How to act with someone who is mourning
Mourning is a complex procedure, a different reaction depending on a person. But there are some typical sentences or situations which hurt or affect similar to all of us. Many times we don't know how to react, what to say or how to help a friend or relative who is suffering.
One of the most important things in those difficult moments is to be able to support the one who mourns. To be able to connect with what that person is feeling, what is happening in his/her head, imagining ourselves in that situation.
Sentences like “be strong”, “don't worry”, “think on your other kids”, “don't cry, honey” only limit the person to express his/her feelings, her/his pain. If we think about ourselves, would we be able to stop thinking? Stop crying? Would we have less pain because we have other kids? Can one change the love for another? With those expressions we are just forcing to stop what he/she needs, in consequence he/she will meet them because he/she doesn’t want to disappoint us.
No one can know what other is going through. Is doesn't matter if we were in similar situation before. Everyone process different that other. It can happen that a mourner doesn't trust you because he/she knows it's not the same, therefore he/she cannot accept your help. If you had passed from something similar, you can suggest it but never say it’s the same.
Expressions which should be intended to minimize the pain like “it's better it happens now, it would be worse if it happens later”, “better now that being alive with handicaps”, “everything is ok, you have time to have more kids”, “it was not a baby yet”. Each child is different, it doesn't matter how many we have, and we love each of them. Love and pain are not measurable. Those kinds of expressions just let a mourner knows you don't understand.
It's not necessary we tell him/her what to do like “go and have fun”, “don't think more about it”, “cry is all you need”. The person on mourning knows what he/she needs. We just have to let him/her do it.
Sometimes we don't know what to do, how to react, so we disappear, we try to avoid him/her just to not face the situation. “I don't call her because I don't know what to say”; “I don't call her because she talks all the time about the loss”. In this case we can delegate the help in others, suggest the implication of others.
Isolate the person from the family “don't show yourself like that”, “it’s best that you don't go out for some days so they don't see you like that” is not advised. One thing is that mother or father need some intimacy during the mourn and other is to move them away from the family like: “We didn't invite you because we thought you will not come”. A mourner can decide by him/herself if he/she wants to come. It would be much better something like “We are going to make a party, we would love you to come but we perfectly understand if you don't want to”.
It sometimes happens that we have experienced something similar ourselves or we also loved that person who is gone. Thus, it's harder to face it. It's natural; we don't have to feel bad about it. But it would be good to explain to grieving family that we need to be a part from this because it's really painful for us.
Time is relative. The time that has passed from the lost and the time we invest on the lost is not the same. Maybe we didn't want to face it and we were trying to be busy to not go through it. During the first years there can be few downs. We can't expect the end of mourning or judge the time people need to cure from loss.
We can't hope parent who mourns will make an initiative. In those moments is really hard to organize something. It would be better if we offer our help first. “Would you like I go shopping instead of you?” “Would you like I bring you lunch?” “Would you like to go for a coffee?” Or just go for a visit from time to time.
In conclusion, the gold rule is: don’t say anything to a mother/father who lost an intrauterine baby what you would never say to a person who lost someone who was alive for some time. Can you imagine losing your partner and someone would tell you “don't worry, you can find someone else, you are still young.” It would look really insensible and even impolite. It's the same when the baby wasn’t born yet. People didn't know him/her but mother had him/her inside, it was her/his kid, her/his love, and part of her /his life.
It is best that mother or father know you are here for them during that difficult time. You are here to listen. Many times they don't want your advice; they just need to talk about it, to take everything out, to relieve the pressure, to be heard.
Sometimes a hug or only the presence does much more that words.
Rosa Jové. “La cuna vacía. El doloroso proceso de perder un embarazo”. La Esfera de los Libros S.L, 2009.
Avtor: Loreto Fernández Rodríguez