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Here’s What to Do When a Friend Is Depressed

Here’s What to Do When a Friend Is Depressed

It was the end of May when I found out I was pregnant. Alone in the wee hours of the morning, it was the joyful secret that I couldn’t wait to share with my husband when he got home from work.

We both struggled to sleep that night, our minds racing with excitement and possibility. Over the next few weeks, we began the process of sharing our news with family, scheming about clever ways to tell our friends and pretty much incessantly dreaming about this little life growing inside of me.

And yet, it was still so early in the pregnancy. Through all of the excitement and happiness, a small fear was planted in the back of my mind. It wasn’t until my first ultrasound, when we learned that the baby was only measuring five weeks when it should have been measuring at seven, that my greatest fear began to be realized.

We were told to wait and see. Perhaps the dates were just off? But more likely, this baby wasn’t going to make it. We drove home numb. The week to follow was filled with pain and sorrow, interrupted by moments of intense optimism and hope. I was a physician’s worst nightmare as I scoured the Internet for stories from women in situations like mine, stories that ended with a perfectly healthy and happy baby.

And we prayed. Every moment I prayed that I could keep this pregnancy. That the doctor was wrong. That my body would give way to life, not death.

Yet on the Saturday night that followed, I experienced a miscarriage. It was the worst pain I have ever been through, both physically and emotionally. It was an experience that all at once admitted me from one group of women to another. To a tribe of women who have lost their babies. To a group of people who will always wonder about the life that could have been with the children they never knew.

Through sharing this experience with others over the past few weeks, I’ve realized how unfortunately common miscarriage really is. Apparently, one in four pregnancies end this way, a statistic we were startled to learn. I’ve heard a chorus of “Me too” or “That happened to my mom, my best friend, my cousin, etc.” And yet, I had no idea so many people around me had suffered through this. It makes me wonder how many couples struggle through it silently, grieving alone.

If you have experienced a miscarriage or any sort of loss, I hope you know that you are not alone. The weight of your loss does not have to be carried by yourself.

And if you are reading this having not experienced a loss, but find yourself thinking of someone in your life that has, I encourage you to reach out. It’s hard to know how to be there for someone going through tragedy. Every person is different and every loss is not experienced the same, yet there are few ways you can be present in their pain:

Be Available Without Added Pressure

Some of the most comforting people in my life lately have been the ones who are quick to say, “I’m here for you when you need me. But if you need to be alone, that is OK, too.” They have been the ones who are only a phone call away, but who have given me the permission to grieve in the ways that I have needed to grieve. They are the ones who have made their care for me known, who have offered companionship, but who haven’t taken it personally if I’ve needed some space. They are the ones who have shown up at our house with flowers, but said, “I won’t stay long. I’m just here if you need me.” Or have texted or emailed to say, “My phone is with me, call if you need.”

Everyone mourns differently, and being given the space to mourn on my own timeline has made all of the difference.

Ask, Don’t Tell

Sharing our stories is so important, and the story of someone’s loss is no different. That story, too, needs to be shared. It needs to be shared so that it is not carried alone.

There is so much healing to be found in telling your story. So, ask. Ask to hear the story of a friend who is going through loss. Ask how they are doing, how they are getting along.

It is tempting to offer up cliche comforts when we don’t know what to say. It is tempting to try and explain. And while yes, it is important to be reminded that God is in control, that it will all be OK, fight the urge to tell them how to heal.

Just ask to hear their story, and then make space for sharing. Create a space for the pain, for the mess, for the heartache. And trust that in that, you are creating space for healing.

Say Something, Even if You Don’t Know What

Not saying anything at all can be more hurtful than saying the wrong thing. One of the most honest and life-giving things someone has said to me recently was, “I’m not sure what to say, but please know that I hate that you are having to go through this.”

Through this entire experience, the support we have gotten from our family and friends has been invaluable. Our community has been so faithful to walk through this with us. They have covered us in love and in prayer, and made sure that we know we are not carrying this alone. They have cried and grieved for us. They have dropped by our house, invited us over for meals. They have called, texted or emailed every day. They have reminded us of God’s love time and time again; reminding us that we are not alone, and we are not forgotten.

So even when you don’t know what to say, do say something. Because in acknowledging the pain, you are offering to carry even a little of it. And for a grieving friend, that is one of the most healing and sacred things you give.

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