5 Ways to Support a Grieving Friend
As a doula, you will inevitably find yourself supporting a family through loss at some point in your work. Also, everyone will have a friend or family member at some point who experiences pregnancy or infant loss. How can you support a grieving friend? Let’s talk about this.
Loss is tragic. However, it is not as uncommon as you might think. Everyone talks about statistics. One in four pregnancies will end in a loss. Stillbirth occurs in about one out of every 160 pregnancies. When you become the statistic, the numbers don’t matter. The experience becomes your life.
We live in a society that finds death a very unsavory topic. It’s something that has been separated from family life. We shut death behind closed doors and leave it to a professional to handle. Also, we are programmed to push through the pain and ignore it. We don’t talk about the dead for fear of causing pain. Death is removed from the cycle of birth and life.
In light of this, it is hard to find support in pregnancy and infant loss. I find that most people have good intentions. But our perceptions of help and support are sometimes dramatically different.
If you read my blog, you may have noticed that I lost a baby in 2014. I tell the story here. Among the trauma of the loss itself, I experienced a tremendous sense of abandon. I had to beg my family and friends to spend time with me. It was a tremendous sense of abandon and unprecedented loneliness. Grief is homeless love.
Firstly, I think that we isolate death because we don’t know how to grieve. My family didn’t know how to grieve, and it’s hard to support someone when you don’t know how. Secondly, we are not taught how to make time and space for grief in our lives. Also, friends and family say “uplifting” words and push us to move beyond. Grief requires space, time, and attunement.
At some point, you WILL find yourself in the role of supporting a friend, family member, or client through loss. So, let’s discuss how you can provide support.
How can you support a grieving friend, family member, or client?
- Show up. Be there. Be the person to pick up the phone. They might not answer, but messages help. Ask them how they are doing. Sometimes, we give people space to “get over” their loss. Reconsider the idea of being with someone rather than waiting for the time to pass. Also, think about being WITH someone rather than doing something FOR someone.
- It’s okay to talk about their baby. Ask them about their baby’s name and their story. Say their name. Be an active listener while they tell their story.
- Avoid saying “at least” to a grieving family. There is nothing positive about losing a baby. Don’t say, “at least you can get pregnant again!” or “At least you have another child at home!” or “At least…” anything. Just don’t say it.
- Listen. Be okay with giving silence and being with them. Resist the temptation to soothe the space by filling it with words. Also, be comfortable holding yourself in that space to let any feelings arise.
- Ask what you can do by offering specific suggestions. “Can I bring you dinner?” “Can I do the kids laundry?” Don’t put the burden on the family to come up with something for you to do. Sometimes that’s too much to process and they very well may say they don’t need anything. And very commonly, they have no idea what they might need.