How to Support a Grieving Mother After a Pregnancy Loss

Losing a child is one of the most painful things that a parent endures. It doesn’t matter how old the child is, the amount of suffering is unimaginable and incomparable. This pain extends to expecting parents who are preparing for the birth of their child.

Losing an unborn baby brings about endless nights of painful thoughts revolving around what would have been had things been different. Mothers-to-be often blame themselves and retreat into isolation and friends and family aren’t sure exactly how to help—especially if they’ve never been through the same situation themselves. When you’re expecting to take your pregnancy to full term, and you suffer a miscarriage, grief becomes a large part of your vocabulary.

Most people today get uncomfortable when they hear the word miscarriage. Maybe they think it’s too taboo to talk about. Maybe they’re afraid of it happening to them. Or maybe they simply don’t know what to say. Unfortunately, for grieving mothers, holding onto their feelings in isolation makes it harder and harder to move on time continues to pass.

In addition to this fragile emotional state, a mother-to-be still has the physical body that was so eloquently prepared to give birth. It’s a difficult situation to imagine, but one that’s all too real for many women today.

If you or someone you love has had a miscarriage, you’re not alone. That’s why we’ve put together this article to give you some ways on how to support a grieving mother after a pregnancy loss.

Understanding the Process

The first step in giving your support is making sure that you fully understand the grieving process for a mother who’s lost a child. It’s a bit different than the typical five stages of grief, but follows the same pattern.

1. Denial

Most mothers begin their grieving with the denial that it even happened. They may go through very brief periods where they forget or simply can’t wrap their head around the fact that what happened was real life. Shock and disbelief are common during this stage.

2. Guilt

The next phase of the process is a period of guilt and self-blame. Mothers continually circle back to what they could have done differently to avoid their devastating loss.

3. Anger

Regardless of how the pregnancy loss occurred, anger follows guilt. What happened results in a feeling of unfairness and grieving mothers will get angry with anyone and everyone. Don’t take this personally if you witness strong emotions, it’s simply an attempt to find some sort of justification for what happened.

4. Depression

After moving through some exhausting stages of grieving, most mother settle into a period of depression. Some of these symptoms include, loss of interest or pleasure in normal activities, changes in eating or sleeping habits, and trouble concentrating and making decisions.1 If depression symptoms continue to worsen, consider talking to her about seeing a professional to get the help she needs.

5. Envy

After a pregnancy loss, grieving mothers start seeing babies and new parents everywhere they turn. This elicits a sense of jealousy for others and will take some time to get used to. Unfortunately, these feelings never tend to go away, they just get easier to handle. Try getting her to practice some of these exercises to help combat her pregnancy envy and sadness.

6. Yearning

Finally, grieving mothers experience a sense of yearning to be with their baby. They wonder what they’d be like today or what they’d be doing if they were still here. If she has gone on to have successful pregnancies, she will imagine her child having a big brother or sister and wish for circumstances to change.

When you’re able to recognize and identify which stage of grief a mother who has experienced a pregnancy loss is in, it will be easier for you to understand how to offer the best support.

Keep in mind that the mother isn’t the only one who will go through this process. Fathers, partners, grandparents, and close family members may also experience the above signs and need support.

Giving Your Support

The best thing to do for a grieving mother is to simply be present and give your support. While it is difficult to understand exactly what they’re going through unless you’ve experienced a pregnancy loss as well, making an effort will go a long way. Your goal is help her down the road of recovery. She needs the people she cares about most around her right now, so carve out some time to visit or call.

Listen

If you are a trusted friend or family member, show your support by actively listening to what she needs to say. This will include hearing the same story, multiple times, listening to a myriad of “what ifs” or “should haves,” and an attempt to find a reason or justification for what happened. Let her talk.

Show her that you’re there for her and you are listening by being attentive, making eye contact, and responding in appropriate gestures.

Prepare

When she begins to open up to you, chances are she will talk about her lost baby… a lot. Be prepared for this. Understand that she needs to use his or her name and it’s all part of the grieving process. Be prepared to offer advice when it’s warranted and stay silent when it’s not.

It’s always better to let someone talk than to try and fill a silence with unwarranted, or unnecessary, advice.

Be Mindful

Understanding how a person emotionally grieves is one thing, however there are often a lot of physical reactions simultaneously occurring. Remember that her body was preparing for a full pregnancy and it won’t bounce back to a state of pre-pregnancy right away.

Physical reactions, either from grief, depression, or anxiety, are also common. Things such as poor appetite, disturbed sleep patterns, restlessness, low energy, and more take a toll on physical appearance. Be mindful of any changes and let your friend or family member know that you’re always there for them, no matter what. Additionally, during your communication, make sure that you’re mindful of what you say. Don’t be crass or mean.

Encourage Communication

It’s possible that she will be hesitant to talk openly about the pain she’s experiencing or her levels of grief. Instead, she’ll shut down and insist on being alone. Don’t push too hard, but try and encourage an open line of communication.

Let her talk about her anger, guilt, frustration, devastation, yearning, Help her learn to live with everything she’s experienced by letting her talk about it and share it with the important people in her life.

This is an important part of healing and while it’s different for everyone, talking about what you’re going through is good for the soul.

Reassure

Regardless of what a grieving mother says, reassure her that what she’s feeling and talking about is normal and completely necessary for her healing process.

Reassure her that you’ll be there for her no matter what and take the initiative to remember specific dates or events that might be difficult for her or trigger an emotional response. Mark your calendar and on these dates, send her a card or give her a call so she knows that you’re thinking about her during hard times.

Offer Help

When it comes down to it, a grieving mother is going to need some help. With such an intense emotional loss, you lose the desire or motivation to do basic chores like walk the dog, cook a meal, or finish a load of laundry.

Offer ways to tangibly help her and her partner during this time of mourning. Bring food over or help pick up the house after you’ve stopped by for a visit. A little goes a long way.

Relate

If you have lost a baby, or had a stillbirth, share your experience with your grieving friend. Sometimes, the simple fact of knowing that you’re not alone will do wonders on the path to recovery.

Conclusion

Experiencing a pregnancy loss is an extremely difficult thing for expecting parents to experience. It creates a devastating and unexpected change and leaves an empty void in a place where there once was hope and excitement. Hopefully, after reading this article you’re better equipped to help support a grieving mother, or father, in your life. There are also numerous different online support groups, or in-person groups, that they may benefit from. For more information regarding pregnancy tips, info, and product reviews, check out our website.

If you have any additional tips for how to support a grieving mother after a pregnancy loss, or if you yourself have suffered a loss and would like to share your story, visit our Facebook Page today. It always helps to know you’re not alone.

The post How to Support a Grieving Mother After a Pregnancy Loss appeared first on Breast Pump Blog | Breastfeeding Blog.