October is “Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month”. This is an exceptionally important month for mothers and fathers who have experienced such losses; to have a designated month each year in remembrance of their loved ones lost.
It is an equally important time to make an effort to support those in your lives who have experienced such losses. People all too often say nothing, fearing that they don’t know exactly ‘what to say’. Unfortunately, the truth is nothing that you say can take away the pain in which they have already endured. Your goal can just be to show them how much you care. You may simply state, “I am thinking of you and am remembering with you. I am here if you feel like talking more about it”. Such statements can go a long way in helping parents who have suffered losses to feel less isolated.
Here are some more specific tips for supporting a grieving parent:
1 – Speak Up
As previously mentioned, speaking up is certainly always more supportive than backing away. Do not assume that someone prefers his or her space without first attempting to reach out. If the person requests space, then of course respect their wishes. They will know that you are there for them whenever they’re ready to be in touch. All too often it is assumed that giving the parent space is what is preferred, when in fact, he or she is hurting and may be craving contact and support more than ever.
2 – Just be there
Be present in any capacity that you can be. Even if you should say, “I am so sorry. I’m not even really sure what to say, but I am here for you.” This displays that you care and are making an effort. That alone can mean a lot to the mother or father who is grieving.
3 – Specifically ask, “Is there anything else that I can be doing for you?”
You never know what a person may find the most helpful during their time of grief. For some, it may just be taking something off of their plate to assist them in getting through the day (such as cooking, cleaning, running an errand, etc.). When people are grieving, managing everyday tasks can feel very overwhelming.
4 – Be sensitive and empathic in acknowledging the severity of their loss
Avoid any attempts to try and ‘make sense of it’ with comments that could leave them feeling even more hurt. Such comments, while they may be well intentioned, ultimately minimalize the significance of the loss endured. You can show support by just being an active listener and validating how the mother or father is feeling.
5 – Keep in mind that this is a loss that will always be with the parents
Time may pass and they may appear to be coping better and return to their prior daily routines however, these are losses that will always remain with them. You need not fear that you will ‘remind’ them of the loss by asking how they are doing. They have not forgotten. You will just remind them that you are there for them, whenever they might need a source of support.
If you have personally experienced a loss, know that everyone has his or her own unique way of grieving and remembering and that this is okay. If you do feel like opening up more, whether it is to a partner, family, friend, therapist, or other support...the most important part is that you allow yourself the opportunity to do so. No one should ever feel that they are alone on this journey and that the only option is to suffer in silence. Please also keep in mind that this can cause a positive chain reaction. As more people share their own stories of loss, the safer others typically feel to open up about their experiences. By sharing your story, you may not only be helping yourself, but ultimately helping others as well.
To all of the parents out there, to the mothers and the fathers who have suffered a miscarriage, a stillbirth, the loss of an infant…please know that you are not alone and that your little one is and will always be loved and remembered.
If you personally feel that you could benefit from additional support regarding pregnancy and infant loss, or any other maternal mental health related issues, please feel free to seek out more information by clicking here. You may also reach out by calling 908-458-0462. You are not alone and help is here.