May 04, 2010,
K.M. asks from Chicago, IL on May 03, 2010
Helping Friend Cope with Stillborn.
So on my moms networking site Moms in the City there is a mom who recently put up a post saying that a very good friend of hers lost her baby at 38 weeks and she is wondering how to support her friend while she grieves. She said she wants to visit her and be a shoulder but I don't know if having someone around during that time would help. I went through a very similar situation last year and I bought my friend flowers and card saying that I would be there for her.
Has anyone else gone through this before? Do you have any suggestions?
A.M. answers from Chicago on May 03, 2010
I have a very close friend gave birth suddenly to a full term stillborn baby after an otherwise uneventful pregnancy. She said that it was so incredibly hard she didn't know how to put one foot in front of the other, but the best thing that happened was that people showed up to support her. On days she didn't feel like talking, we didn't talk, but I was there. When she wanted to talk or cry, I was there. I didn't have to know what to say, she later said, but I showed up. I didn't know what to say, so I cleaned her kitchen and made food for her family. When the mail came, I sorted it for bills and condolence cards and made her a small box for the cards so she could go through them later with her husband when she felt up to it. I helped her shop, I picked up her kids from school. I left notes for her husband - what not to forget - dinner's in the fridge - these bills came, whatever until the next friend or family member came over to be with her. It was absolutely horrible to see her grieve in the first couple of weeks. She not only ached for her baby, but her milk came in and all the normal post partum things were occuring....minus her baby...for whom she had pictures, a blanket, memories of holding her, a room prepared for her, and now funeral arrangements to make for her. I asked her what she would advise if a friend wanted to help, and this is what she wrote back: "Don't give up on your friend. Show up. Don't pretend nothing happened. NO ONE knows what to say, so don't worry about it. Your friend may want to yell and scream at you or to you because she hates the world, God, herself, for this happening, but let her grieve through the ugliest parts and still be there. Whatever you do, no matter how small, matters to her as she grieves. You feel so isolated when you lose a baby, but even more so when you lose your friends just because they don't knwo what to do. I would've never said, I need tissue, or I need water or food or someone to make a call or do an errand or mail something for me, but people came and did that stuff in my house without me asking and without my permission. It was then that I found out how wonderful my friends were, who they were, and I would do anything in the world for them in their time of need. They saved my life just by being present. I would tell anyone to just go. Bring food that can be reheated later, or clean up around the house, or feed the pets or play with her other kids, but don't leave her alone because she already is very, very alone right now."
I hope that helps.
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T.B. answers from Chicago on May 03, 2010
We just had a friend lose her 4 month old baby. If you can get a bunch of friends together to make dinner for her and her husband/ family, it will help free up some time for them to grieve, or get the help that they need (counseling/ therapy) in the evenings. Just letting her know you are there for her can also help. Encourage her to cry, reach out, or be alone if she needs to. People process grief in different ways. Friends of our just celebrated their stillborn daughter's 6th birthday. They have planted a tree (a weeping cherry, I think) and it blooms every year for her birthday. Maybe pitching in for a tree would be a thoughtful gift for them.
Hugs to all of you,
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J.B. answers from Atlanta on May 03, 2010
I've never been through this, thank God, but I think she should reach out. She should be very honest and tell the friend that she totally understands if she doesn't want to be around anyone right now, but that she would love to listen to her or have lunch with her or whatever if she wants. At the least, the woman should know people care about her and are thinking of her right now.
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J.H. answers from Chicago on May 04, 2010
Something similiar happened to me, and I have to say I've never ever felt more alone and isolated in my life. I didn't know it was possible to feel that empty.
Initially no one reached out to me, I think because they didn't know to say, apart from my family and one friend, who was extremely persistent. I just wanted my heartache and loneliness to go away and I so badly wanted my friends to reach out. I didn't care what they were going to say to me -- it was me that needed to talk and not so much that I needed someone to give me a pearl of wisdom. The one friend that kept calling would not leave me alone. She told me that if she called and I didn't want to talk, that I just shouldn't pick up the phone and she'd understand. She never let up and would let me say whatever I needed to say whenever she called. This went on for months -- her calling and checking in on me. It helped me immensely during my grieving period.
So, my advice to your friend is to reach out and not concern herself with what she might say or not say. Even if the mom doesn't want to talk, she won't feel quite so alone knowing that someone is there and is thinking about her. And I would even recommend not stopping at one phone call, but following up with her on a regular basis -- this was what really helped me.
One final piece that really helped me, was that during my whole experience I was still responsible for caring for my son. That kept me in the "now" and did not allow me to process as much as I felt I needed to. So, my husband and I were able to get away for a weekend and have someone look after our son.
This helped tremendously because it gave me space to grieve and to get out of my painful surroundings. If this mom has other children, that might be a wonderful gift to give her as well, even if it isn't a full weekend, even just a day out to be with her thoughts and away from everyday life.
I hope this is of some help to you and your friend.
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T.G. answers from St. Louis on May 04, 2010
Although I lost 3 babies prior to 38 weeks, it is undoubtfully still painful. The biggest thing I can say is PLEASE do not try to help by saying that it was "God's plan" , "You can try again" or "It will be alright". Someone who just lost a baby does not want to hear these things.
The best thing one can do is try to make arrangement for a group of friends to make dinner for the family for about 4 nights. When they drop the dinner off, tell them NOT to stay and talk, as the family will probably NOT want to engage in conversation, as they are greiving. Also if cards are sent, keep the comments simple like " I am here for you" or "I will be praying for you".
As much as people want to reach out to a friend that is hurting, greiving over a lost child is very private. It is good to call once in a while to check up, but be careful not to over do it. Maybe after the mom is healed and up on her feet again, invite her out for coffee. Let her lead the conversation. Sometimes we just want company and not necessarily to talk about the loss.