Pregnancy loss is devastating. No matter when it happens or what the circumstances are. After a pregnancy loss there are many ranges of emotions and physical changes that occur. Grieving the loss and the expectation while your body is going through changes postpartum is difficult. Although pregnancy loss is common, 1 in 4 birthing people will experience a loss knowing how to support survivors is critical to their healing. Many birthing people who experience pregnancy loss go on to have successful pregnancies. Once the pain of your grief subsides, you and your partner can talk about whether to attempt another pregnancy and, if so, when you’d like to try again. Another pregnancy might yield feelings of sadness for your earlier loss — but it might also inspire hope for the future.
Here are 8 ways you can support survivors of pregnancy loss:
Leave the cliche sayings at the door.
“At least…” “You can have more..”
These cliche sayings may mean well, but they are harmful to the individual as they grieve and heal. Acknowledge the loss, tell them you are sorry, and be there for them by listening when they are ready to be vulnerable and discuss how they are feeling.
Continue to call and reach out.
You may find that the calls subside and the texts are not being returned. Please continue to call and reach out to let them know you care and are there for them. Maya Angelou has a saying “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” They will never forget how you made them feel by calling and reaching out.
Don’t take a grieving person’s behavior personally.
As the person grieves they are experiencing the cycles and waves of grief and at any moment they can cycle from joy to anger. Do not take their behavior personally as they are riding the waves of grief and allowing themselves to process their feelings on their time.
Acknowledge the loss.
Acknowledge how they identify the loss. If they call their baby by a name, say that name when you ask about how they are doing and processing their loss.
Follow the grieving parents’ lead.
Follow their lead on discussing the loss and any subsequent pregnancies. Go slow and give presence to the family as they grieve.
Be proactive in doing, but also ask what you can do.
Be proactive in bringing food, helping around the home, and taking care of other children. Be specific in your ask on what you can do to help.
Erica McAfee is the Founder and Head Sister of Sisters in Loss, a digital media platform where Black women replace silence with storytelling around pregnancy loss, infant loss, and infertility.