Supporting Families Through Termination for Medical Reasons or Stillbirth
Experiencing the loss of a pregnancy due to termination for medical reasons (TFMR) or stillbirth is a profoundly painful and devastating experience for families. During such challenging times, providing support to these families is crucial. As a perinatal mental health therapist in Hamilton, Ontario, I support families in this space almost everyday. This blog post aims to offer guidance on what I have learned through my education and experience on how those in the family's support network can hep a family who has experienced TFMR or stillbirth.
Listen and Be Present: One of the most important ways to support grieving families is simply to be there for them. Listen to their feelings, thoughts, and stories without judgment. Understand that everyone processes grief differently, and your presence can offer comfort.
Acknowledge the Loss: It's essential to acknowledge the loss, regardless of the circumstances. Ask the family if they would like you to use the baby's name (if given) and recognize the significance of their existence. Avoid platitudes like "It's for the best" or "You can have another child," as these may invalidate their grief.
Offer Practical Help: Practical support can make a significant difference during this difficult time. Offer to run errands, cook meals, look after older children or take care of household chores. Small gestures can relieve some of the daily burdens for grieving families.
Respect Their Choices: In the case of TFMR, respect the family's decision without judgment. They have faced a heartbreaking choice and made the best decision for their unique situation. Avoid offering unsolicited advice or opinions.
Share Resources: Provide information about support groups, therapists, and counselors specializing in grief and loss. Normalize seeking professional support for the family - you may consider sharing your experience of getting mental health support in the past or present. Sharing relevant resources can empower them to access the assistance they require.
Send Thoughtful Gifts: Sending a sympathy card, candle, or a memorial gift can be a way to show your support. Personalize the gesture based on the family's preferences and cultural background.
Remember Anniversaries: Remember significant dates like the baby's due date or the anniversary of the loss. A heartfelt message or a simple acknowledgment can mean a lot to grieving families.
Respect Privacy: Grieving is a deeply personal process. Respect the family's need for privacy and space when they require it. Let them know you're available, but don't press if they need solitude.
Offer Long-Term Support: Grief doesn't have a timeline. Continue to check in on the family months or even years after the loss. Ongoing support can help them navigate the ups and downs of the grieving process.
Supporting a family who has experienced termination for medical reasons or stillbirth requires compassion, patience, and empathy. Your presence and willingness to listen can make a profound difference in their healing journey. Remember that grief is a unique and ongoing process, and your support can be a comforting constant in their lives.
If you know a family who may benefit from additional support, Mountain Brow Counselling offers expert experience in perinatal loss. We are a team of Registered Social Workers and Psychotherapists dedicated to supporting families through this time. We provide free consultations and provide in-person sessions in Hamilton, Ontario and virtually Ontario-wide.