We had been drinking coffee for about an hour, chatting about our babies, relishing in the moments of motherhood, grumbling about the moments of motherhood, when she said something I had not expected:
“I still can’t believe we’ve lost two others before our Sean finally came to us.”
I had no idea. I didn’t even know how to respond at first. Why is it that we have this feeling of secrecy and privacy when we learn of a woman’s miscarriage, stillbirth or pregnancy loss?
Grief is a funny thing and I have learned that it likes to play games with you. Want to cry in the middle of Wal-Mart for what seems to be no apparent reason? Hello, Grief is here! Want to make others feel awkward in a room by discussing what it was like to hear the doctor say they are sorry, but your baby was an ectopic pregnancy? That would be Grief, flowing through your heart.
Many say that grief is not linear but sporadic, raring itself when you least expect it. I have not gone through the experience of losing one of my babies, but I have grieved for the loss of a loved one and I can definitely say grief is not linear. I am not going to try and compare what it would be like to lose the life of your own child, but I am here to raise an awareness for those of you who do know someone who’s lost their baby.
I don’t have a formula for what to do when you are talking with that friend who opens her heart because she found out a week ago that she had a miscarriage. What I can offer you is my experience as the friend of several women who have had to say goodbye to that small flutter in their belly. These women have been honest to the core about their feelings and when your friend uncovers her heart, raw with emotion, you can be there to still connect with her.
We tell ourselves that we want to be respectful and give them the privacy and space they need. While this may be true with many deaths people have to face, I have found that most women just need to know someone is there. Instead of not calling or texting because you didn’t want to intrude, try sending a simple, “I’m here. My heart is with you.” A simple text like that alone may do more than you realize. Saying something will most likely be better than silence.
And sadly, but true, and better than not, they need to know that someone else has been there too. If you have been there too and your friend is looking at you with tear-filled eyes, I would encourage you to follow that tug on your heart to share with them what it was like for you a year or two ago, when you lost your first and kept it hidden away. Maybe you feel pain for not speaking about it more. Maybe you have regrets. Maybe you realized you needed to talk about it. This is your opportunity to connect, to stay the course with them and help someone not make the same mistake.
When a close friend of mine had a stillbirth in her third trimester, I was at a complete loss of words. I had no experience with that kind of loss and honestly, I felt like it would be stupid for me to try and offer some sort of platitude to make her feel better. I felt like there was nothing I could do to make her feel better. Then I realized, that I didn’t necessarily need to make her feel better. I needed to show her love and support and accept wherever our friendship was at that moment, knowing that grief is pretty much a never ending process. Instead of fumbling for eloquent words, I called her and said, “Wanna go for a walk?”
Let your friend lead the conversation and don’t shy away when she opens her heart. Don’t be afraid to ask questions either in order to connect with her in remembering her lost one. Questions like “What did he look like? Why did you choose that name?” may bring a comfort to her that you did not think would. Be raw with her. Hold her hand. Cry with her. Be angry with her. Be there.
Be there when the wounds are throbbing. Be there when the healing starts.
I have found remembering with them their child they lost is the most encouragement a mother of the loss community can receive. Remembering with her on the birthday of her loss child may lift her heart more than you realize. Telling her in a soft way that today you met a little girl with the same name as her child, will bring a bittersweetness to her that will make her shed tears but make her heart twinge, knowing that her child is not a distant memory to be forgotten.
Her baby was and is part of her life and remembering that with her in subtle ways will mean more than you can imagine.