How To Help Someone Who Has Lost A Loved One

How To Help Someone Who Has Lost A Loved One – Pregnancy loss or infant death is devastating and unfortunately happens more often than many realize. About 10% to 15% of known pregnancies end in miscarriage (pregnancy loss before 20 weeks gestation), and 1% end in stillbirth (pregnancy loss after 20 weeks), according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). According to the CDC, in more than five of every 1,000 pregnancies in the United States, an infant dies in the first year of life.

Lack of meaningful support from others can compound feelings of loss. But often friends and family members aren’t sure how to care for the bereaved, says Leigh Nguyen, a licensed clinical social worker and advanced practitioner at NewYork-Presbyterian Alexandra Cohen Hospital for Women and Infants.

How To Help Someone Who Has Lost A Loved One

“People don’t like to think about death in general, but especially when it happens to a baby or an unborn child,” says Gwen. “They don’t really know what to say and they’re afraid of saying the wrong thing, so they don’t say anything. So people who go through this feel like they have to hide their pain to make other people feel better.”

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But asking the bereaved how they’re doing and how to support them can make a significant difference in their ability to cope, Gwen says.

If you want to help people experiencing this type of grief, she suggests, follow these steps:

“It’s natural for grieving people to want to protect themselves from their pain,” says Gwen. “But that pain is a reminder of the love they have for their child who is no longer with them.” We can’t take away the pain, but we can be with them. And that’s a very powerful thing.”

Sometimes there is nothing to say or do. “Being physically with them can be really comforting,” says Gwen. In the words of Melissa Trull, chaplain at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center, “Be present and ready.”

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Just “how are you?” or “How are you?” Asking can help the bereaved begin to process their pain by knowing that others care, says Gwen.

Asking the name of a lost child also gives comfort. “I’ve had couples in my support group say that it means a lot to them when people ask them what their baby’s name is, because they think they can’t say it,” says Gwen. “It’s very special for them to hear their baby’s name out loud.”

Many people who are grieving need help throughout the day. “Bereavement can be an emotionally draining experience in the immediate aftermath,” says Gwen. “People going through this loss may not have the energy to make sure they have food at home or that they can get up and shower.”

Make sure those experiencing loss have what they need or will benefit from your help. You can offer help with a task. For example, you might ask if they need to coordinate funeral arrangements or ceremonies for the loss of a child or pregnancy.

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“The biggest need I hear from couples is help with bringing babies home from nursery,” adds Gwen. “It can be a very painful thing. While some people feel the need to do this as part of their grieving process, others really don’t want to see it at all. Check if you need help before signing up.

Grief doesn’t stop after a year or 30 years. “Many parents feel supported immediately after a loss, but that support fades over time. It can be very lonely and lonely,” says Gwen. “Keep asking how they’re doing and if they want to talk about it.”

In the past, people may have been encouraged to try to move on from their grief, Gwen adds. “We’ve learned that it’s not really helpful, and maintaining relationships with people we’ve lost is what people need,” she says. “Helping maintain that relationship is healing.”

When holidays, birthdays or anniversaries roll around, Gwen suggests asking if there’s anything special you can do to include or treat their child during these “sad spots.”

How To Help A Grieving Loved One

“Those are the moments in life when all your loved ones should be there,” explains Gwen. “Bereaved people are reminded that the child they have is not theirs and will never be theirs in the flesh.”

Gooen cautions against reminding people when they have another baby or that they might get pregnant again. “Everyone’s situation is different and private,” she says, adding that questions like these can indicate that the child they’ve lost isn’t worth grieving and can be replaced.

Similarly, avoid using “at least” statements (eg, “At least you have another child.”) “There’s no amount of positivity that will negate the loss,” she says.

First of all, acknowledge the loss – don’t stay silent as if nothing happened. “Not talking about it sends the message that their loss is invisible and increases feelings of isolation,” says Goen.

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Be gentle and kind to yourself. “Grief can be overwhelming and isolating,” says Gwen. “It can come in waves and make it difficult to think, sleep or eat.” You may feel a range of emotions or feel numb and traumatized.

“Sometimes people think the loss is their fault or they feel guilty, maybe because they did it,” Gwen says. But try not to blame yourself. “In most of these cases, we don’t know why it’s happening. It just happens,” she says.

Consider “making memories” with your child. Hospitals may ask if you want to visit or spend time with your baby. “Sometimes it’s just not possible because of the baby’s gestational age,” says Gwen. “But other ways of remembering a child can be comforting.” It can be healing to hold a funeral, memorial service, or other spiritual ritual for your child.

Take time to process the loss. Gooen recommends contacting your employer as soon as possible to let them know you need time off. You may need your doctor to fill out paperwork to get your appointment approved.

Nervous Breakdown (mental Health Crisis)

Do what works for you and take it one day at a time. Some days you’ll be consumed by your grief, “getting in touch with your feelings about the loss, openly expressing the pain of the loss and the need associated with that grief,” says Gwen. “Other days will be more creative as you take steps to move forward.”

Try to eat and sleep and spend time with the ones you love, Gwen advises. “Accept support from believers at this time.”

Respect your partner’s way of grieving. Everyone navigates grief differently, says Gwen. “Sometimes it can be painful or difficult to see that your partner is in a different place than you are. That’s normal,” she says. “Even though you’ve both suffered a traumatic loss, you won’t be in the same place at the same time as him.”

Join a support group, attend a grief retreat, or connect with a peer counselor—someone who’s been in your shoes. “It can be helpful to meet other people who have gone through this loss and see how they moved on from their pain,” says Gwen. “And it helps to know you’re not alone.”

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If you’re having trouble doing daily activities, it’s wise to talk to a doctor. Call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (800-273-TALK) if you have frequent thoughts of harming yourself or don’t want to live anymore. Seven years ago, my father was diagnosed with terminal cancer, before passing away three and a half years later. It was terrible, during which I relied heavily on the support of friends and family.

While I made sure to thank the people who were there for me, I noticed that most were concerned about doing and saying the right thing. Ninety-five percent, they did it naturally. But some, they absolutely do not. Like, actually, not really.

I understand the concern. So, if you’re worried about helping a loved one going through something terrible, here’s a quick guide based on what I’ve learned from the other side.

I’ve had conversations with people who love bad news and are shocked. I don’t think they know they’re doing it, but you get the impression that your pain is their gossip, some kind of bad news porn or something. Even if you enjoy such things, you probably aren’t reading this right now. Besides, with everything going on in the world today, I’m sure there are plenty of sites that cater to those tastes.

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