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8 Ways to *Not* Support Your Friend Who Has Lost a Baby

Hello friends! One of my therapy specialties is supporting families grieving perinatal (miscarriage and stillbirth) and infant loss. This specialty is born out of my own story, one which I may share here someday. Most therapists work with what they know, and I know fertility struggles, miscarriage and infant loss intimately. I wish I didn't know this type of grief at all sometimes. Because I know this topic so well, I also know the not so helpful ways that people try to assist when a family is grieving the loss of their pregnancy or baby. Here is a list of 8 ways to *not* support your friend (or family member) who has lost a baby:

  1. Poor Comfort Technique: "You can always have another." It's number one on this list for a reason. When people have just told you they have lost a pregnancy or a child, the last thing they want to hear is about the baby or babies they *might* get to carry in the future. Also, it's insensitive to those families that find achieving pregnancy difficult. Future children/pregnancies aren't guaranteed so short of you being able to see the future and interpret it accurately, just don't say this one at all.

  2. Don't say this: "At least you're able to get pregnant." I heard this one at least once, and I have to say, not helpful. It was like, 'Yes, thank you for that. I have been pregnant five times and have one living child. That is not something I want to be reminded of when I am telling you my story.' And, at certain points in our family's story, I would have given anything not to experience pregnancy again because it meant possibly braving yet another loss, and I wasn't sure if my marriage or my heart could take it.

  3. Please for the love of everything, don't say this: "Everyone has one." It's factually incorrect, and it's not a normalizing response, like you think it is. This response is trivializing a family's grief. And, even if everyone did experience a miscarriage, does that make their loss any less real? Does it matter any less?

  4. Poor Comfort Technique: "There's always adoption." Oh dear, let's not start with problem solving as a listening technique. It never works the way it is intended. And, adoption is not part of every family's story, nor should it be. It is a special process that should be entered into with excitement, peace and joy, not suggested as a 'back up plan' for a family experiencing miscarriage, fertility or infant loss. Frankly, it's none of our business what each couple or family chooses in regards to growing their family. Our job, as a loving family member or friend, is to offer support and happiness, no matter how their family comes to be!

  5. Giving weird gifts. This one is hard for people. Hearing about babies dying or miscarriages throws people into a tailspin. 'Babies aren't supposed to die.' So, what do people do when they have no words? They buy gifts, some of which have no business being bought, and some of which send the wrong message no matter how thoughtful the giver was in selecting it.

  6. Forgetting to inquire about mom's physical health after suffering a miscarriage or pregnancy loss. Pregnancy is hard on the female body, and most miscarriages are painful and women are often unprepared for this level of pain. Asking the mom how she is feeling and if there is anything we can do to support her physical healing is key.

  7. Not respecting family/maternity leave after the loss. If a friend, coworker or family member is taking time off work after a miscarriage, stillbirth or pregnancy loss, give them that time. They need it to physically heal, hold their cracked hearts and be with their main supports. Family leave should be granted to any family suffering such a loss, but it is often not. Advocate for it, if you are a supervisor at a company or an agency. Advocacy brings about change.

  8. Bringing up your own loss. Remember, the key to listening is to just be present. If your friend or family member asks you about your experience, then that is your cue to share, but otherwise, it is best to not bring up your grief/loss. Empathy is sitting with people in their pain. Sympathy is looking down on people and saying, "Whew! It looks bad down there. Let me tell you about a time it was worse for me..."

Since this blog is also about helping, here are 4 ways to support your friend through this period of grief:

  1. Offer to help in tangible ways. Ask to bring a meal/start a meal train. Inquire if a cleaning service would be helpful. Ask them to make you a list of chores and a time you can come by and help. Offer to watch their other children if they have them so they can rest.

  2. If you choose to send a gift, ask the family what would be meaningful to them. Tailor it to their belief system around the afterlife and make it tasteful. A great example of this is that a family member of ours asked us if a religious statue for our garden would be welcome and then sent us a link so we could select our own. It was delivered within two weeks. I still look at that statue and smile.

  3. Ask about their baby. Ask about their experience. People want to know that you remember their baby, that you hear them and see their anguish.

  4. Listen. Deeply. Listen to understand by asking thoughtful questions, and then prepare yourself to listen more than once, as grief often comes in waves. Give them the gift of your time and patience throughout this process.

Know that all of us have flubbed up in this arena at least once. It's hard to know what to say or do when someone tells you they've lost a pregnancy or that their baby has died. Hopefully this post can serve as a guide in the future.

And if you've suffered loss, know that I am holding you in my heart, right next to my love for my sweet babies that I believe are in Heaven.

Take care of yourself,


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