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Jan 29 2015

8 WAYS TO REACH OUT TO SOMEONE WHO HAS MISCARRIED

8 Ways to Reach Out to Someone who has Miscarried - from Dixie MamaDespite the fact that grief is personal, and every person has to find his or her own way through the pain, there is a loose script that most tend to follow after the loss of a loved one. Funeral arrangements are made. Songs are carefully selected. Someone writes a euology, and an outfit is chosen. Family and friends gather in honor of the beloved and share tears, hugs and memories. Once the funeral is over, and the formalities are done, the grave is visited, picture albums catch tears and videos are worn out. For the most part, these activities are expected, and they are a natural part of the grieving process. This is not the case, however, for someone who has miscarried.

For a woman grieving an unborn child, there are no expectations. No script to follow, no tried and true method for channeling grief.

It was a Monday afternoon when I saw a sonogram that revealed a motionless baby. I felt as if it was my own heart that had stopped beating. I was in utter shock that I had miscarried. Reluctantly, I chose to have a D and C the following day. My doctor explained that in addition to the grief, I would be postpartum and have to deal with hormonal changes as well, and she recommended that I take the rest of the week off. I didn’t even have that much time that I could take, so my husband urged me to call into work and find out if I could have time off for bereavement.

It felt awkward to even call, but I did. I was told that bereavement leave is given to cover time off for a funeral and any traveling associated with it, and she asked if there would be some type of service. Her question wasn’t harsh, really. She was trying to find a way to accommodate, and she was truly compassionate during our conversation. Still, the only answer I could give to her question was a tearful, “No.” She checked to see if I could be granted leave anyway, and my company graciously gave me the time off. For that, I was incredibly grateful, but her question kept ringing in my ears.

I realized that I had no expected behaviors to follow so that I could “busy my grief”. Although sorrow needs moments to curl into a ball and do nothing but cry, there are also times when grief needs something to do. The question of whether or not there would be a service caused me to realize that there would be…nothing. No funeral to attend. No grave site to visit. No birth certificate. No obituary. Nothing. I fell apart in my kitchen and sobbed to my husband, “It’s like my baby doesn’t count.”

With no prescribed routine to follow, a mother is unsure how to grieve publicly, and the public has truly no idea how to console. It’s not their fault. After all, they are without a script to follow in this scenario as well, so I’d like to offer my thoughts. I’ve grieved the loss of four babies in all, each experience unique, and I’ve prepared a list of tips on how to reach out. If you know someone who has miscarried, here are eight helpful ways to show compassion.

1. Look her straight in the eyes, give her a hug, and say nothing at all. I had a coworker to do this, and it stands out to me as one of the kindest gestures I received. I didn’t know him extremely well, and it was the perfect way to show genuine concern and leave it at that. He didn’t know what to say, and he didn’t need to. With direct eye contact followed by a heartfelt hug, his silence spoke volumes.

2. Stress that you’re a safe place to say anything at all, and live up to that promise if she chooses to confide in you. I needed desperately to talk, but I didn’t want to be a burden. I was also unsure who would see this as a real loss and who might think I was overreacting. I was bruised to my core and couldn’t risk the chance of someone not taking me seriously. Having someone with whom I could share graphic details or irrational thoughts was a God-send. It was an important part of my healing process.

3. If you have had a similar loss, tell her about it. I was surprised at how much it meant to me to hear other women’s stories who had miscarried. This was especially true when I lost the twins. It was my third miscarriage, and I was emotionally numb. I needed to grieve, but I found it difficult to even cry. Listening to other women’s stories allowed me to feel compassion for them and connect with my own emotions on safer ground.

4. Cry with her. If you are moved to tears, don’t hold them back to be strong for her. She doesn’t want strong; she wants real. I had two ladies and one male friend who broke down and cried on my behalf, and those memories are a treasure.

5. Cuss for her. You probably didn’t see that one coming. One of the best reactions I got was from a friend of mine with no filter. As a general rule, I’m not one to swear, but hearing someone else drop four letter words to acknowledge just how badly this sucked was actually comforting. Sometimes candor can go a long way.

6. Do not offer explanation, wisdom or advice. I know you mean well, and so does she, but reason and emotion don’t mix. Right now, emotion needs space to be irrational. The only exception to this is if you have suffered a loss, and you are sharing something that helped you during your own grief. Still, do not suggest that what helped you will help her. She will draw her own conclusion.

7. If you are close to her, consider giving her something in memory of her baby. I say consider because I don’t believe this is the best option for just anyone as a memorial is extremely personal. However, this is something that proves to her that her baby does “count”. I recommend telling her that you would like to give her something in honor of her baby if she would be comfortable with that. Ask if she has had anything in mind, and she may give you clues as to what would mean the most to her or if she is uncomfortable with the idea.

8. Acknowledge her loss after everyone else has forgotten. It was late February when I learned neither of the twins had a heartbeat. A number of weeks later, on Mother’s Day, I received a text from a client-turned-friend that she was thinking about me and praying for me. She was a mom herself, getting ready for church and whatever festivities she had planned, but she thought of me and took a minute out of her special day to let me know she had not forgotten. And as a side note, don’t fear “reminding” her of the loss. I assure you, she has not forgotten, and it will mean a great deal to her that you haven’t either.

In short, listen more than you speak, and when you speak, don’t offer advice. Just be there. Sorrow is sacred, and as long as you treat it as such, she will feel loved.

Have you suffered the loss of an unborn child? What were some of the meaningful ways people reached out to you after you miscarried? How do you wish people had responded? I’d love to hear your thoughts. I’d also like to encourage you to connect with others who understand what you’re facing.  I found an online support group that was helpful to me.  Whatever you do, find someone on which you can lean.

From the heart of Dixie Mama…always say grace.

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