A friend wrote recently asking for advice for how to best support a relative through a miscarriage. This is the list I gave her, all of which are things I would have appreciated while I was losing and grieving our first child. I've added a few more things and I would love to hear from others who have more suggestions. Everyone grieves differently, so everyone needs something different, but I do believe that our society does not know what to do with a miscarrying family.
1 - Say, "This really sucks," or "I have no idea how hard this must be for you," in a strong, convicted way. After awhile I got tired of the "I'm sorry"s and the "Are you okay"s. I didn't necessarily need everyone to understand, I just wanted them to affirm my grief.
2 - Offer to help them find someone they can talk to who has miscarried. Because I knew of no one else, I found strangers via the internet. Having someone understand who was willing to listen was wonderful. Please feel free to share the link to my blog where I talk about my first child, or my email address which can be found on my profile.
3 - If the parents named their baby then call the baby by that name. It frustrates me when people who know Peter's name don't use it. I feel like yelling, "Hello! He exists!!! His name is Peter Mark!" Further, if they say they have 3 kids (but only 2 are living) then you should always say they have 3 kids, too. I think people don't refer to Peter because they don't want to bring something painful up, or they feel awkward about it. But any time someone acknowledges my first child I feel like they are respecting his life, our love for him and our pain.
4 - Go see them, and don't ask, tell them you're coming and make sure the time will be a good time. Bring some meals or restaurant gift certificates and be ready to do a household chore or sit and talk or just drop everything off. If a born child had died people would come to support the family at the funeral, etc. Their church, coworkers and friends would organize meals and bring groceries, but when a family loses an unborn baby the world says "sorry" and then keeps going. That's not enough though, and we all need to do a much better job at recognizing the dignity of every life and treating every death as one to be grieved.
5 - If you can't visit then send flowers or a card. Offices will pass around a sympathy card when a coworker's relative dies but usually not when someone miscarries. I deeply appreciated the concern that came via the phone and internet but the one sympathy card that came meant more than almost everything else. That person didn't expect me to share my feelings and I didn't feel obligated to return her message, but she took the time to buy a card, write a heartfelt note, look up my address and mail it to me. It makes me cry just to think about the way she gave dignity to my grief in that gesture.
6 - There is a small book called The Christmas Box about a woman who mourns the loss of her child at the grave, which is marked by an angel statue. The book helped me cry out a lot of my emotions. Also, grieving parents have erected many of those statue around the nation (search Angel of Hope or Christmas Box statue). My cousins, who have lost 3 children, are huge supporters of the book and visiting the statue. Giving the book as a gift with the nearest statue location may also be a nice gesture.
7 - Send the parents the link to the National Shrine of the Holy Innocents. They can enter their child's name in the Book of Life. A candle always burns in the memory of the babies who have died before birth and a Mass is offered for them and their families once a month.
8 - Send them the link to Share, which offers pregnancy and infant loss support. The information there may help them feel more normal in their grief, and it would probably also help you to understand what they're experiencing.