Helping a Friend Through Pregnancy Loss and Grief

If you keep up with the news you’ve likely heard of Charlie Gard, a terminally-ill British infant. My heart aches for his mom and dad. They’ve been faced with a diagnosis for their son they never saw coming, decisions they never expected to have to make, and likely death they don’t know how to face. While you might not be friends with Charlie’s parents, there are parents worldwide facing this same struggle. My daughter Rebecca and son-in-law Jake have been those parents. We have been those grandparents. 

If someone around you is in the middle of devastating loss of a child, or even the threat of loss, here’s some advice on how to help from my daughter who has been there. 

Three years into our marriage, my husband and I lost our firstborn, a daughter we named Molly Ann, to a rare brain aneurism that we didn’t know about until she was born at 41 weeks.  She lived a week and touched more lives than most do in a lifetime. 

Eleven months later we gave birth to a 14-week old little boy who weighed just over an ounce, and who had died in my womb due to an interruption with the placenta. 

Four months after burying our second child, we discovered we were pregnant with twins.  By the grace and absolute delight of God, I carried them to term and gave birth on April 5, 2010, to Piper and Lily.  Our twin girls are precious beyond our imagination and have given us more joy than we thought possible. 

Just when I thought I was done with losing babies, I experienced two miscarriages back to back in the summer of 2011 early on in the pregnancy.  For some reason, I chose to grieve those babies quietly rather than publicly and my brood in Heaven rose to four.

In going through my own excruciating times of grief, I have heard both helpful things and hurtful things from well-meaning people.  Unless you have personally experienced that loss, it is impossible to know what that person is feeling or going through.  No one who has ever experienced a miscarriage, stillbirth, or early infant death wants anyone else to ever go through what they are.  Losing a son or daughter early on in life, having known them for a while or but a few weeks, is one of the most painful feelings I have ever known.

Here’s what NOT to say:

1. “God is in control.”  Two things here: I know that God is in control and pouring out my heart to you wasn’t about me losing my faith.  God is absolutely in control and I know that, but reminding me of the fact isn’t going to make my baby come back.

2. “Oh honey don’t worry, you’re young, you’ll have another baby.”  I’m sorry, but did I miss something?  How do you know that I’ll have another baby?  Did God tell you?  No one knows the mind of God, nor should we expect that He will do exactly what I want.

3. “God just needed another angel in Heaven.”  Here’s a news flash for you: God doesn’t NEED anything.  He’s God and has no need for anyone or anything.  And another thing, my precious baby in Heaven isn’t an angel.  He or she is a living, breathing soul who is praising the name of Jesus at this very moment!

Those might have been hard to hear, but I promise you that any woman who has gone through the loss of a baby at any point in her pregnancy or afterwards will agree with me here.  The other thing we are all tempted to ask at a time like this is, “What can I do to help?”  The better way to ask is, “How can I help” or “When can I bring you a meal?”  Specifics are better than leaving it open ended for them to decide.  People in the midst of their grief have more than enough to think about and trying to find something for you to do is overwhelming and can also add to their stress.

Now, here’s what TO say when someone you know loses a baby:

1. “I am just so sorry for what you are going through right now.”  Easy enough, empathetic, and kind.  Plus, we all know how to say we’re sorry, right?

2. “I cannot imagine the pain that you are experiencing.  I am so sorry.”  Similar from the one before, this shares your heart and shows that you aren’t going to try and fix it for them.  There is no fix.  And you couldn’t fix it even if you wanted to.

3. “Can I pray with you, right now?”  Now, before you go and do this, please take some time to assess the situation and if it’s appropriate or not to stop where you are and pray.  Make sure your friend feels safe enough to cry her eyes out and maybe even wail too.  Over the phone is perfect, or at her house or yours.

The obvious and most important thing that you can do for someone who has lost a baby or will lose one, is to stop what you’re doing at that exact moment and ask the God of the universe to help your precious friend, and to grant you wisdom in knowing how to help and what to say. The Holy Spirit can be your guide. 

Editor’s Note: If you are struggling with grief today or know someone who is and are seeking for a way to help them, please connect with us through the ‘Find Help’ tab on our parent site FamilyLife.

For more about Molly’s life read this post or check out A Symphony in the Dark, Rebecca’s reflections on the seven days we shared with Molly in our arms.

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3 thoughts on “Helping a Friend Through Pregnancy Loss and Grief”

  1. Margarita Carreon

    I lost a baby girl 11 years ago. Monica was still birth and the pain me and my husband went through is unimaginable! I struggle with my own suffering and I just wanted to cry myself out alone but couldn’t do it because I had to care for my 2 other daughters and husband. He was debasteded and I felt I have to be stronger for both of us.
    I just wanted someone to listen to me, someone who care for my daughters and cooked meals were always welcomed. Now I know that God was always with me, but because of my pain I couldn’t see Him, but He was there.
    We had 2 more daughters after Monica and we live a happy life, but that experience of loss is by far the greatest suffering we had encountered. My love and my heart are with all those parents who are struggling with the loss of a child. 😘

  2. Thank you. Tears are streaming down my face as I finished the article. I have recently gone through back to back losses of my beautiful baby boys (Eliah at 16 weeks, Levi at 21 weeks) and have experienced first hand this grief and sorrow. It is difficult for others to understand our pain and even with good intentions, these comments can be hurtful at times. I have been blessed with an amazing support system such as my husband, family, friends and my church and even still find myself at a loss. I pray for all those women who have also gone through this heartache. God’s love and His promises help me live one day at a time.

  3. Having lost a baby years ago I had the same three things said to me and you are so right. I was bereft and just needed hugs, love ans support. The three, well meant comments made me feel I had to suck it up and get on with it so I tried and failed miserably and learnt to keep my grief to myself. My husband didn’t get it either and we divorced soon after as he was now married to someone who had shut down. I wasn’t a Christian then but I am now and God has healed the hurt and I so look foward to meeting my Shona Louise when it’s my time.

    By the way, I now have a beautiful granddaughter named Piper Lily and two grandsons. I love them all and they have brought me such joy. God can and has blessed me greatly.

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