Helping A Friend After Miscarriage

Having a miscarriage or a stillborn child can have a devastating impact on couples and their families. We know this intuitively. Any stress can affect a marriage as well as any other interpersonal relationships. But a new study says that couples who have a miscarriage increase their risk for separation or divorce by 22%.

Significant Finding

The risk remains high anywhere from 18 months to 3 years after a miscarriage, though perhaps the most significant finding is that the risk for separation or divorce remains in place for up to a decade after a stillbirth. The lead author of this study, Dr. Katherine Gold, says that there isn't an automatic correlation between separation and pregnancy loss, "Most couples do very well and often become closer after loss," says Gold.

Still, the study does tell us that grief after pregnancy loss may be extended and couples may need the support of their friends and families for a long time. On the other hand, you may not know how to help someone who has suffered the loss of a baby. If you aren't particularly close to the couple, it's enough to give a simple acknowledgement: "I'm so sorry for your loss; can I cook a meal for you? Run an errand?"

This is better than asking a general question: "What can I do to help?" Such questions almost invariably receive the response, "Nothing, thank you."

Privacy Boundaries

It's also very important not to avoid discussing the loss, though if you get signals from the couple that they'd rather not discuss their loss, drop the subject out of respect for their personal privacy boundaries.

If you happen to be a close friend or family member of someone who has lost a baby, the best thing you can do is to be available as a shoulder to lean on. Be there as they cry or shout in rage. Maybe they just want to remain mute and still. You can sit by their sides without saying a word. Your presence may be very important to them, even if they can't show their gratitude right now.

The danger after such a tragedy lies in the repression of feelings. This is the place from whence the marital strain arises. Maybe a couple finds it too painful to speak of the loss between themselves, but perhaps you can be a neutral ear for one or the other of them and help them cope and get through this rough time.

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