It’s 20 days until my husband and I will participate in the March of Dimes March for Babies in honor of the life and death of our son Izzy. I’m pushing myself to write and post on the blog each day until the walk—some days a little and maybe some days a lot—in hopes of shedding light on issues like miscarriage and infant loss so that other women who go through these types of things know that they’re not alone. Please share this post generously to spread awareness!
Grief in general can be an isolating experience. I imagine that for even the most well-connected and supported person, it is difficult to grieve the loss of a loved one when the rest of the world seems to keep on going while the world of the bereaved seems to be falling apart. Grief may feel especially isolating when it’s due to loss from miscarriage, stillbirth, or infant loss because of the taboo of discussing these issues. Unless someone has suffered from one of these losses themselves, they may not know what to do for a friend, family member, or acquaintance that has undergone one of these experiences. I would like to share three things that got me through the initial few weeks after losing my son, Izzy, as well as some things I would’ve liked others to do (or not do).
If you know someone who has recently dealt with miscarriage, stillbirth, or infant loss…
- Be with them.
Realize that nothing you do or say can take the pain away from someone who is grieving, but you can show them that they are not walking through the darkness of grief alone.
I will be forever grateful for a close friend of mine that came to the hospital before I gave birth to Izzy. I’d texted her that I was in labor. She was in the area and offered to come by the hospital to show support. Immediately, my first response was, “No, I’ll be fine. Just pray for me.” I felt so vulnerable. The labor seemed to sneak up on me. I was 33 weeks and 4 days pregnant and about to give birth to a baby that doctor’s said may not even survive the labor and who would most likely not live long even if he or she did. My automatic reaction to stress and heartache is to shut people out. My friend, no, sister kept asking me if I was sure that I didn’t want her to stop by. I kept texting that it wasn’t necessary. But the next thing I knew, my nurse was telling me that there was someone there to see me. And I was grateful. She sat and talked with me, then with me and my husband, about nothing and everything until we basically had to kick her out so that she wouldn’t be going home on the train too late. It was refreshing and encouraging that she chose to just simply be there.
Couples that deal with miscarriage, stillbirth, and infant loss just want to feel as if what they are going through is just as tragic as any other circumstance when a loved one is lost. All that’s really needed is for someone to be there. Texts and phone calls are great, but when you are going through the unimaginable, it helps for someone to be present. Couples that are grieving a loss may not know how to accept your support so sometimes you just gotta show up!
- Feed them.
My thoughtful “grief basket.”
They say good food is good for the soul and I don’t doubt that is true, especially when you’re grieving.
Last Fall, I joined the Chicago chapter of the national Mocha Moms organization. It’s a support group for moms that focuses on sisterhood, service, and strengthening black families. I am still a newbie to the group, but these ladies came through like lifelong sisters in such a difficult and dark time of my life.
Exactly a week after losing Izzy, a few of the ladies came over to provide my toddler and me with lunch and even brought a care basket full of both healthy and comfort snacks alike. This basket was everything! It had a potted flower, peach bellini wine, and all kinds of Trader Joe snacks that I’d never had before. It’s because of this basket that I’ve been craving dried seaweed with wasabi! More than the goodies, it was the “we care” message behind it all from women I barely knew that really helped calm the bitterness that was growing inside of me.
Whether you bring lunch, give a care package, or invite a grieving family over for dinner, know that no act is too small. Food may not be able to heal all wounds, but it definitely helps.
- Avoid saying things like, “It’s ok. You’ll have more kids.”
Please do not tell someone that has lost a child—regardless of whether they lost their child at 6 weeks or 36 weeks—that they can always have more kids. If you wouldn’t tell a parent that has lost a teenager that they will be fine because they can have another child, please do not say this to a parent that has lost a child from miscarriage, stillbirth, or infant loss. For some mothers, life begins from conception or from the moment they are aware that they are pregnant. Motherly instincts and attachment can kick in right away. There is no child that is replaceable to a mother. Losing a child (yes, even in the first trimester) can be devastating because there is not only the loss of the child, but a loss of possibility. A mother may mourn all the “what ifs” or “what could’ve beens.” That mother may mourn not being able to hold the child that was lost, not seeing that child learn to walk, start their first day of school, or graduate from college. It’s a loss of all of the possibilities of that child’s life. Saying that another child can replace the one that was lost is disrespectful and insensitive.
I don’t claim that the three suggestions I’ve mentioned apply to every parent that has suffered a miscarriage, stillbirth, or infant loss. I can only speak from my own experience. However, I do believe in risking showing too much attention to grieving mothers and fathers rather than too little. It’s not uncommon for anyone who is grieving to suffer from severe depression and may even contemplate suicide. I encourage friends, family, and even acquaintances to lean in instead of pulling back. We don’t always know how to best show someone that we care when they are going through things that often seem unimaginable to most, but that’s why awareness of miscarriage, stillbirth, and infant loss is so important. If we can erase the secrecy, shame, and stigma that surrounds talking about these issues, we may learn how to care for those suffering and provide much needed support.
My family and I would love for you to donate to our March for Babies campaign! Any amount no matter how small may help other families of premature infants. Click here and know that we’re so thankful for you!