by Dr. Laura Lewis
Often in pregnancy care work, we speak of the specific loss and pain of abortion, yet the trauma involved in miscarriage or stillbirth can be equally profound.
Recently an individual reached out to us looking for support as she navigated her miscarriage loss. Her request reminded me of the many aspects of grief involved in a pregnancy loss or death of an infant.
As a physician, my approach to miscarriage loss was scientific, hopefully with a few appropriate empathetic words. However, as I have learned more about all pregnancy loss, I realize I likely said words that were not helpful or conveyed insensitivity.
Often the two lines appearing on a positive pregnancy test begin dreams of a life with a new little one. These first connections are not just emotional. Science supports that there is early contact between mother and baby — the developing embryo sends hormonal messages to the mother’s brain to prepare a nurturing environment for the months ahead.
When a woman or couple experience a miscarriage, regardless of the stage of pregnancy, the experience of loss can be very real and devastating, even though that loss may be hidden.
Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness Day is October 15th, a space to acknowledge this unspoken grief or sorrow of a lost life.
Many of us fear saying the wrong thing, and as a result, we remain silent. No one wants to cause more pain due to poorly chosen words. But the reality is we don’t have to know what to say – we need to know how to listen.
“By listening with compassion, you take cues from a person about where they are at and what they want to talk about.
By asking sensitive questions, you are inviting them to talk about their feelings, and not make assumptions.
By accepting and acknowledging their feelings, you are letting them know it’s okay for them to feel the way they do.”
Here are some suggestions of simple, heartfelt words you can say:
- I’m sorry.
- Will you tell me about your baby?
- I’m so sad for your loss.
- It’s okay to feel devastated.
- It’s okay to cry.
- Take all the time you need.
- We are here for you now and in the future.
- I’m sorry this is happening to you.
(Excerpt from the Pregnancy and Infant Loss Network)
On October 15th, let us join with many across our nation who mourn a pregnancy or infant loss. Let us walk alongside, so they do not feel alone as they journey in their grief.