We all want to be helpful and supportive to our friends and family when they are hurt or grieving, but we often don’t know what to say or how to help. Here are some tips to offer support and hold space for a loved one who is experiencing infertility or loss.
The most helpful thing we can do to help others, in general, is to truly listen to them. Invite them to share, and simply listen. We don’t need to try to fix or solve anything – because usually, we can’t. Just sitting there and listening without judgment will be incredibly helpful. Our loved ones will likely have many thoughts and emotions that they haven’t been able to share with most people in their lives, and being free to process those with you is one of the best things you can do for them.
Don’t make it about you.
Although you may also be hurting, ignore your desire to try to relate their situation to yourself. While it might be true that you have been through something similar, or you are also grieving their loss, or whatever it may be… at this time, you need to hold the space for your loved one to process. This might mean finding another person to talk with about your feelings.
But don’t be afraid to show emotion.
Someone going through infertility or loss may feel like everyone around them is avoiding expressing feelings about their situation. Often we feel like we can’t cry, or express our sadness, about a loved one’s situation. But it can actually be helpful to that person if we let them know that they aren’t alone, and this is affecting us as well.
Avoid platitudes and triggering language.
Saying things like “it just wasn’t meant to be,” or “you can always try again,” and “it was God’s plan” can be extremely hurtful and minimize your loved one’s feelings and experiences. While most people have good intentions, phrases similar to those above can cause more harm than good. If you feel like you just need to say something, you can remind the person that you’re there for them or ask what they need most that day.
Don’t be afraid to talk about it.
You might feel as though you should avoid talking about your loved one’s loss or infertility, or that bringing it up will cause them pain. But the truth is that, as mentioned above, these situations can often be incredibly isolating and make the person experiencing it feel alone. Talking about it, asking how they’re doing, saying the baby’s name in case of a loss, remembering dates that are important to them… all of these things can help that person understand that you’re there to support them.
Ask what would be helpful.
Everyone is different, so everyone experiences things differently. What helped you or another loved one might be hurtful, or at least not helpful, in this specific situation. Being willing to say “how can I help you most right now?” is a wonderful way to meet that person where they’re at and support them in an individual way. Knowing that someone is willing to help you how you need it most can be incredibly powerful.
Sometimes people don’t want to talk about what’s going on in their lives. It might be too painful, or they might not be ready to share. Or they might withdraw and need space. It is helpful if you can try to understand that they are hurting, and that looks different for everyone. If you are sharing happy news about your own pregnancy, be extra sensitive with them – tell them before you announce it to a large group or post on social media, tell them in private or over phone/text/email so they can excuse themselves from the conversation if needed. Know that they may need to distance themselves from you while they sort through their feelings about this, which is totally normal.