Death is a difficult subject to talk about and it can be even more difficult knowing how to support someone who is grieving a loss. For those who have lost a child, whether during the pregnancy, at birth or after, it is important to not have that death exist in silence, talk about the child and say their name, they existed, they are loved, they are missed and acknowledging their life is important.
Death is uncomfortable and we don’t always know how best to support someone who is grieving, the most important thing is to show up, don’t disappear, don’t tell them you’ll be back when they are feeling better, sit with them, share their grief. Often those who are grieving notice support lessens dramatically after about three months following the death, please keep checking in, please continue to talk about the child, grief takes time, a lot of it. It is not something one ever “gets over”, it gets absorbed in their life, the pain changes but the loss stays written on their hearts and it will stay with the family until the day they die. The loss of a child also echoes throughout the years, on milestones, birthdays and holidays, recognize this, ask them if they want to talk about it.
Try not to say things that rationalize the situation, it happened, it is devastating, it hurts like hell, there is no fixing it or making it better. If you are unsure what to say, just say “I’m here for you” and demonstrate that by actually being with them and not waiting for them to ask for you to show up. Your support matters. It is a lonely time grieving not only the child lost but the future of that child, the plans, the hopes of what their life would look like. You can also say “I don’t know what to say”; one’s mind can go blank trying to find the right thing to say but the truth is, sometimes there just isn’t a right thing to say and acknowledging that helps the person feel less lonely in their not knowing how to live with their grief, their loss.
Be careful what you say. You may feel saying “you’ll get pregnant again” or “you can adopt” or “if you got pregnant once, you can again” are words that will encourage them, give them hope or make them feel positive about the future, but these words minimize the grief and sadness they are feeling for this specific child; another child will never be a replacement for the deceased child.
If you want to help, ask if you can help in specific ways “can I make you dinner?”, “can I clean your room?”, can I organize the cards people are sending?”, don’t ask general questions like “can I help?” Grief is exhausting and can switch one’s brain off, expecting them to create ways to help just puts pressure on the grieving.
Please do your best to get over your discomfort to help someone in your life who has lost a child. Death is not easy and it makes people uncomfortable but it is vital to move through that to support those experiencing the loss. You deciding to live within the uncomfortable will help those who are trying to survive the shock of their trauma. You may feel helpless when you are trying to support a loved one but being there, being willing to be uncomfortable and unsure, matters more than you will ever know.
(Text: You were born silent. Perfect and beautiful. Still loved. Still missed. Still remembered. Everyday. Stillborn. But Still Born.)
Credit: Michelle Salisbury