Q & A: How do you attend your friend’s baby shower when you’re still grieving your little one?
This is such a hard position for so many of us. Of course, you’re happy for your friend and you want good things for her. But when you are grieving your own little baby, the sight of her big pregnant belly or happy bouncing newborn can trigger a floodgate of pain and devastation that is impossible to adequately put into words.
So the prospect of spending an entire afternoon celebrating her innocent, expectant bliss can feel like an enormous undertaking. So here’s a few tips and tools to get you through.
7 Ways to Survive your friend’s Baby Shower after Infant Loss
1. First, remember you really aren’t obligated to go
Give yourself a true gut check. If every cell in your body is full of dread and anxiety over the thought of attending a baby shower right now, then please please consider opting out. Hop over to my article “how to say no to a baby shower” to find out bow out gracefully and without losing friends.
2. Create an Emergency Exit Plan
Plan to stay for only an hour or so then excuse yourself citing other obligations (yes, crying in your car all the way home counts as another obligation). This strategy lets you show up if that’s what you feel like you need to do, but allows you to be there without the pressure on your shoulders to stick it out the whole way. This way you get points for showing up, but save yourself some of the torture. You can always choose to stay longer than planned if it feels okay to be there.
3. Get a Job
If you can’t take the heat, get into the kitchen. Keep busy and distract yourself from the pain and the bouncing babies by taking on a helpful role in some other way. You don’t have to be cooing and ahhing in the front row to show your support. Find something useful to do. Hang out in the kitchen and help with the food prep and dishes, fix the decorations, police Aunt Sheila’s wine consumption, find something, anything, that lets you reduce your exposure to the triggers and painful conversation so you can maintain your composure a little easier. It’s perfectly fine to hang out on the sidelines and avoid some of the intensity of the day. (Thank you to the angel mama who offered this great suggestion).
4. Get a Battle Buddy
Pick one supportive friend to be your wing man. Talk to them before the event to let them know that you really want to be there for your mutual friend but are afraid of what this day will trigger for you. Ask them to stay by your side. And be specific. Tell them you may need them to help divert awkward conversations (where’s your baby! Weren’t you expecting too?) or step in and scoop up the baby should she be passed your way and you’re just not ready for that kind of close encounter just yet, or cover for you if you do end up running to the ladies room in tears. Putting this plan into place ahead of time can really help a lot.
5. Don’t be fake
Drop the “oh I just couldn’t be happier today!” huge plastic smile routine. It’s phoney and icky. And when you are trying to overcompensate to disguise your true emotions, everyone around you picks up on it anyway. So let go of the pressure to make this situation any different than what it is. Yes, you want to be pleasant and put your pain on the shelf today as much as possible so that the other guests don’t have to redirect their attention to taking care of you. But that doesn’t mean you have to oversell your enthusiasm. It’s fine to just be there.
You’ve lost your child. You have full right to step out of the competition for very-best-friend-of-the-day award. Let someone else take that role. You’ve got your hands full enough with the grieving-mom-who’s-showing-up-anyway-despite -the-urge-to-stay-in-bed-today Role. And that’s a very big job.
Please do not minimize the legitimacy of your own needs and your right to take time to heal.
6. Make this your new mantra:
“Progress, not perfection. Progress, not perfection.” I borrowed this one from Marie Forleo but you can make up your own that works for you. Find a phrase or some words of comfort or encouragement that you can repeat to yourself as often as you need to when the guilt hits and you start feeling like a bad friend for not being able to be more involved for your friend. A little self-talk can also go along way leading up to the event as well as on the day of, such as letting yourself count down the hours until this party is over and you can go home and have a good cry in your shower. “One more hour until I’m outta here. I can do this. I’m doing enough just by showing up.”
7. Self-care, self-care, self-care
Make room for the healing. Create a plan for how you will recover after the event is over. What will you do to ride out the waves of emotion that come with this day? Make a plan to go home, rest, soak in the bath or get out for some fresh air and walk or do whatever that thing is that helps you to burn off some of the upset and process some of this emotion through your system.
Give yourself time, space & compassion to process all the stuff that inevitably gets triggered at the event (because this event is going to be inevitably pretty painful and triggering.) So make a plan to give yourself and your grief the comfort, care and acknowledgement you deserve.
If you have decided to pass this baby shower and give yourself more time for recovery, head on over to How to RSVP “No” to Baby Showers After Baby Loss with tips on how to RSVP “No”.
If you found this useful, then please share it and help me on my mission of breaking the silence and isolation surrounding baby loss.
Ready for a bit more support? A Phoenix Session might be exactly what you are seeking. Let’s see if this is the right fit for you.