I recently came across a post here on how to be a good friend to those facing infertility. It spoke deeply to my heart and gave me a desire to write a similar letter on how to be a good friend to someone experiencing pregnancy loss. Many people feel lost when their friend has faced a miscarriage or stillbirth, and I hope this will give others an idea of what friendship looks like during their friend's incredibly difficult time of grieving a child.
For the record...my friends are amazing.
I know this is not easy for you. Perhaps I am the first person you've ever cared about that has faced losing a child. You aren't sure what to do, how to act, or what to say to me. You have watched the light go out of my eyes, and aren't sure how to respond.
Please know I don't expect you to be perfect. I know this is so hard for you to watch, and you want so badly to help. I know you aren't always going to have the perfect thing to say, and I know that sometimes you'll mess up. I promise not to hold that against you, if only you'll keep trying to reach me. Please don't give up on me, I've had enough loss to last a lifetime, and I don't want to lose you as a friend too.
When you hugged me tight and let me cry without saying a word, that meant the world to me. Sometimes I just need a hug. When you told me how sorry you were that I was missing my baby, and you used her name, I cried because everyone else is so afraid to say it, and I appreciated that more than you know. When you texted me to tell me you were thinking of me, I know you probably thought it wasn't much, but it was a lot to me. Thank you.
I am going to need you to be the strong one for awhile. There are days, especially in the weeks and months following my loss, when every ounce of my strength goes into just breathing. It's all I can do to get up, get dressed, and function. At the end of the day, I have nothing left to give. I don't have time, I don't have energy, I don't have the will it takes to go out and do things with you, or sometimes even just call you back. Please, please know this isn't because I don't love you and value your friendship deeply. It has nothing to do with you, and everything to do with my grief. Things will get better, and slowly I will become myself again. I will be forever changed, but I won't be forever grieving. Please have patience with me. Please keep calling, texting, and making an effort to stay in touch with me. I know it feels like I'm blowing you off, and at times you wonder if I'm worth the effort. I hope you will not give up on me, because I need you now more than ever.
I can't picture you ever saying this, friend, but can I tell you what hurts? It hurts so deeply when people say things like, "She's in a better place," or "This was just not meant to be." I know she is in a better place, but I am still here, and here hurts more than you know. I don't want to hear that this was God's plan, or that my precious child was never meant to be held safely in my arms. That is not comforting. If you aren't sure what to say to me, just tell me you love me. Tell me you're sorry I'm hurting. Tell me you wish so much I wasn't going through this. Tell me it isn't fair, because it isn't. Grieve with me. Be sad with me. Understand my hurt.
Dear friend, if my child had a name, would you please use it? If my child had a birthday, would you please remember it? I promise you that nothing you remember will be something I've forgotten. It would mean the world if you would remember with me. I'm sure sometimes you feel like you might be opening an old wound if you send me a card or even a simple text message on days that you think are particularly difficult for me, but I promise you, this wound will never be old. In time it will not be as painful, but I will carry the memory of my child with me forever, and your thoughtfulness is never hurtful. I think about my child all the time. All the time. Don't ever be afraid to tell me you were thinking of her too. I have not forgotten her name, but sometimes it feels like everyone else has.
There are so many things you can do that would be wonderful displays of your friendship during this time following my loss. You could bring us a meal, as sometimes I forget my family still needs to eat. You could drop off some groceries, send a card, or take my children out for few hours so I could rest. You could buy a small gift to help me honor my little one, like a stuffed animal, a bracelet, or a pretty plant or tree to plant in my yard. You could make me a CD with uplifting songs. You could put together a care package with things such as tissues, a book about loss, my favorite candy, and something to hold onto when I'm missing my baby. You could write my child's birthday or the day I lost her on your calendar so that you will remember to send some extra love when that day arrives next year. You could give me a hug. You could tell me you love me. You could let me know you're there if I need you.
Friend, you might be especially uncomfortable because you too are expecting a baby, or recently had one. I am so happy for you. I am so incredibly thankful that you are carrying a healthy child and that everything is going well. I want nothing more than for you to have everything I didn't. I pray for the health of your baby and rejoice with you that everything is okay. But there will be times when I see your growing belly, and it cuts my soul like a knife. There will be times when seeing you with your new baby will be impossibly hard for me to bear. Our children would have been so close in age, and I am grieving not only the loss of my baby, but the loss of the dreams I had to raise our children together. Please know I recognize this is hard for you too. When you sent me a note along with your shower invitation telling me you understood if it would be too hard for me to attend, that meant the world to me. When you called ahead and asked me if it was okay for you to bring along your new baby so shortly after my loss, that was so thoughtful of you. There will be times when I can't bear to be around babies, and there will be times when my arms ache to hold my own, and letting me snuggle yours during those times is a healing balm to my wounds. Thank you for asking me what I need, and offering your understanding during this time of grief.
Friend, would you try to remember that my husband is grieving as well? He tries to be so strong for me, but it hurts me when no one ever asks him how he is doing. He loved our baby so much, and I have never seen him hurt so deeply. I know it would mean a lot to him if you would ask him how he is, or tell him you're sorry for his loss as a daddy. No one ever remembers the daddies. Would you remember him when you are remembering me?
Dear friend, thank you for being there for me during this incredibly difficult time. Thank you for not giving up on me. Thank you for remembering my child, grieving my loss, and loving me unconditionally.
Your Broken-Hearted Friend