Several years ago, my friend lost a baby.
I remember when her husband called me. His voice pushed through as he choked by the tears,
"There was no heart beat."
I didn't know what to do. I had no idea of what to say. I was terrified to do or say anything that would cause my friend more pain than what she was already having to deal with. So, I did nothing.
All I could offer her was a vague email to say, "If you need anything, call me."
Her husband called me and said, "Do you think you could come see her?"
I was hesitant. "Are you sure?" Miscarriages often feel like it a "private" matter. I assumed my friend wanted privacy as she grieved. Her husband pleaded,
"Please, Noelle. I don't want her to be alone."
So, I went.
I called my mother, who had lost baby in utero when she was six months pregnant (with my brother, Jonah, who would be 23 this October if he was alive). I asked my mother for advice for how I can be there for my friend. She said in her beautiful,thick Jersey accent,
"Everyone grieves differently but everyone wants to know that someone cares. Show her you care."
It was the best advice that anyone could give me.
Sadly, a few of my dear friends have lost babies over the last 15 years. My mother was right - each of them have grieved their losses differently - but each one wanted to know that I cared.
Here are 3 Things To Remember When Your Friend Loses A Baby:
1. A baby is a baby.
Some of my friends have lost their babies days after founding out they were pregnant. Some of my friends have lost their babies in their third trimester. Although these experiences are different, a baby is a baby. They have lost a baby no matter how far along they are in their pregnancy.
Once a friend confided in me, "Sometimes I feel ashamed that I am so sad. I know was only 5 weeks pregnant, but I already had names picked out. I had dreams and hopes for my baby."
A baby is a baby.
I stopped saying, "I am sorry you miscarried." I have started saying, "I am sorry that you lost your sweet baby." Sometimes I will ask my friend, "What is your baby's name?" If they have a name picked out, I will use the name as I refer to the loss. It is important to affirm the validity of our friend's grief - they are, in fact, actually grieving the loss of baby.
2. a new Pregnancy doesn't mean the grief is over.
I have made the mistake of assuming that my friend is "done grieving" the loss of her baby because she gets pregnant again. This is not true and I have found that some of my friends have struggled with real anxiety during their subsequent pregnancy after the loss of a baby. They are fearful that they will loss this baby as well. Some of my friends have felt like they couldn't celebrate their new pregnancy in fear of something bad happening or because they feel it will take away from mourning the baby who had died.
My mother who had two children after the loss of her son (my brother), Jonah, still tears up when she talks about holding his lifeless body in her arms. This was 23 years ago. It is important to not assume that "everything is okay now" because our friend is pregnant again. She still needs the support of a friend who will walk closely with her as she carries this new baby.
3. an Invitation is more helpful than information.
When tragedy happens, it is our natural inclination to want to offer an explanation of "why it happened" and "how it can be prevented in the future". I have found that this not helpful. My friends who have lost their babies have told me how they have had to wade through unexplained guilt and inevitable fears for the future as they grieve. Information from a "well meaning" friend can feel too heavy of burden to carry on top of everything else.
Instead of offering our friends "information", we have an opportunity to offer our grieving friends an invitation to
- talk openly about the loss in the presence of a safe and listening friend
- go out for coffee or to the movies to be distracted for a brief time
- ask for a set of helpful hands to tend to house chores and other day-to-day tasks (such as: food shopping, yard work, child care, etc.)
- be encouraged each day for set a time with a regular text or phone call ("I'm thinking of you. How are you feeling today?")
- remember together the baby that was hoped for with cards and gifts with the baby's name on it
- and much more.
When a friend loses a baby, she needs a friend.
And you are it. You are the friend. You don't have to have a counseling degree or even have experienced this particular kind of loss to show her that you care. All you need to do is take a step towards her and let her know that she is not alone.
For more on what to do when your friend loses a baby, listen to Episode 27 of Friending Podcast.
Until next time,
Noelle is a speaker, podcaster, and self proclaimed: Friendtor. (Friend +Mentor = Friendtor). She is the podcast producer/host for Friending Podcast and is a regular co-host for the podcast, Slices of Life. She lives in North Jersey with her hot husband and two wild children. She is a big fan of Constant Comment Tea, the Oscars, and Lesley Knope.
Noelle is passionate about helping women find grow in their calling and encourage one another to do the same through the art of friendship. For more random facts on Noelle you can click here or stalk her on Instagram.