Content Warning: This post contains discussions of miscarriage and early loss. Due to its heavy content we suggest you take breaks when necessary, and check in with yourself. We also encourage you to have a support person accessible to you — whether learning alongside you, in the next room, or a phone call away.
Unless you have lived experience or training that guides you in supporting people who have experienced pregnancy loss, knowing how to hold friends and family through such tender times can feel heavy. Standing shoulder-to-shoulder with grief can take your breath away—it’s human nature to want to back away from that. Sometimes, that resistance is immobilizing, other times it helps create space and time to process your own emotions.
I usually let clients know that I’m ready to join them in birth or postpartum with an emoji-heavy text (sparkle – cyclone – sparkle, in case you wondered) but before I hit send and walk through the door, I take as long as I need to ground myself. Count to ten. Soak in a handful of deep belly breaths. Check my baggage at the door. It’s impossible to meet people where they’re at if you’re struggling to find yourself—advice for life, in my opinion, but particularly poignant when supporting folks through pregnancy loss and grief. There’s a fine line between empathizing with someone’s pain and making it your own.
Taking Care of You
Grief can be big, bold, and frightening and when people are vulnerable enough to share it with you, it’s important to keep showing up for them. To bear witness and then turn away is to validate the guilt that can be felt with loss—that’s why it’s important to first take care of yourself. Rally your own rings of support and make time to nourish yourself physically, mentally, and energetically. You do not need to bear the weight of someone’s pain to fully support them. If you’re an empath, this might be something you reckon with, but remember that your ability to be there relies on your ability to be there.
Rally your own rings of support first. For me, this looks like my partner who might have to pick up the slack at home when I leave to support someone; my therapist who offers a safe space for me to process my emotions without burden; my peers, teachers, and mentors, who I can call on day or night without question. Sometimes I take the dog for a walk and end up sprinting through the forest, yelling, as the energy swirling in my body agitates and escapes. When I can’t do anything but feel, a long hot shower is always a safe place for me to break down and rebuild. Be curious about what you need and do your best to honor that.
Treat your body with the same kindness as the neighbor you are supporting. Eat warming, easy-to-digest foods and sip nutrient-rich herbal teas. If you journal, processing on the page can be helpful just as spending a few hours with your favorite TV show or book can help settle your nervous system. Above all else, be gentle with yourself.
Taking Care of Them
It’s easy to forget (or not even know) that people who experience pregnancy loss also move through postpartum. Their bodies birth a baby or fetus, sometimes by way of surgery, and those wounds – physical and mental – have to heal. Acknowledging that can feel affirming: “I’d like to drop off a care package for you, would that be ok?” is an easy way of offering this. Maxi pads, a peri bottle, and epsom salts are all good things to include. Bring nourishing broths, soups, and stews (or their favorite takeout) and mix nettle and raspberry leaf tea for blood building and uterine soothing. Give without expectation and don’t assume that your support will be well received or noticed. Even if the tote bag still lays on the doorstep two days later, pick it up and replace it with fresh supplies. Gently remind them to eat and sleep.
If you are supporting someone in person, don’t pre-empt or plan what you might say when you get there. Simply show up and meet them where they’re at. Be present. Listen. Don’t interject with your own experience or divert the conversation. Remember that checked baggage? Make sure it’s still at the door. If you don’t know what to say, say just that. Grief doesn’t need to be ‘fixed’, it just needs to be. Check in regularly with a text or phone call and validate the fact that this is not a linear journey—some days will be harder than others.
As time passes and life moves forward, grief never fully dissipates, it only changes. Keep checking in. Hold them just that little bit closer. When someone is deep in the clutches of grief, staying there can feel comforting because the idea of ever moving forward is too painful to bear. When you show up, you honor loss—and when you keep showing up, you validate that life and loss can co-exist together. A tether to the past and familiarity in the future, by showing up in people’s grief, we can support them in moving forward.
Don’t forget that Brood is here for you, with our Miscarriage & Early Loss course for parents and caregivers.
Written By Ashley Jardine