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Helping Others - Tips Related to Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month

written by Julie Bindeman, PsyD
on Thursday, 3rd October ,2019

It seems that every cause has a day, week or month to bring awareness and that we can be inundated with these messages. With that in mind, this post is about an issue that most people don’t talk much about or know how to respond to: pregnancy and infant loss.

October signifies the awareness of these kinds of losses with October 15th being the “Day of Light” where at 7pm (no matter your time zone), loss parents will light a candle for those children who they didn’t have the chance to raise. It can be so easy to brush off someone else’s pregnancy loss. We are used to hearing things that include there is usually a reason for an early miscarriage, so that should be what one focuses on when they experience this kind of loss. Religious platitudes may be offered and are accepted by the bereaved to a varying degree.

One of the challenges of pregnancy loss is that those around us might not even know that a pregnancy had occurred until the loss happens. Frequently, those bereaved might not feel comfortable even sharing the news of the loss, as it can be painful.

Most losses that humans experience are “retrospective losses” where we can share in a community of others that knew the person who died and can take comfort from a shared sorrow. Pregnancy loss is a “prospective” loss--a loss of a potential future or the dream of what could have been. This makes communal grieving much more difficult as the visions of the future were closely held between the person who was pregnant and their partner or other close family or friends. With later losses, there can be the assumption that the pregnant person “did something wrong” and “caused” the loss, when that is the furthest thing from the truth. The person who most directly experienced the loss will be going over the pregnancy in their mind trying to figure out where they went wrong, when most often, there was little to nothing that could have prevented the loss.

A common myth that well-intentioned people believe is that when a person becomes pregnant again, they will “get over” the baby that died. Imagine if you lose a spouse, and were able to find someone else to date. Would this mean that you had forgotten about your first spouse? Absolutely not! You have incorporated that love and were able to find another person who is different, but one who you are also able to love. The same can be said for a subsequent pregnancy after a loss: the couple has been able to suss up the courage to risk having their hearts broken again, because their desire to parent a living child was able to slightly outweigh the fear that this will also end up in loss. In recognizing someone else’s loss, here are some quick Do’s and Don’ts...

DO:
-Acknowledge the loss Say I’m sorry.

-Call the baby by its name (if it was named)

-Invite people to talk about their child (and if you are comfortable, to show you a picture)

-Bring a meal, clean their house, babysit a living child (offer to do these things without asking or saying, “what can I do to help?”)

-Take the parent’s lead (know that bringing up the baby might cause tears, and for many people it is nice to know their baby is thought of)

-Mark the anniversary on your calendar

DON’T:

-Ignore the loss (unless you are following the lead of the parent)

-Bring in religion, unless the parent has already done so.

-Use platitudes (You’re young, you’ll have others; at least you have a child)

-Offer to help and then not follow up

-Wait until they reach out

 

Pregnancy loss is a challenging time both in the moment of the loss, and for many, it is a grief that is carried throughout one's life.  

Tags: pregnancy loss, infant loss

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