What if you aren't great with words, though? What if it's not appropriate in your work or social setting to have deep and intimate conversations with her?
Here are some practical, and mostly easy, way to offer her support. While some are explicit, some can be done completely without her knowledge.
1. Lighten her load.
As she attempts to adjust to her new "normal," tasks that were formerly routine can seem pointless or trivial; on the other hand, letting things slide and pile up provides a constant reminder that she no longer has a handle on her life. It's a double-edged sword and one that can take some time and patience to work out. You can easily and subtly help by taking on a few of the daily tasks that are normally her responsibility. Offer to teach her Sunday school class for a few weeks. Take that stack of filing from her tray and do it on your break. Get her answer key and grade those spelling tests for her. Make sure you don't completely take over her responsibilities--that could make her feel helpless, plus she does need some routine tasks to focus on--but find a few things you can do in those first few weeks.
2. Give her a small token.
A small potted plant. A tiny heart necklace. A thoughtful cross-stitch or embroidered pillow. There are so many little things you could offer her as a remembrance of her lost baby. As long as it is something that reminds her of the precious life that she carried for too short a time it will be perfect. Other options include a journal she can fill with her memories of the baby, a star or a tree planted in the baby's honor, a frame for the sonogram picture, a decorative box to store the mementos in. The options are endless.
3. Show you care with food.
If you're close enough to provide support in that first week after her miscarriage, home-cooked meals (or just bringing her takeout) can make a huge difference--especially if she is the main cook in her household. It's even better if everything comes in disposable containers. Make sure you check around first to see if anyone is putting together a list before showing up on her doorstep. After that first week you can take her out for a lunch date or bring her favorite treats to work. Give her a gift card to her favorite restaurant.
*One caution: Be wary of taking her out for a drink. Though she can have alcohol again, remember that it is a depressant. Getting her trashed cannot help her and may even start a dangerous cycle. Grief and alcohol are dangerous bedfellows.
4. Let her borrow your kitten.
Or puppy or adorable pet. This is highly individual, but the presence of an animal can be incredibly therapeutic. The chance to snuggle and love another creature who asks nothing in return except food and belly rubs is something many women would find beneficial. Invite her over and hand over your puppy. Offer to let your kitty stay with her for a week. I would not recommend buying her an animal as it could feel like a replacement for her loss, but I would recommend giving her plenty of chances to play with and snuggle with a cute animal.
5. Help her express herself.
Is she stuck with an excess of feelings she doesn't know how to express? Help her find activities that allow her to express herself and vent. Give her the chance to feel her feelings through an outlet of some sort. Does she love to read? Perhaps you could read a book together or join a book club. Does she love to write? Take a poetry class or encourage her to start a blog. Is she an artist at heart? Get her some art supplies, make a craft together, or take a local painting class. Is she an active woman? Go on a hike with her, sign up for a 5k together, or take a class at the gym with her. The opportunity to express her feelings and relate her experience with a friend by her side will be quite beneficial.
6. Be her point person.
If you are a close and trusted friend, you can offer to be her point person. Be the one who organizes the meals people may want to offer her. Make it clear to the office or the church that you are the one to come to with offers of help or sympathy. You can relay pertinent information to those who need it and discourage rumors and gossip. You can offer advice to others about what she may or may not need/want. You can keep people off her back if she just wants to be alone. Be the middle man/woman. Not only will she feel cared for by you, she will also get the space she needs from others.
7. Protect her relationships.
Miscarriage often causes intense stress on close relationships. Marriages and partnerships often bear the brunt of the strain, and while one or both people in the relationship may behave inappropriately during this time, there are ways to offer advice and counsel that promote unity in that relationship rather than brokenness. Let her express herself and express your own sympathy for her feelings and situation, but do not trash her other half. Restoration is possible and healthy, and it will likely occur as time goes on and her hormones level out--especially if her partner has not been dragged through the mud by her friends.
8. Remind her of herself.
A miscarriage often causes a woman to focus deeply inward. She can become consumed with her loss and forget the smaller things that make up her life. Little things can often make a big difference. Buy her a silly gift that reminds you of a private joke. Take her to that movie she was dying to see or get her a DVD of a childhood favorite. Send her silly lists and articles from places like Buzzfeed just to make her laugh. Get her a gigantic bag of her favorite candy. They should be things that were just hers rather than hers + baby's. If she loves sour worms but ate a ton of them while pregnant, steer clear of those. The best options are small things that require minimal social interaction and conversation.
9. Remember her on her due date and mother's day.
Send her a card. Send her some flowers. Shoot her a quick text to let her know you love her. She's definitely thinking about her lost baby on that day, and knowing that you remember, too, will mean a lot.
Next week, we'll go over some helpful things to be aware of when a woman in your life is pregnant after a previous miscarriage--especially if she has no living children yet.
Keep it real, y'all,