Recently, my precious friend, being only 20 weeks pregnant, gave birth to a beautiful baby girl who died during a premature delivery. My friends were thrilled that they were going to be parents. And we were so excited for them.
The proud father to be expressed his feelings of intense loss, by writing:
“I had the joy and the misfortune that every parent longs for and dreads all in one day
I got the awesome privilege of saying Hello to my angel, my heart, my pride and Joy
And in the same breath I had to make big decisions
Not the kind every new parent should have to make
For in that one breath, That same Hello, I Love You
was also a Goodbye, I Love You & I Will Miss You my Baby Girl
I had to make that choice no parent should ever have to make
How do you handle the loss your child?
How does a parent bury their baby?
Feelings and choices NO parent should have to deal with.
All in one fail swoop I became a Father, a Man, and a Weak Human all at once.”
I’m certain these words cannot fully express their heartache of losing a baby and pregnancy unexpectedly. I know this because I’ve experienced the loss of a child by early miscarriage. Still, I sat at the hospital with my friends feeling ever so helpless, knowing there wasn’t much I could do to give them comfort. And yet, all I wanted to do was take all the pain away that they were feeling and will be feeling for a very long time to come.
In this situation, friends and family often don’t know what to say or do but want to be a source of comfort. People react differently to such a loss, so there is no single formula for offering comfort and help. Consider, however, the following suggestions.
Practical things you can do to help:
- Send a card, send a text – don’t worry that it will make them feel sad. They need to know you are thinking of them.
- Prepare a meal and bring it to the family. You can also, make a meal that can be frozen and heated for a later date. If you are unsure of what to make, buy a gift card to a restaurant that they can get carry-out from.
- Offer to help with cleaning and laundry or to run errands for them.
- Keep in Touch – Call to let them know you are thinking about them. Be ready to listen.
- Be there for the father too. As one father said, “they don’t make many cards for dads in this situation.”
- Allow them time to grieve and let them dictate how much comfort they need and when. It may take a very long time.
- Offer to look after older children.
- Keep in mind that other family members may be grieving too and need help and comfort with their loss.
- Do acknowledge their loss, don’t pretend it never happened. Their grief should not be ignored or minimized.
- Set a reminder a few weeks later to check in on them. Now, this might sound strange but, have you ever thought to yourself, “Oh, I wonder how so and so is doing, it’s been 3 weeks and I haven’t talked to them.” I have, it’s all too easy to be busy with “life” and our daily routines that we unintentionally forget that our friend is still struggling to cope with the awful tragedy.
What not to say:
“You can always have another baby.”
Remember that the parents did not want just any baby, they wanted that baby.
“There was probably something wrong with it.”
Although this may be so, it’s not very comforting. And is not always the case. Many babies that are born too early are perfectly healthy.
“You’ll get over it.” or “This too shall pass.”
The grief for their baby will be in their hearts forever. It may not always be as intense, but it will always be there.
There are no perfect words…
Sometimes, out of fear of saying the wrong thing, people make the mistake of saying nothing at all. It’s alright to say “I’m sorry” or “I don’t know what to say”, these words are better than nothing at all. And if you do say something that you think may have been insensitive or hurt their feelings, apologize.
Just be there with them, give a hug, or be the shoulder to cry on. Your presence is a very powerful and meaningful support.
“There is no foot too small that it cannot leave an imprint on this world.”