Perinatal Loss: How You Can Support Your Loved Ones

Perinatal Loss: How You Can Support Your Loved Ones

Elaine Cavazos, LCSW-S, PMH-C

For those mourning, the stretch from Halloween to Valentine’s Day can be an intense season of remembrance, laden with societal expectations to participate in festivities. The weight of such expectations can be especially profound for those grieving a perinatal loss, where the absence of a baby during celebratory times casts a poignant shadow. Given the holiday emphasis on family and joy, supporting someone through this period demands sensitivity and understanding. Here's how you can stand alongside them:

1. Acknowledge Their Loss: Don't avoid the topic. Let them know you remember and that you're there for them. Sometimes, a simple "I'm thinking of you and your baby during this time" can mean a lot.
2. Listen Actively: Let them share their feelings, memories, or whatever they wish to talk about. Avoid giving unsolicited advice. Simply being there to listen can be healing.
3. Respect Their Choices: They might not want to participate in certain holiday traditions or gatherings. That's okay. They might find some activities too painful or triggering.
4. Create a Memory: Consider a thoughtful gesture like gifting a special ornament or lighting a candle in memory of their baby. This can show them that their child's life mattered and is remembered.
5. Be Mindful of Triggers: The sight of babies or pregnant women, certain holiday songs or activities centered around children might be difficult for them. Be sensitive to this.
6. Avoid Clichés: Phrases like "Everything happens for a reason" or "You can always have another child"; can be incredibly hurtful. Instead, you might say, "I'm here for you" or "I'm so sorry for your loss."
7. Offer Practical Help: Sometimes the grieving process can be so overwhelming that even daily chores become challenging. Offering to help with tasks or errands can be a great way to show you care.
8. Invite Them but Don't Push: Invite them to holiday events but understand if they decline. Sometimes they might want the distraction, other times they might need solitude.
9. Be There Long-Term: Grief doesn't have a set timeline. They might need support not just during the holidays but in the days, months, and years that follow.
10. Encourage Professional Help: If you feel they are struggling a lot, gently suggest seeking professional help. Therapists or support groups can provide coping mechanisms and understanding.
11. Educate Yourself: Understand the nuances of perinatal loss. This can help you be more empathetic and avoid unintentional hurtful comments.
12. Watch Your Own Expectations: Remember, everyone grieves differently. They might have good days and bad days, and that's okay. Your role is to be supportive, not to expect them to "move on" in a certain way or timeframe.

Always approach these individuals with sensitivity, compassion, and understanding.

Those grieving a perinatal loss often face poignant reminders, like the expected due date or the anniversary of learning about their pregnancy. While the holiday season demands our support, it's crucial to remember these other significant dates that may amplify their emotional needs throughout the year. Your unwavering presence and readiness to assist in any way they require is of immeasurable value.