Supporting someone after pregnancy loss
When you are reading this section, there must be someone you care about who have experienced a pregnancy loss (i.e. miscarriage or infant mortality). He/she may be your friends or colleagues. By reading the following sections, you may get to understand more about their experiences and thus providing them with the necessary help and support. You may do so by showing understanding about their loss, assuring their role as parents and to show your regret to the deceased child. All these will make them feel they are not alone.
The Possible Emotions Aroused After the Pregnancy Loss
In this section, we will list out the possible emotional reactions that might arise after a pregnancy loss. However, it varies among different people so the contents are for reference only:
- Weep over (For their beloved child and the wish to be parents)
- Shock (especially if the miscarriage happens even there is not any problem shown in the prenatal visits)
- Anger, unfair fate
- Jealous of other pregnant women or parents who give birth successfully
- Being remorseful and keep thinking whether it is their fault to result in the miscarriage. (But in fact, it is not controllable by the pregnant women in most of the cases and please refer to the section “about Pregnancy Loss” for details)
- Being empty, as if she has lost part of her body
- Loneliness, a sense of not being understood
- Fear, after experiencing the pregnancy loss, they feel like unable to control the things around them
- Helpless and useless (feeling unable to protect the child)
- Accept the fact of the pregnancy loss and resume to normal life gradually
- Relieved for no longer being pregnant
The Problems and Challenges the bereaved parents may Encounter
- Scared to go to medical follow up at the hospitals
- Do not know where they can seek support and help
- Do not dare to request to their boss/company about their needs
- Pretend to be “ok”
- Avoid to be with other family members/friends who are pregnant or who have children
- Suppress his/her emotions so as to comfort their partner
- Worried about or even afraid of the next pregnancy
Support to your partner or spouse
Both the wife and the husband are influenced by the pregnancy loss and the difference may only lie between the way they express or experience it. Mutual understanding and support between the partners can surely help the getting through of the grief. It may even help strengthening the relationship between each other.
Mother may have more direct connection with the baby due to the physical growth in her body. Therefore, mother may experience both physical and psychological impact after the pregnancy loss. On the other hand, the husband, who did not have the same experience of the baby being as flesh and blood inside his body, can hardly share the same feelings. Moreover, he will be the one who needs to take care of the wife’s physical and psychological recovery, to settle the affairs and to inform other family members after the pregnancy loss so they usually behave more rationally or focus on practical duties. But in fact, they feel grief, helpless and disappointed equally.
After the loss, the wife may face the following challenges:
- ”Why me?”: Being remorseful and keep thinking whether it is her fault to result in the miscarriage. (But in fact, it is not controllable by the pregnant women in most of the cases and please refer to the section “about Pregnancy Loss” for details)
- Grief and disappointment: She will feel like losing the role as a mother with the loss of her beloved child, as well as the hope to live with him/her in the future.
- Fear and fright: After experiencing the sudden loss, they may feel loss of control and worry about losing again. They are scared to go to medical check-up at the hospital or refuse to contact other pregnant women or parents.
After pregnancy loss, the husband may face the following challenges:
- Feeling the same grief and heaviness. Maybe the pregnancy felt real to you because you saw a scan or felt the baby move.
- Helpless and powerless: You may feel that you can do nothing to your wife’s grief and you cannot cope with all the pressures arouse from daily life. You feel so helpless or frustrated.
- Confused: Even though you are also sad and disappointed, you may not feel as strongly as your wife or even you will consider “Is my wife overreacting?”
The feelings of each of you might not be the same even experiencing the pregnancy loss together. The considerations and the mutual support will make you stronger in getting through this hardship.
- Be open to communicate
- Open communication about your thoughts and feelings can help you two to get through the grief together. When you do not know what to say, you can simply give your wife a hug, which may be even more powerful than words. In addition, you may say “thank you” to your partner to express your affirmation and appreciation for her effort in daily life.
- Acknowledge child’s identity
- Even the deceased child only stayed in the world shortly, many of the bereaved parents found that it is very important to have something memorable to acknowledge his/her identity. For example, you may take photo with the baby, to make memorial items (e.g. models of handprint or footprint). If it is possible, you may also hold a funeral to farewell the baby. All these can help the parents to confirm the child’s identity and also to confirm their roles as parents.
- Different grief reaction between partners
- In facing with the grief, you and your partner may have different reactions. One of you may still feel the pain, while the other has already prepared to move on. In fact, the one who still feel the pain is just needing more time to digest the experience while the one who is ready to move on, is just hoping to resume to a balanced life. The pace in dealing with bereavement is unique for everyone. Therefore, understanding and respecting the difference of each other is needed so that both of you can have enough space and learn to live with the grief.
- Companion and Space
- Everyone grief differently. Some may need to express their feelings while others may express by action or problem solving. Pay attention to your partner’s needs and the way he/she reacts. Allow him/her to experience the grief in the way whichever he/she feels comfortable with. You may also give him/her the timely support. For example, you may spend some time to be with him/her if you feel there is a sense of anxiety or disappointment from him/her. Sometimes, your partner may need a personal space. For example, men may hope to hang out exercising with friends to relieve pressure, while women may dress herself up to meet her needs.。
- Seek help
- Families, friends, colleagues, healthcare staff, counselling staff or even the resources online can provide you with all the different information. All you need to do is to choose the ones which is suitable and to filter the ones which is not applicable.
- Help in dealing with difficult situations
- Your partner may not be ready to announce the bad news to other. Your help can help relieving his/her pressure to a very great extent in this situation.
Supporting someone you know
Grief needs to be accepted or comforted but not corrected. Many people thinks that the bereaved persons will get rid of the sorrow by conventional wordings but in fact it turns out to be the opposite. In fact, there is hardly any single word can relieve all in a sudden. Many bereaved parents said that the best response from others would be companion, understanding and acceptance of the grief so that the deceased child and their role to be parents can be affirmed.
If you would like to comfort the bereaved parents, you may make reference to the following suggestions:
|Avoid saying:||Try to say:|
|“You can't revive the dead, you need to move on.”||“It must be hard to get through the days.”|
|“You are still young and you can have the next pregnancy very soon if your body recovers.”||“It must be uneasy for you to accept.”|
|“All humans are mortal, don’t be sad, be strong.”||“The baby will know how much you love him/her.”|
|“At least you still have other children.”||“The baby’s leaving must be a loss to you.”|
|“In fact the baby’s leaving may be good for you that at least you don’t have to take care of the baby and it is a relief.”||“You have done a good job and it’s so hard for you in this period of time.”|
|“You need to be strong and don’t be sad. You still have lots of things to handle.”||“Every one who lost their beloved ones will feel the grief. You may cry and this does not mean that you are weak. It is not easy to handle the stuff all by yourself. Please let me know if I can be of help.”|
|“It’s been a whole year, why are you still so sad?”||“The grief means the love to your child which has no time limit.”|
|“The baby is already dead, don’t think too much!”||“I know you are still missing him/her, please voice out as it makes you feel more comfortable.”|
|“This is god’s will!”||“I know you are reluctant to part with him/her.”|
|“Time heals all wounds.”||“You can adjust on your own pace but please try to maintain a regular routine for you daily life.”|
You may also:
- Contact the bereaved parents, encourage them to join activities and to develop interests.
- Provide practical support, such as helping them to take care of other children or to buy daily necessities for them.
- Send cards or letters, make phone calls or visit them to show your care on anniversary of miscarriage or other special dates.
- Commemorate the baby together. Make family memoir to share your memories.
- Provide books or information on miscarriage or spiritual topics.
- If you feel that the parents are being affected seriously by miscarriage, please seek professional help.
Tips on comforting bereaved parents
- Listen, help the bereaved parents to express their deep heart feelings.
- Express your care sincerely. Do not judge their grievous reactions and allow diversities among individuals.
- Accept the bereaved parents’ emotions and thoughts in an open and respectful way. Do not make suggestions or decisions for them except being asked to.
- You may also show your empathy by sharing your feelings towards the deceased child.
- It is also good if you are just quietly be there by their sides.
Avoid inappropriate behaviours
- Encourage the parents to remove the room that they prepared for the baby or to make any big changes.
- Totally refuse talking about the baby to avoid the grief.
- Judge or compare the value of the bereaved parents.
In Case of Difficult Situation
It is possible that the way the bereaved parents react do not align with what you expected when you try to approach them. Their reactions and emotions may sometimes make you feel confused or frustrated. Please be reminded that you do not need to blame yourself nor be angry. Try to understand that they are in a vigorous grief and everybody is trying their best to get through this hardship. Therefore, you should accept that everybody will react differently in bereavement.
Taking Care of Yourself
Being the persons to accompany, you also need to take care of yourself while taking care of the bereaved parents. If you feel pressured or worried, you can:
- Talk to professionals or the ones you trust.
- Spare some space for yourself to have a break. Do the activities that you like to relax.
- If you feel grievous too, please leave yourself some spaces for bereavement.