For anyone who has experienced a miscarriage or stillbirth, the emotional toll of a pregnancy loss can be devastating. No matter how much time has elapsed, many families struggle to come to terms with their grief and have a difficult time moving forward. October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. Here are some helpful rules and advice for women, their friends and families who have recently experienced a miscarriage or stillbirth.
Be gentle with yourself.
There are no set stages of grief, as grief is unpredictable and varies from experience to experience. It’s important to seek out support in whatever way you feel you need. That could be through yoga, meditation, therapy, spiritual support and/or peer support groups. Recovering from this loss is a lifelong journey, so be kind to yourself, and know you’re not alone.
Create a memorial table or sacred space devoted to your baby.
Fill this special place with the memories you have collected — pictures, tokens that are meaningful and connect you to your baby. You can put inspirational sayings, books, candles, photos and whatever reminds you of your child here. In some instances, people choose to get the baby’s name tattooed on their body — also a sacred space.
Make a connection with your baby.
Whether it’s a butterfly or bird, identify a spirit animal that reminds you of your infant.
Go to a special place.
Discover a special place that reminds you of your baby so that you have an emotional connection whenever you feel like it. A walk on a beach, a bench near a lake or a plot in a cemetery can be a time for you to begin and continue the healing process.
Start a foundation in honor of your baby, or do something in your baby’s name.
Participate in a Remembrance Walk. Buy a gift for a child the age your child would be, and give it to someone in need. Donate bereavement memory boxes to a hospital. Anything you do in your baby’s memory will be a way to honor him or her.
For friends and family
It’s more important to say something than to not say anything at all.
There isn’t anything you can say that will make them feel better, so keep it as short and simple as “I am so sorry for your loss” or “I’m at a loss for words.” Parents are grateful for acknowledgment of the loss they have suffered.
Do things for them.
Work with friends and neighbors in your community to arrange meal delivery or meal gift cards for the family. Our community prepared meals for us for three weeks. And during that time, you don’t feel like eating, not to mention making food for yourself. It is greatly appreciated. You can also consider hiring a cleaning service, or ask the parents if there are any tasks you can help out with.
Ask about the baby.
Do not be afraid to ask them the name of their baby and even request to see a photograph if the parents are comfortable sharing. If the parent has experienced a stillbirth, you may want to ask if they were able to hold their baby and what that experience was like. Acknowledgment is incredibly powerful and healing for the parents.
Be present with them.
Sit in that uncomfortable place, and just be there. Don’t try to fix anything.
As time goes on, show you are thinking of them.
Times that continue to be hard for parents: birthdays, anniversaries, death dates and due dates. Do something simple for that person who is hurting, and show that you care about them — a card, flowers, small gift, balloon, candle. Take a picture of a burning candle, and post it on social media. Think of it as a simple gift, just so they know you are thinking about them. If the mother and her partner have children, offer to take the children out so the parents have some alone time together. At the Return to Zero Center for Healing, family and friends can also crowdfund to send a woman to a retreat for those who have experienced pregnancy loss.
After losing her first child, Norbert, at birth, Kiley Hanish shared her emotional story and journey to recovery in Return to Zero, a Lifetime television movie starring Minnie Driver. Following the film’s release, the response was overwhelming and prompted Dr. Hanish, who is an occupational therapist, to launch the Return to Zero Center for Healing, which provides support, educational resources and transformational retreats for women. To find out more about the Return to Zero Center for Healing, visit its website at www.returntozerohealingcenter.com.