October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss awareness month. 1 in 4 women have experienced a miscarriage or stillbirth. For years, this was just a statistic I’d read… until it happened to me.
As you know, 2018 has been one of the most difficult years of my life. My husband and I lost our sons Elijah and Malachi – both during the second trimester of pregnancy less than 5 months apart. The loss of our boys has wrecked me, changed me, and taught me so much. I have felt every emotion possible from anger to depression to jealousy to even joy. God has been with me every step of the way and while I do not know or understand His grand plan, I know that He is so so good.
Since losing Elijah and Malachi, I have had a lot of people reach out to me to share their stories of loss. Many of these women have never shared their real feelings of loss with anyone and to know that the stories of our boys are inspiring others to speak up and open up about their own angel babies has meant so much to me. To know that Elijah and Malachi are leaving a legacy even in their short lives just shows what God can do through tragedy.
Another group of people that have reached out to me a lot are the support people of those who have lost babies. Moms, dads, husbands, cousins, sisters, friends… the people surrounding the family of those who have experienced the loss of a child. And the number one question I get is: “What can I do for them? How can I support them in their time of suffering?”
I reached out to several others in my fellow loss mom community to ask them what was most helpful after the loss of their children… and while EVERY mom is different – there were A LOT of common themes. So, I have put together a list of resources or ideas for how you can support someone who has experienced a miscarriage, pregnancy loss, stillbirth, or infant loss:
Immediately after the miscarriage or loss:
- Meals. Meals. Meals. Overwhelmingly, this is what almost every person said was the most helpful in those early days. I know for me, personally, I love to cook… but in the days and weeks and even months after we lost Elijah and Malachi, the thought of trying to figure out what to cook my family was overwhelming and exhausting. When people brought freezer meals, or fresh cooked meals, it was a HUGE weight lifted off my back. Others who lived far away, sent us Grubhub, Postmates, or Doordash gift cards and that was absolutely amazing and so helpful so we could order food for delivery on nights we didn’t have someone bringing us a meal or we had nothing to eat.
- Groceries. This is another one that was so helpful. I had a friend just drop off on my front porch a bag from Trader Joe’s with all her favorite Trader Joe’s snacks and goodies. She even bought snacks for Lilly and Amos which was so thoughtful.
- House Cleaning. Consider pooling some money with others and hire a house cleaner for your friend. To have someone else come in and dust and vacuum and clean bathrooms… that has been incredibly helpful.
- Offer to babysit / watch their other kids: If the person who has experienced loss has other children, offer to pick them up and take them to a park so mom and/or dad can be alone. Having a friend just take my kids for a morning so I could lay in bed and cry or watch a movie or take a bath or just do whatever was so helpful.
- Offer to sit with them and cry… or offer to just leave them alone: This is one where you will just have to ask – you can say, “Would you like me to come over and just hang out? We don’t have to talk and you don’t have to say anything… we can just sit and watch a movie.” Giving the grieving person freedom to just be and not feel pressured to entertain you is freeing. Or, the person might be like me and might just want to be left alone. For me, I wanted to be alone. I love my friends… but I really wanted to just be alone. I think because if someone is over at my house, I feel so much pressure to talk or entertain them (even if they say I don’t have to – so instead, I just didn’t want that pressure at all). So when people dropped things off, they just left them on my doorstep and sent me a text… that way I didn’t have to see anyone. For me, that’s how I needed to grieve and heal. I needed to be alone and thankfully my friends knew that.
- Gift them a Lullaby of Hope Box: This is a curated gift box for women suffering through infertility, miscarriage, and loss. I received one after we lost Elijah and it was so helpful.
If they are planning a funeral or memorial service: offer to help with the planning or purchase a funeral program template for them from The Morning shop. This is not an easy thing for a parent to do, so taking something off their plate can mean the world.
Ultimately, in most cases, just do it… DO NOT ASK, “Is there anything I can do for you?” or “How can I help?” Because 9 times out of 10, the grieving person has absolutely no idea how to answer that. Just take the initiative and DO IT.
Also, this one may be somewhat controversial, but I recommend NOT sending bouquets of flowers. For me, flowers were beautiful, but they die… and sometimes quickly. And as strange as it may sound, watching flowers die was another reminder of the loss and death I’d just experienced. If you want to send something like flowers, try sending a potted plant or something that won’t just die as easily. I actually still have an orchid plant one of my best friends gave me when we lost Elijah and somehow I’ve kept it alive because it’s actually super low maintenance. That orchid plant is beautiful and I treasure it.
Also, in the case of a stillbirth or infant loss, the grieving parents will need help with what to do with their child’s items / nursery, etc. But this is a complicated piece that will take time… but offer to help when they are ready.
3-6 months after loss:
- Memorable Jewelry: I have a few simple pieces of jewelry that represent my boys that are precious to me. I have a bar necklace from ABLE that has the initials of each of my kids on it – including Elijah and Malachi. I also have a few bracelets that are just very meaningful to me. Held Your Whole Life is another jewelry company meant for women who have experienced miscarriage.
- Offer to babysit their kids so they can go on a date night and reconnect.
- Send a book or devotional that made you think of them (I listed some of my favorites below).
- Check in on them. Just ask how they are doing… don’t forget them.
- Say their child’s name. If they chose not to name their baby, that’s okay… acknowledge the baby.
- Acknowledge due dates and plan something special to honor the baby on his / her due date.
1 year+ after loss:
- Check in on them. Just ask how they are doing… don’t forget them.
- Acknowledge “loss” dates or birthdates. A card. A text. A note. Anything.
- AGAIN, say their child’s name. DO NOT be afraid to say their child’s name. Hearing the name of their sweet child is all they have and can mean the world.
- Ask about their baby… ask questions about the pregnancy… If it was a stillbirth or infant loss, ask about their delivery or any stories of early days? Asking about their child is an acknowledgment that their baby was real and mattered and existed… it is honoring.
Resources for children / siblings after loss:
There are two books that a friend recommended to me to get for Lilly and Amos and they have been really helpful… one is called “Something Happened: A Book for Children and Parents Who Have Experienced Pregnancy Loss” and “We Were Gonna Have a Baby But We Had an Angel Instead.” Both books put in very plain, simple language what happened so that you can begin to have the tough conversations with your kids about the miscarriage or pregnancy loss.
Books / Devotionals I read after our loss that have been helpful & healing:
- Loved Baby
- Grieving the Child I Never Knew
- Grace Like Scarlett
- Breaking the Fear Cycle
- Thirsty for More
- Cultivate Hope Write the Word Journal
There are many more that are out there, but these are the books / devotionals that I have read that have helped me a lot.
This is obviously not an exhaustive list, but overwhelmingly, this is what most fellow moms who have experienced miscarriage and pregnancy loss have said were the most helpful in their grief.