Helping friend through stillbirth

An anonymous writer emailed me that she and her friend had children at the same time. Then it took both of them a lot of time and heartbreak through secondary infertility. The writer had a baby last year. The friend was finally pregnant again, but lost the baby in the middle of the third trimester.

The friend is in a different city right now, and the anonymous writer is feeling so sad and powerless to help. And worried that the friend will be hurt by the presence of her baby. Anonymous says:

” I yearn to do something for her, to help her in I some way.  My thoughts are consumed with sadness for her, for her baby, for the babies I lost too.  Advice on how I can help?  How do we help someone grieve?  Can we?  I’ve experienced two miscarriages and they were devastating so I cannot imagine what she is going through right now.  Do you have experience in this?  Or your readers?”

I think the best thing to do is to text and call and send cards of love. But I don’t know of anything else specific that will help, since they’re not in the same place and she can’t just go sit there with her while she cries.

Has anyone been through late pregnancy loss or stillbirth? What would have helped you?

7 thoughts on “Helping friend through stillbirth”

  1. You and your friend may find the site Glow in the Woods extremely helpful – it’s a site for babyloss parents.

  2. 2nd the Glow in the Woods recommendation.

    I had a stillborn baby at 27 weeks (and wrote a bit about it on my blog). Many things helped me (meals, cards, texts, gentleness of good friends, etc) but the things that really stick out to me were the times when people asked me about my baby, or spoke of him by name. To know that he was real, and remembered, was the best. It takes a certain amount of bravery to bring up a dead baby. Sometimes people worry they will just be reminding you of something painful. But the thing is, we are ALWAYS aware of something painful so it’s not a reminder. It’s an act of love to talk about a baby who was loved and is missed.

    You can remember dates…like maybe make a note to remember when it’s been X months since the baby died and send your friend a text on that day saying you remember it was X months ago and you are thinking of her. Or maybe if your friend associates some animal/object with the baby (like a butterfly or a rainbow) you can take a photo of that thing if you see it out and about one day, and send it to her. Little things like that I found really comforting.

    Hugs to you as you navigate this.

  3. I was (am still) in your place recently. A friend and I were pregnant with our first babies (both boys) at the same time, and due within days of each other. Her baby died at 32 weeks. It was awful. I felt terrible for what they had lost, and I felt terrible for what I had and what she didn’t, and I felt guilty for feeling so upset about something that wasn’t even mine to be upset about and I was so sad that we had lost the chance to be new moms at the same time, I was afraid that she would think that we would all forget about her baby, I was angry that my baby lost his buddy and that we had been cheated out of seeing them grow up together. I didn’t know what the right thing to do was and what I wanted to was to understand how she was feeling. I couldn’t imagine. I found it helpful (that word just seems so wrong, it was helpful like a band-aid on a broken arm really…) to read sites like Glow in the Woods and other sites about babyloss, and to seek out personal blogs about coping with babyloss to understand what my friend was going through since she was not in a place to share that with me. I think sometimes too, especially with the first person accounts from blogs, I sought them out because I wanted to feel some of the hurt she must have been feeling.

    I tried to stay in touch peripherally and in a non-intrusive way. I sent flowers on the baby’s due date with a note that said Thinking of you & [husband]. I would send her a note once every 3-4 months and just say "thinking of you." I sent flowers on the baby’s birthday this year too. We also, fortunately, had a mutual friend who kept us "in touch". I was able to keep up with how she was doing through and I think she was able to feel out what was going on with me through. She emailed me once or twice and let me know they were struggling and that she just couldn’t see me. I just let her know I would be here whenever she was ready, no matter how long. It’s been almost 1.5 years, and we have emailed a bit here and there, but haven’t seen each other yet.

    I think what I’ve gathered from this experience is that to keep it simple, give space, but let them know you will be there if you are asked for. Let her know that you remember her baby. You should talk to someone too. I think in retrospect I should have sought out someone (a professional) to talk to (probably still should). I couldn’t talk to many people about it because it wasn’t something I wanted shared around–and this friend and I have pretty well over-lapping friend networks. My husband was great, but he didn’t know what to do anymore than I did. The best thing was talking to one of our other close mutual friends and being able to share my fears and own sadness with her.

  4. Moxie, thanks for talking about stillbirth/perinatal death. My nephew died during the C-section a few months ago. What helped my sister and her partner was for others to keep in touch without asking for details, and without expecting a response. We helped inform family and friends to spare her telling the same story again and again, and to avoid having them ask whether the baby was born. And it gave us others to grieve with, a way to spare the parents from helping us grieve. We’re still in the mist of it. They’ve focused on other big projects in their lives, as a way to keep their mind busy. It’s just a day by day thing.

  5. If it were my friend, I would find a way to make a solo visit to her. If they’re having a funeral or memorial service for the baby, show up for that. Otherwise, try to visit in the next couple of months, just you and her. Keep up communication with her and tell her you can handle hearing whatever she has to say, no matter what she’s feeling.

  6. I’m so sorry for your friend. There are a lot of great suggestions here already. I would add: there are going to be a lot of tough dates for her and her partner. Due date (and anniversaries). Mother’s Day. Father’s Day. Sending a little extra love on those days means a whole lot, even if it’s just a text saying "Thinking of you and [baby] today." The thing about a loss like this is that the world moves on while you are still deep in the pit. It is so helpful to know that people still remember that you’re there.

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