To those who wish to walk with us while we grieve: there are a lot of misconceptions about what pregnancy loss looks like. Until you go through it yourself, nothing could truly prepare you for mess and pain that this reality brings. As loss parents, we understand that from the outside looking in, it can be difficult to know how to support us during this time.
Grief is awkward and messy, uncertain and painful.
For those who are looking for ways to better understand us, to support us, and to walk alongside us during this time, we say thank-you. Thank you for the supportive role you desire to play in our lives. We need you. And so, in hopes of fostering discussion and building community, I offer you six, simple things that grieving parents wish everyone knew about pregnancy loss:
1. Just because I never “met” my baby doesn’t make my grief any less real or intense.
Grief is never based on the duration of time we knew someone for, grief is always based on love. It doesn’t matter whether I lost my baby at four weeks or forty, I am mourning the death of my child. This loss is no less real than any other type of loss.
2. Men grieve too.
While the generations before us may have been told that “real men don’t cry,” we know that’s not true. Fathers grieve — so let them. Don’t negate their loss or forget about their pain. Be there for them too.
3. Getting pregnant again isn’t a “given” nor does it replace the baby we’ve lost.
When you tell a grieving parent, “Don’t worry, you can get pregnant again,” I know that you’re saying it with the best of intentions. But truthfully, this may be one of the worst things to say after a pregnancy loss. Not all of us are guaranteed another pregnancy. Some of us go on to get pregnant again, only to lose child after child. And while some of us do get pregnant again and give birth to a healthy child, that baby will never replace the one we lost. We’re not grieving for “any” child, we’re explicitly grieving for the one to whom we said good-bye. We’re grieving this baby.
4. It’s okay to talk about my child.
I know it can be difficult to find words after a loss like this. It’s challenging to know what to say, or what not to say. But please understand that it is okay to talk about my baby: to say their name, or to ask how I’m doing. You hold back from talking about them because you’re worried that it’s going to bring up painful memories, but I carry those memories with me all the time. I’m always thinking about my child, and I want to share them with you.
5. There is no timeline for grief.
One pregnancy loss is never going to look like another. To those looking in, it may seem like a relatively “simple” loss. But this pain is not simple. It’s complicated and intense, and these feelings can take significant time to process and work through. Grief may continue to pop up unexpectedly over months or years — and that’s normal.
6. This loss is something I will always carry with me.
A loss like this spins your whole world upside down. This child will always be graven upon our hearts and carried within our thoughts. Grief may have changed us, but it has also made us stronger and shown us the power of a love that we never knew existed. No matter the number of weeks we knew about them, we will always remember them, and they will always be a part of us.
Dear friends, there are so many things we wish you knew about pregnancy loss and these six points are merely a starting point. I hope they do, however, give you a better understanding of what we face daily, and encourage you to contact a grieving family to say, “I’m here for you.” Because more than anything, this is what we want: for you to stand with us through the awkwardness and mess of grief and remember our babies.
Acknowledge them, acknowledge our grief. This is the best place to start.
Photo credit: Alessio Lin / Unsplash