“I lost my baby too.”
I’ve heard these words over and over again. The stories may differ but the heartache remains the same. These are the quiet confidences whispered between grieving mamas; a single sentence that binds us together over stripped wombs and ragged hearts.
The day I lost my son, I found myself joining an unexpectedly large group of mourning women. They were all around me and until then, I’d never even noticed.
Statistically speaking, 1 in 4 pregnancies end in miscarriage – but despite this staggering figure, it can be difficult to put faces to these numbers. As a comparatively quiet group of mothers, it’s sometimes easier to ignore their loss rather than figure out how to approach them.
But how do we respond when a grieving mother shares with us the crushing pain of infant (or child) loss? How do we offer support for the friend who calls us in tears from the hospital? How do we walk alongside mothers in the midst of such heartbreaking grief?
If you’ve been trusted enough to stand alongside a mother during this time of loss, here are a few tangible gestures of support that may be helpful to consider:
1. Be willing to listen.
Sometimes a grieving mother just needs someone to hear her story. Part of listening means providing a safe environment to open up in; be sensitive but don’t be afraid to ask questions or talk about the loss. Keep in mind that you don’t have to have all the answers and you don’t have to know the “right” thing to say, you just have to be available to listen.
2. Keep Track of the Anniversaries.
Keep track of important “trigger” dates such as birthdays, due dates, holidays, or the anniversary of the loss. On those days, let her know that you’re thinking of her (even if it’s just a quick text). These milestones are some of the hardest days; let her know that you’re standing alongside her.
3. Say the Child’s Name.
No mom wants to feel as if her child has been forgotten. This baby was a part of her and for however long they lived, they were here. So don’t be afraid to say the child’s name. Many people fear that by talking about the baby they’ll bring up painful memories. However, it’s more likely that the mom is already thinking about her little one and is just waiting for an opportunity to talk about them.
4. Give Gifts that Pamper.
In the chaos surrounding a loss, gifts that pamper can be a gentle reminder for a mother to take some time for herself. While gift-cards for manicures, spa treatments, or massages are always nice, remember that it doesn’t have to be expensive. A jar of bath salts, a sweet smelling candle, a coffee shop giftcard, or a bottle of nail polish are all relatively inexpensive gifts that can go a long way!
5. Bring Food.
Frozen meals, restaurant gift cards, take-out, or homemade meals delivered hot – whatever form it comes in, this is one of the best, most tangible, ways to show support. Giving food is also a good option for those who don’t have as close of a relationship with the mother but still want to help out.
6. Volunteer to watch little ones.
Grief is complicated and sometimes you just need to sit on the couch (or in the bath tub) and cry for a few hours without a toddler climbing all over you. Giving a grieving mother the gift of some “quiet time” can help her relax or work through some of the emotions she’s dealing with.
7. Help Her Find Ways to Remember.
A picture frame with my son’s name on it, a wooden ornament of an angel holding a baby, flowers laid on his grave, donations made to the Children’s Hospital, and a Christmas stocking in his honour – these were some of the best gifts I’ve ever been given. Why? Because it let me know that someone was thinking about my son. No mother ever wants to feel as if her child has been forgotten; it’s important to find ways to remember.
8. Let her Grieve.
We all grieve in our own way, in our own time. When a mother experiences such deep loss, let her work through the pain in the way she needs to. Try not to compare her grief to anyone else’s: there is no time limit or set schedule. She will silently carry this pain with her for the rest of her life but during these initial heavy days, she’ll need your support. Give her time to heal but stand by her when she needs you.
Love her. Remember them.
In Memory of Landon Alarik.