This year, Baby Loss Awareness Week takes place from the 9th to the 15th October. Sadly, one in four mums will suffer miscarriage, stillbirth or infant loss at some stage.
I am one of them.
My second daughter, Grace, was diagnosed with a serious heart defect at my 20 week scan and she passed away only twenty four hours after birth. There are no words to describe the torrent of grief and emotions we are left with. Our friends and family have been incredibly supportive and I am grateful every day to them for the love they give us.
I recently started to wonder how it must feel to be the friend of someone who has suffered such a loss.
We saw a grief counsellor after we lost Grace. I will never forget the wisdom he offered about other people’s reactions to loss.
He said, ‘At least one person will tell you not to worry because you can have another baby. There will be at least one friend you will never hear from again because they don’t know what to say. And there will be at least one shining star – someone who goes above and beyond in their support for you.’
He was absolutely right on all three counts.
If you have a friend who is grieving the loss of a baby and you are finding it difficult to know how to show your support, here are some tips for helping them through it:
Just be there
There is really nothing you can say or do to ease your friend’s pain. Just being there to listen, hug and talk about the loss will be a big help.
My friends came to see me almost every day for the first few months after we lost Grace and just knowing they were there was very comforting. There have been a couple of friends that I haven’t heard from since Grace died. I understand that it must be difficult to know what to say and do and perhaps they found it easier to say nothing at all.
Honestly there is nothing anyone can say or do. Just being there is more than enough.
Talk about the baby
Sometimes it may appear kinder to talk about something other than the loss because you don’t want to upset your friend further. But believe me; your friend will want to talk about her loss.
Look at the pictures of her child with her and any other memories she has (such as a lock of hair, hand and foot prints and hospital tags).
Grace’s life was so short, I want her to be remembered and I want to show people the photos and memories we had of her. By talking about her and sharing our memories it enables us to keep her alive.
Don’t mention trying again
After losing a child, the last thing your friend will want to think about is trying again.
Shortly after Grace died, someone remarked to me that I shouldn’t’ worry because I could have another baby. Although the grief counsellor had warned me I would hear this comment, I wasn’t prepared for the sting. While I’m sure the person in question was just trying to help, having another baby was not something I was ready to think about for a long time after losing Grace. And even now, five years on and after having a rainbow baby, he will never be a substitute or replacement for Grace.
Your friend will never forget her loss and will grieve for her child every single day.
While it’s very important to be there in the days and weeks following the loss it is equally as important to be there for the long term.
Your friend will need your support forever. If she has days when she seems down or not herself, always remember that she is still grieving and may need a shoulder to cry on (however long has passed since her loss).
The loss may change her permanently – try to understand and accept the changes. I know that I am no longer the same person I was before my pregnancy with Grace.
I have a friend who mentions Grace on every Christmas card she sends. It means so much to me to know she too is remembering Grace at a time of the year when her absence from our family is even more evident.
Support her through future pregnancies
Subsequent pregnancies will be difficult for your friend. She will feel a cocktail of emotions – guilt, worry, excitement, happiness and sadness.
I found my third pregnancy very difficult at the beginning – I felt guilty for ‘moving on’ and terrified that something bad would happen again.
It’s important to acknowledge the baby that she lost. At the beginning of my third pregnancy, a friend asked me how it felt to be having a second baby. I had to point out it was actually my third baby. This obviously caused her some embarrassment and I’m sure she simply hadn’t wanted to upset me my mentioning my second pregnancy.
I carried Grace for 8 months. And I spent twenty four hours with her before she left. It’s ok to acknowledge that – it won’t upset me. On the contrary, acknowledging Grace and her place in our family is very important to me.
Remember the anniversary
It will mean a great deal to your friend if you always remember the anniversary of her child’s birth and death. Sending her a card or even just a text on the day will let her know you are remembering too.
Help her celebrate her child’s life
You can ask her if she would like any help arranging the funeral or, if she is thinking of fundraising in memory of her child, offer to help. I have a friend that threw a fundraising party to help us with our fundraising efforts in memory of Grace. This meant so much to me as did the support of everyone who came along to and helped out at the fundraising events we organised.
Don’t forget her partner
He will feel the loss just as much. When you see him, give him a hug and ask him how he is coping. He will appreciate knowing that you are there for him as well as for your friend.
Life goes on
If you are pregnant or become pregnant after your friend’s loss – don’t hide it from her. Share the experience with her as you would with your other friends. She won’t want to feel left out or that you are treating her differently.
A few weeks after I lost Grace, a friend announced she was pregnant. I’m not going to say it was easy to hear her news, because it wasn’t. But I was genuinely happy for her and grateful that she shared her good news and pregnancy milestones with me.
If you are trying to support a friend through baby loss, you can be the shining star she needs. Find out more about Baby Loss Awareness Week by visiting the website here.
Aimee Foster is a mum, freelance writer and social media manager, bookworm and sea lover. Find more of her ramblings over on her blog, New Forest Mum.