Many of us will be seeing family and friends over the next few weeks as we celebrate various holidays. Some of them we haven't seen in a long time. A few of them may have struggled during the past year after experiencing a miscarriage, stillbirth or the death of a baby.
I thought of this after Kathryn Keicher, who works in clinical social work at the Duke Birthing Center, emailed me with some updated information about the group that she works with that helps parents who are experiencing those kind of harrowing losses.
I asked Keicher to share some tips for those of us who aren't sure how to help the parents, whether they are grieving about an immediate loss or something that happened not so recently. Here's what she recommended.
- Say "I'm sorry for your loss." Ask what you can do to help, even if it's just sitting together or taking a walk together.
- Ask whether you can help with letting others know about the baby's death so they don't have to repeat their story to others too often.
- Let the parents know that you are there to listen to whatever they are feeling.
- Use the baby's name, if one was chosen, as you talk about the family's loss.
- Offer to help with household care and childcare (of their other children), run errands, or cook meals.
- Go to the memorial service or funeral.
- Understand that particular times of the year, such as the holidays, the mother's due date, and the anniversary of the baby's death will likely be more difficult, and offer extra support around those times.
- Encourage the family to consider talking to a grief counselor or attending a support group.
- Encourage the family to consider a book about pregnancy loss, websites, or other resources.
- Remind the family that everyone grieves differently.....there is no one way to grieve. Mothers and fathers may grieve differently - it is important to acknowledge the difference and not place judgment.
- TIME will help, even if it seems impossible for parents to imagine feeling better at the outset.
- Grief is exhausting. Feelings change from moment to moment, day to day. Know that eventually, parents will feel better ... encourage them to be patient, kind to themselves, forgiving and have low expectations of themselves.
If you are grieving, we have several groups in the area here to help, including Keicher's group at Duke. Our Resources for Grieving Parents page has more information.
The group at Duke is open to the community, is free and meets on the second Thursday of every month from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m., in the Duke Health Center at The Streets at Southpoint.
If you'd like to learn more, contact Keicher at firstname.lastname@example.org or 919-681-3576.