Monday, December 03, 2007

After a Miscarriage: Supporting Friends & Family Through Loss

How Can Family and Friends Show Support?

• Listen, Listen, Listen! A person who has experienced a miscarriage may need to tell his/her story repeatedly. Show you care by your attentiveness, gestures, and eye contact.
• Be prepared to talk about the baby. Hearing others say the name helps a grieving person heal.
• Know when to be silent... sometimes it is best to say nothing at all. A grieving person may just want someone to listen.
• Be aware that grief has physical reactions as well as emotional reactions on the body. Physical reactions include: poor appetite, disturbed sleep patterns, restlessness, low energy, and other pains. Emotional reactions may include: panic, persistent fears, nervousness and nightmares.
• Encourage your friend or family member to call you or reach out when they experience these feelings.
• Encourage the grieving person to express pain and stress. By working through feelings such as anger, guilt, sadness, doubt and frustration, the normal process of grief and healing occurs.
• Continue to encourage communication.
• Understand that grief is an individual process that is bound by no exact time frame. This frame of time involves finding ways of living with memories and the pain associated with the loss.
• Reassure the grieving person that their feelings and reactions are normal and necessary for healing.
• Remember that specific dates or events such as the anniversary of the loss or the expected due date, may trigger an emotional response. Encourage communication during this time. Perhaps a card or small remembrance.

What are some suggestions for visiting someone at the hospital or at home who has experienced a miscarriage?

Just by acknowledging the family's experience and expressing your own feelings of sadness are acceptable. Sometimes when people say "I just don't know what to say," is the most helpful thing anyone can say. Other helpful suggestions include:

• Talk about the baby by his or her name.
• Talk about the hopes and dreams you had for the family and the baby. The parents want to know others share in their hopes and dreams, too.
• Read literature about miscarriage and bereavement.
• Make or buy something in memory of the baby to keep yourself or to give to the parents.
• Offer help with housework, cooking, child care, etc.
• Be sensitive to unpredictable emotional reactions by the grieving parent.
• Understand that sometimes a grieving person may want to be alone.
• Offer to keep baby memorabilia until the family is ready.
• Offer to return maternity clothing or other baby items.

What are some things I shouldn't say or do?

Following a miscarriage, family and friends sometimes say or do hurtful things without meaning to. The following are some potential hurtful words and actions that you might want to avoid when supporting a grieving person:

• Not acknowledging the loss can be hurtful because for many parents it is important to have their experience recognized.
• Asking about how one partner is doing and not the other can be hurtful. "How are you, and how is your partner?" shows you care about both of them and you acknowledge they are grieving in their own way.
• There are no competitions in grief, each person's loss must be respected for the sense of loss and sadness it has for them. Therefore, certain sayings can be hurtful such as: "It was only a miscarriage, you'll get over it," "You're young, you can have another one," etc.
• Don't try to rush the grief process. This only causes more pain and feelings of confusion, loneliness and inadequacy.

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