Friday, May 15, 2015

supporting a friend through miscarriage

I have only had 1 close friend that has gone through a miscarriage. I remember feeling so sad and so helpless, not knowing what to say or do to make her feel better. I was actually nervous to talk to her. I didn't want to say the wrong thing that may upset her even more. And at the time, I had no idea what it meant to be a mother, let alone a mother dealing with the loss of her baby.

I've been thinking about her a lot lately. She's been so present throughout my miscarriage - sending me sunshine packages, texting me randomly throughout the day, reminding me that it's a long process, giving me a heads up on things that will be painful in the future. She's been through it and she gets it. I wish I could have helped her on the same level she's helped me.

It is true that you can't fully understand something unless you've gone through it yourself. As a friend or family member, I think that's what makes this experience so difficult. It's hard having to stand on the sideline, trying to help coach a game you don't even know how to play. Now that I've experienced miscarriage from both sides, I can say that you don't have to fully understand it to be there for someone. I've been blessed with some amazing friends who have and continue to be there for me. I wish I would have known what I know now so I could have said or done "the right thing" for my heartbroken friend years ago.

So I decided to make a list - things you can do so she knows you're there for her, based on some of my own experiences both as a friend and as a grieving mother. A list for all those courageous friends who will someday have to stand by and watch their friend suffer a painful loss, without fully understanding what it's like being on the other side. It's a difficult thing for you, too.

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how to support a friend through her miscarriage


Reach out.
Even if you feel uncomfortable or nervous and have no idea what to say. A simple text, email or note that says you're thinking about her and you're there for her is enough. Just something to start the communication. It'll help her know you're there if she needs you.

Acknowledge that it's awful.
I know that horrible things happen to people everyday. I know there are worse things that could happen than a miscarriage. I know miscarriages are common and you know someone who has had 3. Some people have attempted to make me feel better by telling me a worse story so I feel more grateful for what I have. I didn't and still don't want to hear any of that. I know I'm blessed to have Joe and I know hope there will be babies in the future. But I wanted this baby...my baby. Try not to negate her feelings. It's been most comforting when friends just listen, really listen, and acknowledge my loss. Tell her it's horrible and you're sorry she's going through this.

Send random texts, cards or call... long after the physical part is over. 
The week I actually miscarried was horrific. I needed all the support I could get because I was so physically and emotionally destroyed. But even though I'm past the physical pain, I'm by no means healed. In fact, I hit a complete low about 3 weeks after I miscarried because I started feeling more alone than ever. My support system stopped reaching out as often, my baby felt further away than ever and I felt like people almost expected me to be "over it." Keep reaching out. Keep texting at random times during the day just to ask how she's doing and tell her you're thinking about her. Keep asking things like "how did that make you feel?" Because chances are, you're reaching out at a time she needs it most.

Don't talk about future babies or plans until she brings it up.
When the doctor met with us after we found out we had lost our baby, one of the few things that I actually remember her saying was "you can start trying again after you get your period." I remember feeling a sharp pain in my chest as those words came out of her mouth. There I was, 2 hours after learning I had lost my baby, and she's already talking about the next one. It felt so black and white and I was still drowning somewhere in gray. Thinking about getting pregnant again has been a very difficult thing to wrap my brain around. Sometimes I want to talk about it, most times I don't. Things like "there will be more babies in your future" or asking "when will you try again?" are difficult for me to hear because I am still in this pregnancy. Wait for her to bring it up. She will when she's ready.

Refer to her baby as if you've already met him/her. 
I know this probably sounds bizarre, but it has been so comforting when friends have acted like my baby was already a person to them. I don't know if that makes any sense...but I guess a lot of the time it feels like she came and went and never really existed to anyone else but me. So when friends have talked about her and have said things like "you were an amazing mother to her" or "she will be waiting for you in heaven" it just makes me feel whole again.

Reach out to her husband.
Sadly, the dad is often forgotten through all this. I have had a ton of support, but James hasn't. I'm not trying to speak for him, but I could tell that the few texts or phone calls he did receive meant the world to him. He's had such a different experience than me because he's had to deal with his own grief while trying to support me through mine. Check in on him. Let him know you're thinking about him, too. Ask him if there's anything you can do to help.

Be thoughtful.
I'm a really sentimental person, so little ways to remember my baby mean the world to me. It makes me feel like she's not forgotten. I've gotten beautiful flowers and thoughtful gifts like jewelry to remember her, but I've also cherished little things too like quotes or poems that have been sent to me. I've also kept every card I've received in the mail on my nightstand so I can read them before I go to sleep. I don't know why, but night time is a lot harder for me. Probably because the kitchen is closed, Joe is asleep, James is usually asleep too, and I'm left wide awake with my thoughts. Those letters and kind words have gotten me through a lot of tough nights.

Accept the way she chooses to grieve.
Everyone is different and handles loss differently. I started on this journey grieving silently, trying to pull it together by burying it inside. But I soon realized that isn't me. With the support of my best friends behind me, I decided to share my story here on City to South. I want to talk about it because that's what helps me. Personally, I don't want to live my life pretending my miscarriage didn't happen. Whichever way she chooses to grieve, support her without judgement.

Be extra present at key times.
There will be a lot of difficult milestones. I've already gone through some, but I know there are a lot more coming. My 13th week was hard, knowing I should have been in my 2nd trimester and announcing my pregnancy. Mother's Day was difficult. Friend's baby announcements have been difficult. I'm assuming my due date, the holidays, etc. will all be difficult days for me. Try to think about some upcoming things that might be difficult for her and try to be present during those days. Remind her that you're thinking about her. Tell her she's strong and she will get through it.

Keep her busy.
Keeping busy has gotten me through this past month. Thankfully Joe takes up a lot of my time...I've never felt so grateful to have the most energetic toddler on the planet. Some of the best days I've had since my miscarriage have been afternoons with Joe & James at the zoo, nights drinking wine with my girlfriends or going out dancing downtown. Just being out of the house and having fun. She may or may not choose to deal with stress the same way I do, but navigate what works for her. Maybe she just wants someone to watch a sappy movie with and eat ice cream (which also sounds pretty awesome). Keep suggesting things to do and follow her lead.

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Thank you to all of my friends who have been there for me throughout this experience. You've filled my list with all the "what to do's" and I'm so blessed to call you my friends.

Other grieving mothers...I'd love to hear some things that I'm missing from my list! I know all of our experiences are so different, so please feel free to share. And as always, keep swimming. :)

3 comments:

  1. I love this list. Its been very informative as I've felt helpless and far away while you've grieved and it's hard to know how to send the kind of support you need. Love you lots and you all are always in my thoughts!

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  2. I feel like the only way for me to grieve was to find purpose in my loss. As crazy as it sounds, it has helped to know I can help others through my own pain and with that same pain comes hope for a better tomorrow. I believe your loss has helped you to be mindful of others and your own emotions. I believe you are an amazing woman who is becoming stronger each an every day. From a mother who has experienced the same type of loss- I'm praying you find peace in due time.

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    1. Thank you for your kind words, Jayme. I've also been finding comfort in helping others, and writing about it has connected me with so many other strong mommas out there. Prayers to you, too! <3

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