She told me she had lost the baby. I read the words over and over hoping they would change before my stomach completely turned into a ball of knots; they didn’t. I wondered what to write back, or should I call instead? I had no idea what a good friend could do to help in this situation.
Then it hit me: This wasn’t necessarily about being a good friend, because in this case, it wasn’t about me at all. I think it’s natural to want to help your best pal fix a problem or get over heartbreak, but from what I’ve seen in friends who never get to hold their babies, this is a kind of heartbreak that doesn’t fully heal. It sits on the heart like a tiny freckle long after the mourning has passed. With 10-20% of known pregnancies ending in miscarriage, that’s a lot of freckles on a lot of hearts.
1. Actively Listen
My first goal was to try to be an open set of ears whenever she needed them. As mentioned, there is little to say that actually helps, and letting a friend voice her feelings may keep the ache from spilling over inside.
I also realized she needed this cushion for more than a week—more than a month, even. Everyone heals differently and processes emotions at a different pace, so try not to expect your friend or family member to bounce back like they would from the flu.
2. Be Kind
Showing acts of kindness can also help your friend feel loved and supported, even if you can’t relate to her feelings. Try sending flowers, bringing over a meal for her and her family (the father has been hurt, too), or shooting her encouraging texts or “thinking of you” emails.
3. Avoid Catch-All Phrases That Could Be Offensive
No matter how good your intentions are, telling your friend her miscarriage was part of nature or that she still has time to have more children is much more hurtful (and probably enraging) than it seems. She and her partner have lost their child, no matter how many weeks along it was or how many other children she has.
Similarly, if your girlfriend is young, still in school, or unmarried, her pain is no different and should still be respected. Don’t mention that it could be for the best or gives her a chance for a better future. According to the American Pregnancy Association, “there is no competition in grief.”
4. Sincerely Check In
If possible, ask your friend how you specifically can help. Does reading other women’s stories make her feel less alone? Ask her if she needs help connecting with bloggers or support groups. Is she religious? See if she would like a list of supportive verses. Does doing something physical help her relax? Offer to take her to a painting class. Is she young and scared of telling an adult? Suggest sitting with her at the doctor or in a counselor’s office.
Being a good friend does not equate to being a therapist or successfully fixing her pain. Every woman experiences a range of emotions after pregnancy loss, so supportive actions and words may look different for each woman. If you have experience going through or supporting a friend and have ideas to help, share them with us and the HelloFlo community.
Cover image courtesy of Shutterstock.