How to Help as a Support Person
Few people talk about the physical, emotional and spiritual impacts of pregnancy loss. This can increase the feelings of isolation that may be felt by a woman, her partner and those in her support network.
She may be more expressive than usual, or she may choose to keep her feelings and thoughts to herself. She may talk about how she feels, or she may avoid revealing this information to others. She may jump back into her daily routine, or take time out to rest and relax. She may display anger, guilt, sadness, confidence, relief or uncertainty. She may feel multiple feelings at the same time, or move back and forth between emotions. She may look to you for understanding, distraction or support. The support needed to help each woman will be based on her unique needs as an individual.
As a partner or support person, it can be challenging to balance your own emotions of loss while working to find a safe and effective way to support your loved one through her experience. Your emotions, questions and struggles are real. In order to best support her, you should first take time to reflect and become aware of your own feelings (see “Partners in Grief” resource page).
If you need assistance with processing your feelings, we encourage you to reach out to a mental health professional (see “How to Seek Out Mental Health Treatment” resource page), your faith community or a support group. Your physical health should also remain a primary focus during this difficult time. Below are ways to help your loved one as she copes with the loss of the pregnancy:
- Be present. Providing nonjudgmental support for her at this time can be a show of solidarity.
- Validate her thoughts and feelings even if they aren’t consistent with your feelings. Her feelings are real to her. Try to avoid imposing meaning on her situation. Let her reach her own conclusions in her own time.
- Recognize the unborn child as a life and the woman as a mother if this is what she is feeling. Regardless of the gestational age, both parents often feel an intense connection to their unborn child.
- Be willing to help locate professional support if she wants or needs it.
- Remember that her grief may come and go and it may not end quickly. Be patient with her and with yourself.
- Be mindful of her physical recovery. If at any time you are concerned that she is showing signs of complications, encourage her to seek out a medical assessment by calling her healthcare provider or helping her get to the emergency room, calling 911 for assistance if needed.
- Assist with health-related activities like providing healthy snacks, keeping water or herbal tea available, supporting adequate sleep each night and occasional naps as needed, or offering to take a walk outside, once she has been medically cleared to do so by her provider.
- Ask what type of support she needs and wants. She is the ultimate expert on her experience. Just asking the question shows her that you care.