Last week I received an email. The message, a very kind and thoughtful one, was quite unexpected. I made it through the entire email without crying until I glanced at the bottom and saw an image that read, “October is Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness Month.” Until that point, I’d done a pretty good job of avoiding anything dealing with pregnancy and infant loss. You see, I already knew October was Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness Month. I just didn’t want to really think about it.
Fast forward to my therapy appointment later that week. I went through more than half the session dry-eyed. However, the faucets turned on once I brought up a specific topic. Yes. I brought up an issue that made me cry. Genius, right?
Nonetheless, I’m glad I did bring it up because I experienced a major breakthrough. Yes, there was snotty nose, air gasping, crying. But that led me to my breakthrough. And my breakthrough gave me the courage to share today’s post.
According to the CDC website, stillbirth affects about 1 in 160 births, and each year approximately 24,000 babies are stillborn in the United States. Of those 24,000 stillborn babies, I wonder how many mothers have told their stories. I wonder how many mothers received the love, support, and encouragement they needed and deserved during such an unfathomable time.
While I can’t speak for every mother, I want to share my thoughts on what you can do if your family member or friend has experienced a stillbirth. Knowing what to say and what to do can be challenging. And to be honest, the “right thing” will be different for every mother. However, here are some acts of kindness, words of comfort, and prayers that I’m sure will help carry a grieving mother through such an unpredictable and unimaginable time.
This doesn’t have to be a glorious or expensive gesture. As long as the idea is intentional and genuinely from the heart, she’ll be most grateful. Also, remember to do these things even as the weeks and months go by. Below are a few ways you can “send encouragement.”
- text an uplifting scripture
- text the link to an uplifting song
- mail a “thinking of you” card with a sweet message inside
- mail a care package including her favorite things (i.e., snacks, sample-size beauty products, magazines, etc.)
- offer to cook or bring over a meal
- offer to run a few errands (I.e. dry cleaning, bank, post office, etc.)
- offer to come over and tidy up the house (or hire a cleaning company to do so)
- Remember, your friend is grieving the loss of a family member. Focusing on routine tasks such as cooking or even cleaning isn’t at the forefront of their minds right now. Do what you can to help lessen the load.
- offer to come over, sit with her & keep her company
- Being alone can be very difficult for a grieving mother. On the other hand, don’t get offended if she tells you she wants to be alone. Some grieving mothers find solace in stillness and in being alone.
- if she has other children, to babysit for a while
- During this time, she can go for a walk, nap, slip away with her husband for some quiet time, or do whatever else she needs/wants to do.
If you’re a prayer warrior, now’s the time to put in some overtime. Your prayers can be as simple or as complex as you desire. Again, the key is to be intentional and genuine. Not sure what to pray for? Start here:
- pray that she finds a way to forgive herself
- pray that she remains patient with herself while grieving
- pray for peace of mind, especially during the quiet moments
- pray that she invites God into her heart as she grieves and heals
- if she’s married, pray that she finds comfort and solace in her husband
- if she’s married, pray for God to cover and protect her marriage through this trying time
- pray that she will never lose hope in the goodness of the Lord nor lose faith in herself
Also, remind the mother to be kind to herself, both mentally and physically. She’s just gone through a traumatic experience, and in the midst of it all, she was responsible for making decisions she never thought fathomable. Mentally, she’ll need time to rest and recover. Also, consider that she’ll need time to recover physically from laboring and delivering her baby.
Life after stillbirth looks different for every mother. But I am confident that every grieving mother wants to feel loved, supported, and encouraged at some point during her journey.