On the day of our pregnancy loss, friends showed up with whisky and cookie dough, and we watched “American Ninja Warrior.” No one tried to cheer us up or make us talk, but instead just came to be with us and, in doing so, showed us they loved us.
Provide practical help.
Grief has material impacts on our bodies and brains, making normal functioning a challenge. That holds true even when the loss if of a person who never existed outside the womb. You’ll need help with basic stuff: So bring over dinner, offer to walk the dog, babysit, take work off their plate if they’re a colleague. Do something practical to relieve the burden of trying to function while processing a loss.
When we lost our pregnancy, a dear friend sent a fancy box of cheese and snacks from one of my favorite stores in the world. Impractical? Sure. Did it bring us some small amount of immediate joy? Yes. If someone you love has had a pregnancy loss, send them something that is unique to your relationship with them, something you know is sure to make them smile and remember who they are independent of this tragedy.
Keep showing up.
Matthew and I began our parenthood journey in 2016, but didn’t become parents until 2021. There was a lot of frustration, grief, and disappointment during those five years, and our friends showed up for us over and over again. They asked how we were doing, they offered to help with the adoption process, they gave us permission to skip baby showers and kid birthday parties, and they provided fun distractions when we needed them. I don’t know if we would have made it to parenthood if not for the love and support we received from our community along the way. It may not seem like much to you but acknowledging someone else’s pain does make a difference.
Don’t assume you know the end of the story.
Two years after our pregnancy loss, on another fateful summer day, my husband and I received a different call. There was a baby, and his birth mother wanted us to parent him. We were, and we remain, overjoyed by the blessing of our son Bennett. But from time to time, we still think about what could have been. Who might Bennett’s older brother or sister be if things had worked out differently?
When I was lying on the bathroom floor that day in August, I didn’t know if I’d ever be Okay. Today, I am–in fact, I’m better than okay. What helped me through this most difficult period of life, what made me okay, bit by bit, was my ability to be honest about an incredibly painful experience. We’re shaped by these events, in ways we don’t necessarily fully comprehend, and we need space to share–not just in the immediate aftermath of a loss, but even years later, as we reckon with its ongoing impact.
Marisa Renee Lee is a called-upon grief advocate, writer, speaker, and business strategist. She is the author of the award-winning bestseller, Grief Is Love: Living With Loss, CEO of Beacon Advisors, and founder of the breast cancer charity, The Pink Agenda. She lives in the Hudson Valley with her husband, Matthew; son, Bennett; and dog, Sadie.
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