My friend lost a baby

by Claudia Ravaldi

What can I do as a friend when a friend of mine loses her baby.

In the collective imagination, pregnancy is a historical moment full of euphoria, plans and happiness for expectant parents and their family and friends.

And it is, in most cases, thanks to the notable social, health and economic advances, which have allowed, decade after decade, a drastic reduction of adverse events and greater protection of maternal and child health.

When a woman announces her pregnancy to her friends, this “event” is never a neutral event, without reactions, for any of the people around the woman.

Pregnancy is a profoundly transformative event for women, and to a lesser extent, but not negligible, it also transforms the relationships that a woman experiences, within the couple, between friends and family.

Adapting to these changes is neither easy nor taken for granted. There are many friendships that for various reasons “around” pregnancy and birth enter a bit of crisis.

Fortunately, there are also many friendships that are strengthened, above all thanks to the sharing of similar experiences in the same historical period.

Physiological pregnancy in itself brings changes in the internal and external world of the woman and the couple: let’s imagine what happens when that transformative journey is interrupted with the death of the expected child.

Let’s imagine what happens, inside the mind of the woman, of the couple and immediately outside, to relationships with friends and family, when the death of the embryo, fetus or newborn changes the scenario, and suddenly there is no child left. to be awaited with joy.

It changes that for everyone, none of those who have a meaningful relationship with the woman and the bereaved couple can remain in a neutral position with respect to the loss event.

Perinatal bereavement (we define perinatal bereavement, the bereavement around birth, from conception to the end of exogestation ) is a social and collective bereavement , because it affects everyone, couples, friends and relatives, in a historical moment of creativity, openness to life and wait.

If mourning, at various levels and with different declinations, affects all those who were expecting the child close to the couple, it is evident that we are all called to reflect on the impact of this loss for ourselves, and above all for the directly affected parents.

Here are some of the main needs of parents struggling with the abyss of perinatal bereavement

In a moment of profound bewilderment and pain, parents need to feel the discreet but real presence of friends and relatives.

They need emotional support (not consolation, or distractions, unless specifically requested by them), they need to know that that child is worth and matters to you , as it does and matters to them.

They need to know that you don’t think it’s crazy to name an embryo or stillbirth. Or that if you think so, that you are kind enough to resist the temptation to tell him, a few hours, a few weeks, or a few months after the abortion.

They need to be pampered, to know that you are there anyway, and that you will not be angry if they do not answer any text messages or calls for a time that will seem endless.

They need to know that no, you don’t think they are rude, because they desert the reunion with friends on the day of their due date.

They need to know that you know their last thought is to celebrate New Year in a conventional way.

They need to hear you ask: Can you tell me who Lapo / Leonardo / Alice was like ?, and to feel genuinely interested in their child’s short life.

They need honesty: I’m sorry, but I don’t know what to say to you , it’s much more appreciated than any cliché, said because you have nothing to say.

They need to know that you have been there at the pregnancy announcement dinner, you have been there at the babyshower party, and you will also be there at that baby’s memorial service, or at the party in his honor on October 15th ( what is October 15 )

They need to know that they can count on your respect. And that you will be able to ask with kindness and genuine interest when you do not understand why writing on CiaoLapo makes you cry but makes you feel good.

They need to know that with the death of their baby, not all of their important relationships have died as well . They will probably test you on this.

They will test your stamina, as do all grief-stricken people who for a long time lose faith in the world and in love. Even in yours.

Having bereaved parents as friends is difficult (I make public amends for those friends that I myself have mistreated, guilty of not understanding anything about perinatal mourning and obstinate in addressing me as before: we cannot go back to the way we used to, but if you trust us, we can even go back better than we were) .

Having bereaved parents as friends is also a social responsibility.

Because one in six women lose her child during pregnancy in Italy, one in ten receives a diagnosis of infertility , and only one in four of those who will face treatment and care will be able to have a live child.

Knowing how this bereavement works in principle, knowing what can help and what cannot, is useful and good for everyone.

I give you Donatella’s magnificent words, which I thank from the bottom of my heart.

“Reading the posts allowed me to get closer to the emotions of those who suffer from a bereavement of this type and now I understand how empty certain phrases are, which inevitably comes to be said, perhaps for fear of the pain of the parents.
Minimizing the loss to try to help can only make it worse.
So thank you for somehow instructing me to shut up and listen. “


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