The loss of a baby is never easy. And when a women experiences a miscarriage or stillbirth, not only does she have to work through her grief, but she has to deal with postpartum healing as well. We all know postpartum healing is messy, complicated, rarely goes as expected, and can be physically, mentally, and emotionally painful. Combining that with grieving the loss of a child is one of the hardest things anyone can experience.
Sadly, the stigmas around both pregnancy loss and grief make it doubly hard to find support. Miscarriage especially is often viewed not as a true loss, but simply that the woman was pregnant and now isn’t. I have talked to several women who have experienced losses and walked through them alone because they felt they couldn’t tell their family or friends.
So how can we learn to rally around women in the midst of postpartum grief? There are a few things we can seek to practice when we encounter situations where we can be of help.
Provide necessities. A family in grief has a hard time remembering things like meals and basic comfort items, and a postpartum mother has neither the energy nor the strength to take care of these things. The unexpectedness of pregnancy loss means that these necessities are even more appreciated.
Prepared meals are one of the best things to provide, and some other wonderful items are things like:
- quick snacks (crackers, fruit, yogurt, prepared smoothies, frozen fruit bars, trail mix, granola bars,
- protein shakes, chips and dip, applesauce cups, etc.)
- Epsom Salts for soothing baths
- warm socks
- an electric kettle for heating water for tea in the bedroom (seriously so helpful! I have one similar to this one.)
- new movies to watch
- activities for other children
- This fantastic herbal perineal spray for vaginal comforting.
- An herbal sitz bath, like this one.
Take care of a household need when you show up with food and comfort items. Wash a load of dishes. Fold a basket of laundry. If they have other children, take them outside to play, to a park, or bring a new game to engage them in. Clean their bathroom. Vacuum their carpets. Simple things that don’t take much time, but make the atmosphere of the home so much better. The last thing a grieving mama wants to worry about is if her husband has clean undies, or if there’s dishes growing mold in the sink.
Be a shoulder to cry on. You don’t have to have answers or comforting words. Just simply be there and mourn with her. Cry with her. Hold her. Make her that cup of tea and sit with her as long as she needs. Listen to her if she has things on her heart, which she likely does. Bring some lotion and massage her feet. Care for her in ways that make her feel loved, supported, and important.
Remember her baby. She does not want to just forget the child she lost. That life mattered to her, even if it was just for a few weeks. She wants to be reminded of how much it mattered. Even months or years later, that grief is never going to fully go away for her, so hearing someone else say, “I thought of your sweet baby in Heaven today,” means so much.
Remember important days. As much as you possibly can, remember days like the one she found she was pregnant, and the one on which they announced their pregnancy. Remember the day they lost their baby, and the day she would have been due to give birth. Telling her that you are thinking of her on those days will be a balm to her soul.
Include her and reach out to her. If she wishes to be alone and needs time away from friends and family, then most definitely respect that. But quite often, grieving people want to know that life is still happening, people still care about them, and that their loved ones aren’t avoiding them. I know grief can make people uncomfortable, but I really only have one thing to say about that…get over it. Someone else’s grief is NOT about you. Show up. Reach out. Be loving and supportive.
Avoid common dismissive and hurtful sayings. This may be one of the most important things you can do. Let’s get this straight: a woman is grieving the death of her child. Among the list of things to avoid saying are:
- “Well, I’m sure it will happen for you again.”
- “Its ok…you have other children.”
- “I guess it just wasn’t meant to be.”
- “God needed the baby more than you did.”
- “At least you weren’t that far along.”
Just…don’t. Seriously, it is better to sit in complete silence than to say stuff like that. Be kind. Pray with her for peace and healing. Tell her simply that you’re sorry she’s having to go through this. Its really not that hard to be sympathetic without being dismissive.
And last but not least, just do it. Your help and love doesn’t have to be perfect or expensive. It just needs to happen. Make it happen. Don’t let your insecurities and awkwardness keep you from caring for another person. Even if all you do is send a text message or bring a cup of coffee, its better than nothing. Something is always more meaningful than nothing.
Question: If you have ever walked through postpartum grief, what are some ways people cared for you that were meaningful and helpful? What are things you wish would have happened? Share in the comments!