential triggers – social media pregnancy announcements, pregnant women cradling their bumps, baby showers left, right, and center. On top of this, we can be horrified and ashamed by our own feelings towards these triggers. Here at The Worst Girl Gang Ever, we call these ‘The Ugly Feelings’ – bitterness, jealousy, resentment. You don’t want them, but there they are. Often, it’s easier for us to back off; please don’t stop inviting us out, but equally don’t be offended if we bail last minute or just disappear off the radar for a while. It’s not you – it’s a coping strategy, damage limitation if you like. We are trying to protect our feelings and retain a little piece of ourselves. Constantly donning our ‘game face’ is exhausting, but often, we don’t want to bum anyone out.
5. Don’t forget about our partners
All too often and wrongly so, miscarriage is treated as a ‘woman’s problem.’ Just as it takes two to make a baby, the loss is also felt by both parents, so don’t forget to check in on our other halves. Often, they will be reluctant to talk to us about their grief, believing they need to be strong and supportive for us. Undoubtedly though, they will need an outlet for their pain as much as we do. The same goes for our nearest and dearest. Watching someone you love going through the pain of baby loss is excruciating and can leave you feeling completely powerless.
6. Be in the wings, with treats…
Invariably, there will come a time when we will want to talk about what we’ve been through and we will need you to be there to listen. Don’t try to pull us from our trench, it’s an impossible task. Instead, come and sit beside us and bring a candle and chocolate… or wine! From our personal experience, people stop asking how we are after a few weeks and this can be our very lowest ebb – when we feel the world has moved on and forgotten about our babies, yet we are still consumed by the darkness our loss has brought. For us, the pain never goes, and the sense of loss is deep, heart-wrenching and real for weeks, months and even years after the physical loss occurs. Please don’t stop checking in. Remember the due date or the anniversary or another significant dates and check in on those days. It is the most wonderful and validating thing to know someone other than you has remembered your baby existed.
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Bex Gunn and Laura Buckingham, who are dedicated to smashing the taboo and breaking the silence surrounding baby loss. You can follow their journey on Instagram, and check out their podcast ‘The Worst Girl Gang Ever’ on Spotify and Apple podcasts. Click here for more of their platforms. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.
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