Friday, October 15, 2010

Pondering Helping Hands on October 15th

October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness month, and the 15th is set aside as a day of remembrance. A friend of mine who helped me through my miscarriage started a non-profit called The Amethyst Network to provide physical and emotional support for women and families during and after a miscarriage. I asked her if there was anything that I could write about that would help the cause and she said to write about what people said or did that was helpful for me during my miscarriage experience.

When I start to think about it I don't remember things that people said so much as things that people did, or didn't do. Pregnancy loss is a difficult thing for many people who haven't experienced it which, in my experience, led people to say or do nothing rather than risk offending. I think a loss like this really shows you who your real friends are. A father writing about his wife's pregnancy loss and the emotional turmoil he went through with that experience made a very true statement: "Compassion breeds an amazing amount of tolerance." If you truly care for someone experiencing a loss, seek to find compassion in your heart and it will mold you into what that person needs you to be.

Here are some guidelines based on my experience that might help others:
  • Validate the loss: A man in my church who had lost his one year-old son last year approached me and with tears in his eyes he told me how sorry he was. I will forever be grateful to that man for crying with me and letting me know that my pain was as valid as his own.
  • Make your words tangible: I received many emails, but only two sympathy cards and one letter containing an article on miscarriage.While the emails were kind, the mail was so comforting. Being able to hold someones kind thoughts in my hands was so gratifying.
  • Be physical: I am not a hugger but I cannot tell you how grateful I was to have someone genuinely embrace me when I could barely speak. One evening I had four women, whom I barely knew, embrace me one after the other because they were so sorry for my loss and wanted to comfort me in some small way. I could feel that in their hugs.
  • Feed them: Don't make a family who has suffered a loss ask first. Food is SO very comforting. After I lost the baby I struggled so much just trying to read a recipe and everything I made tasted bad. I have since learned that this is normal when grieving but at the time not being able to cook made me feel like a failure. Having people bring my family meals eased a burden.
  • Judge Not: Need I even say this? Everyone grieves on their own time line and just because someone doesn't look like they are grieving does not mean that they are totally fine. The best way to tell if someone needs help is to ask them, in person, how they are healing.
  • Be Peaceful: When you are around someone whose life is in turmoil I don't recommend you dish to them about how horrible your life is or discuss the injustices heaped on you by mankind. #1 The person you are venting to probably won't be able to validate you and #2 All your doom and gloom is probably going to make them feel worse.
  • Keep In Touch: When something awful happens people are often blessed by an outpouring of support from their community but after a few weeks pass by there is an assumption that it is time to move on. As I said before grieving can be a long and drawn out process and knowing you are still thought of even months after the event, is very comforting. I have a friend who contacted me every few days or at least once a week to see how I was doing, and I love her for that.
The following is an excerpt from a card that was written to me and Andrew that I read often for comfort:
 May you gain wisdom as you pass through this difficult time. You already had that baby visualized in your arms. I am so sorry. Let the waves pass over you. Sometimes it may hit you when you least expect it. Always know that there are those who are aware and who will listen to your sorrow and try to bear you up.
The Lord loves you and is mindful of your grief. May you be comforted by His love. May the Atonement of our Savior Jesus Christ help you to see His hand in your lives.
 The woman who gave this card to me didn't know me extremely well, but knowing the pain of pregnancy loss herself, she was inspired to write these words to me. Every time I see her she has asked me about my healing in such a kind and gentle way. She is a perfect example of that compassion that breeds tolerance. I pray that we can all learn to be so.

The Amethyst Network is "a nationwide network of doulas working together to support parents during and after miscarriages." If you would like to support them in this worthy cause please donate on their web page.


  1. Even having experienced pregnancy loss myself, I feel I learned a lot from reading this. I'm sorry I didn't understand or see the ways I could have helped you more. I love you. I have had random times even years later when I feel the sting from the loss. Grief certainly isn't linear, it's more of a wibbly wobbly timey whimey bits kind of thing.

  2. Thank you for writing this. I've never experienced a miscarriage but would have been devastated if I had. My sister-in-law lost a baby after years of trying, and I felt so horrible for her. But she hid away from us, so I didn't know how to approach her. I finally went down to the basement of my parents' house where she and my brother we hiding out during a family dinner, and they were laying together on the couch. All I could do was give her foot a little squeeze, hoping it would somehow convey my sympathies to her. I wanted to send her flowers or something, but was so busy with my new baby that I never got around to it. I've always felt bad that I didn't do more.