What to Expect When Your Friend is Suddenly No Longer Expecting

Nine months has passed. The dust has settled on our lives a little bit and we are starting to comprehend everything we have been through and experienced and it's on my heart to start to share what has been helpful and what has not been helpful. My hope is that this will help people help their friends and give them a little peak into what life for those of us who have been through this loss experience as we move through our grief. 

I get a message every single day from someone who has a friend who is suffering the loss of an infant or late term pregnancy and their question is almost always a panicked, "How can I help them?!" My intent is to use this blog as my platform to offer you advice on how to help your own friends. 

First of all, if you are one of those friends, thank you. It's so much easier to walk away from this type of thing. Diving right in there and sitting with your friend in their grief is a beautiful, special place to be. 

With that being said, here are some things that I have found extremely helpful throughout our own journey. 

1. You probably just want to DO something. You want to say the right thing, but you're confused. I can assure you that the confusion you are are feeling is times one million for your friend going through the loss. It's been nine months and I can honestly say that I am more confused today than I was on day one of hearing the news that our Francesca was no longer with us. However, I am grateful for our friends who decided to say something instead of saying nothing. We remember those who stepped up and said the hard things and let us know they were with us. The best thing you can say, in my opinion is something like this:

"Nothing I can say is going to ease your pain. Nothing I can say bring your baby or child back. I am here for you. I am a safe place for you should you ever want to talk or vent."

On the flip side, I have had friends reach out to us more recently and say "I am sorry that I'm just reaching out to you now. We didn't want to reach out to you right when it happened because we figured you had a lot of people reaching out and we didn't want to upset you further."

I can say with all sincerity, that every time I received a message, I was grateful. I didn't respond for a long time to some of them and I'm sure there are still some that haven't been answered in my inbox. But I PROMISE YOU they have all been read. Every message and every text and every voicemail has been heard and appreciated. Please do not wait to reach out to your friends. They need you RIGHT NOW. If they don't answer, don't be offended. Give them their time, but say something. They're the most upset they probably ever will be in their entire lives right now. Not addressing their pain RIGHT NOW is more upsetting.

I also remember a huge fear as the days passed was that I might see someone and they would realize I wasn't pregnant anymore or I feared that they hadn't heard the news.  If I remembered that they had reached out, it would ease my fear of having to have the "conversation" explaining everything. I felt safer when people acknowledged the loss.

2. The next question I always get asked the most is "What gift could I get for my friend who has recently lost their child?" 

I have received some of the most beautiful, amazing, special gifts from people all over the country. I am grateful for every single one of them and they all are beautiful daily reminders of Frankie.

The one gift that I did find to be the most helpful was actually the one thing that I tried to deny when I found out The Finley Project wanted to make it happen for me. Part of being a Finley Project Mom is that they have a cleaning service come out and clean your house for you. I didn't want this at all. I felt like I could handle the upkeep of my house and if I couldn't clean, I could afford to have my own house cleaned. But, let's be honest. A good month passed without me even changing the toilet paper roll and sitting down to schedule a cleaning lady wasn't on my priority list. Just the thought of the fact that I couldn't keep up with the household chores was exhausting, so the day I got the phone call that said "Hey, your house is being cleaned on Wednesday at 1pm" was extremely relieving. I remember when they left, looking around my clean house and just weeping. The kindness of taking this mundane task of my hands for that time was beyond helpful. I really can't explain it, but it was very necessary and I am beyond grateful.

Call your friend up a couple weeks after the loss and ask when a good time would be for you to have her house cleaned for her. If she declines, I would say this is a time when you can be a little bossy and say "sorry, this is a gift". She will thank you, I promise.

3. THINGS NOT TO SAY!

Listen, before I go off on this little tip, let me please just say if you have said any of these things to friends or even me, I'M NOT MAD. We just don't understand the importance of thinking about our words in these scenarios until we are on the other side. These are just things that bother me, but some grieving parents might not be phased by them at all, which I think is also super important to include. We all grieve differently and everyone's process is the right process for them.

Avoid the "cliche" things to say. None of them apply when you lose a child, at all. Here are some examples:

Everything happens for a reason.
God must have needed another angel.
It's all part of the plan.
She must have just been too beautiful for earth.

I was reading a book once that listed some of these cliche's as "things to say when you want a good face-punch" and that cracked me up, but really. Some days, it was all I could do to not punch right through my computer screen. Anger is also a very healthy part of grief, so if you're a Momma who has lost reading this, punch those pillows, friend. I, personally, struggle IMMENSELY with feeling anger and displace it on other things or people who have nothing to do with why I am actually angry. Working through that is hard and exhausting, but I will get there.

This last sentence is one that I have heard maybe a handful of times and every single time it cuts me like a knife. I understand that the people's intent might be to make me think differently or see our circumstance from a different perspective, but it hurts. Really bad.

"Maybe there was something wrong with her and you would have spent your whole life caring for her. Maybe God was sparing you from a life of stress and her a life of pain. She's better off where she is".

Nope. I don't like that one.

4. Let them have their space and give them grace. For a long while.

I can remember early on, friends would think to give me advice like "you should get out of the house!" and it would send me spiraling like no other. Or, they'd make these fancy plans to try and distract me and I would cancel five minutes before it was time to leave. I completely forgot people's birthday's. I didn't buy anyone a single thing for Christmas. I was, and still am most of the time, a really sucky friend. I know this and I am sure I will start to remember things that are important to those around me. I am grateful for my friends who I have completely forgotten about and they still show up and understand and give me grace. I will never be able to thank them enough.

What I realize I needed then was just grace and space to grieve. Some days, I was totally down for the distractions. Other days, I could barely remember how to tie my shoes.

Expect nothing from your friend during this time. Expect plans to change last minute. Expect them to forget the most important things to you because their world has been completely flipped on it's head. I had Frankie on September 22nd and I remember on Halloween sitting my driveway and thinking "How did I get out here? How long have I been inside? What am I supposed to do?" The first month after the loss is completely wiped from my memory and the following months after that are super fuzzy. This is part of the trauma response, so please, remind your friend she is not crazy and deserves space and grace.

The best plans were the ones that went like this:

"Hey! I'd love to meet up for lunch, or get our nails done, or I could come sit on your couch and watch a movie, or you could come here, or we can talk on the phone or text or do nothing. But, I'm here to do any of those things if you want!"

It gave me a million choices I could choose from and one of those choices was "or do nothing" which I always (and still do) appreciate.

Space and grace over and over. That is all you should expect.

5.  Don't forget the Daddy's. 

When my husband's grief is acknowledged, it helps me times a thousand. Ask him how he is. Take him out for wings and beer. Let him forget the pain for a little bit. I can imagine that every time he looks at his angel baby's Mommy, he sees his child that he won't get to hold for a long, long time. I am so grateful for the friends that scooped my husband up and let him relax. He spent so much time making sure I was okay, making sure Frankie was cared for properly, making sure our wishes for her were followed through with integrity. He does everything he can every single day to father her from afar and love me at my worst. He deserves to be remembered, honored, and take care of, as well.

6. Say their child's name. Every time you think of them, see something that reminds you of them, over and over... say their name. It won't upset your friends. They are constantly thinking of their child and hearing their name is the sweetest band-aid you can put on this bullet hole they are living with.

I hope some of these have been helpful for you as you walk on this journey with your friend. If you are a parent learning how to live with part of your heart missing, my thoughts and prayers are with you. I would love to hear what has been helpful for YOU and include additional parts to this blog post from the perspective of other parents as this is purely just my opinion and what has helped me. Feel free to leave a comment or send an email. 

All my joy to all of you.


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