How to support a friend if pregnancy doesn't go to plan

It’s hard to know what to say or do to support a friend, family member or colleague who has experienced a miscarriage, but these suggestions may help.

Janelle and Chris Tsockallos were undergoing assisted fertility treatment when they endured the heartbreak of multiple miscarriages.

Now the couple, who have a 9-year-old daughter, volunteer their time to help others through support group Sands Australia.

Janelle shares her insights with us on how friends and colleagues can give valuable support.

Make contact

Everyone grieves differently, but it’s important to make contact with your friend or colleague in a non-intrusive way to show you care. Sometimes parents might want to be alone together, while others may want visitors at the hospital or at home.

Janelle suggests reaching out by sending flowers, a card or a message as a lovely way to let your friend know you are thinking of them.

 “Just letting them know that you’re there for them if and when they’re ready is really important,” she says.

Acknowledge the loss

While some people might feel nervous about talking to someone about their miscarriage, Janelle says acknowledging the loss is really important.

“People are afraid to say anything about it sometimes because they’re worried they’ll upset you, but sometimes not saying anything is more upsetting than saying something and saying the wrong thing,” says Janelle.

“They’re acknowledging that you did go through this experience and it affected you in a really significant way and that’s the most beautiful thing anyone could do.”

A thoughtful gift or keepsake to remind parents of their child can be a treasured memory for some parents. It’s also a way of making them feel supported and loved.

What to say or not to say

Support group Sands says offer simple, but sincere thoughts like: “I’m sorry”, or “I’m here for you” or even “I don’t know what to say, but I’m thinking of you.” They also suggest loved ones avoid saying “I know how you feel”, even if they’ve experienced a miscarriage themselves.

It’s important to remember that when a couple is grieving, comments about trying again can be hurtful and seen to diminish the loss they’re feeling.

There are no words that can make everything better so in some cases just being there to hold their hand or offer a hug is enough.

Offer practical support

Janelle says practical help may be appreciated, particularly for parents who have been through a miscarriage in the later stages of their pregnancy. In some cases your friend may have spent time in hospital, and might need some extra support.

Perhaps you could run some errands, help out around the house and pop some fresh flowers on the bench so when they return home, they know you’re thinking of them. Preparing frozen, home-cooked meals that can be easily reheated may take some of the pressure of family meals, or you could drop over a care package or some extra groceries.

If the parents have children, perhaps you could offer to babysit or provide transport to school or childcare. 

Be mindful of other babies

For parents who have lost a baby, seeing the babies of friends or family members can be difficult. Sands says it’s important to be mindful of this, but you may not need to go out of your way to hide your baby from your friend.

Instead be guided by them. Ask if they are comfortable seeing your child. Be understanding if they choose not to hold or show interest in the baby.

Sands volunteer parent supporters are on call 24/7 on 1300 0 SANDS (1300 072 637) or visit their website at www.sands.org.au

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