Last month, John Legend and Chrissy Teigen chose to share their unthinkable heartache with the world by giving us a glimpse into the tragic loss of their son, Jack. Chrissy was around halfway through her pregnancy when she experienced heavy bleeding related to the placenta. Despite enduring every possible treatment, Jack was born much too early to survive. Chrissy chose to share some photos of his birth experience, and has since been mostly silent on social media, presumably taking the time to mourn and heal.
A few days ago, she shared her first Instagram post since the tragic ordeal. It was a repost of John Legend’s tribute to her. In an adoring, heartbreaking moment, he posted a video of himself performing his song, Never Break, with a moving tribute to his wife in the caption.
“This is for Chrissy,” he begins. He goes on to express his love, and praise his wife, saying, “Watching you carry our children has been so moving and humbling.”
On the subject of their baby, Jack, he laments, “We’ve deeply felt [life’s] inherent fragility.”
On and on, he sings Chrissy’s praises, expressing that he is “in awe of her strength,” speaking on his faith in their marriage, assuring her, “our love will remain,” in the face of life’s tragedies.
He goes on to thank everyone for their support, acknowledge other parents who have been in the same place, and send gratitude to their supporters.
As I read his words and listened to his beautiful voice singing a song he wrote just for her, I couldn’t help but think one thing.
John Legend got this one exactly right.
Since she reposted it, I’m pretty sure that Chrissy felt the same way.
I think I am drawn to the way these two interact in their grief because I am lucky to have a partner who was able to get it just right for me when I needed him. He’s not a world-famous musician with a platform of millions, so nobody got to know about it when he said and did all the right things. But we have walked the road of pregnancy loss together twice, and both times he showed up in every way I needed.
Both of our losses were earlier than Chrissy Teigen and John Legend’s. We said goodbye in the first trimester both times. However, like Chrissy Teigen, I didn’t always get pregnant easily, so every pregnancy felt miraculous to us. Our losses hit me like a ton of bricks. My husband also mourned, but he understood that until the physical portion of the loss had passed, I needed him to pull from his deepest well of strength to hold me up. I never had to ask. He just knew.
Everyone deserves a partner who shows up for them in their time of loss and pain, supporting them in their grief, and giving them the time and space they need to heal and mourn. Besides mustering up all the strength you can to honor their need to express their pain, here are some things you can do to support your partner during a time of grief and loss.
Praise your partner’s strength.
Tell them you love them often. Remind them who they are. Strong. Capable. Impressive. Beautiful.
If your partner is suffering a pregnancy loss, remind her that her body is good, even when it does things she can’t control. One of the feelings that can come with a pregnancy loss at any stage is betrayal. Your body can feel like your enemy. Make sure your partner knows that you believe her body is still as wonderful as it’s always been.
Do all the practical things you can do to make it easier for them to focus on moving forward.
If you want to be a true partner, carry your love’s burdens. Encourage them to take a long hot shower while you catch up the laundry, throw together dinner, or take their car for an oil change. Make sure that they feel like they can be still for a while because you’ll make sure their world doesn’t fall apart while they’re resting. If they don’t want to sit still in their grief, follow their lead—but keep an eye on them and encourage them to rest when they need it.
We are shocked and in the kind of deep pain you only hear about, the kind of pain we’ve never felt before. We were never able to stop the bleeding and give our baby the fluids he needed, despite bags and bags of blood transfusions. It just wasn’t enough. . . We never decide on our babies’ names until the last possible moment after they’re born, just before we leave the hospital. But we, for some reason, had started to call this little guy in my belly Jack. So he will always be Jack to us. Jack worked so hard to be a part of our little family, and he will be, forever. . . To our Jack – I’m so sorry that the first few moments of your life were met with so many complications, that we couldn’t give you the home you needed to survive. We will always love you. . . Thank you to everyone who has been sending us positive energy, thoughts and prayers. We feel all of your love and truly appreciate you. . . We are so grateful for the life we have, for our wonderful babies Luna and Miles, for all the amazing things we’ve been able to experience. But everyday can’t be full of sunshine. On this darkest of days, we will grieve, we will cry our eyes out. But we will hug and love each other harder and get through it.
A post shared by chrissy teigen (@chrissyteigen) on Sep 30, 2020 at 8:58pm PDT
Handle the influx of well-meaning communication.
No matter what kind of loss your partner is facing, people are going to want to know how you’re both doing, what happened and what they can do. Ask your partner who they would like to speak to on their own, and handle the rest of it for them. Create a feeling of safety by making sure that they don’t have to recall the loss over and over and over to every concerned family member and friend.
Keep their love language in mind, and plan some intentional shows of support.
If words of affirmation are Chrissy Teigen’s love language, John Legend knocked it out of the park with his beautiful tribute. For me, acts of service lead the pack, so my most cherished memory of how Scott cared for me during our pregnancy losses is waking up after crying myself to sleep in a reclining chair and seeing my husband quietly changing our sheets, carefully stain treating my side before he took it to the laundry. A physical touch person might want you to massage their feet or rub their hair. Someone who cherishes quality time could benefit from a quiet cup of coffee together on the front porch, no conversation necessary. A thoughtful gift or flower delivery could be a good choice if your partner receives love through receiving gifts.
Let yourself grieve, too.
Take care of yourself. Make sure you don’t confuse your desire to be strong for your grieving partner with an obligation to ignore your own feelings. This is especially important when a pregnancy loss is involved, but shared burdens are lighter than the ones we carry alone, so any time your partner is hurting, this is a good practice. If you feel loss and sadness, it’s okay and probably even helpful to let them know. Don’t make it a competition, but share your own sense of loss, carefully acknowledging that you are feeling the same disappointment, sadness and broken dreams that they are feeling. Assure them you’re committed to seeing it through together.
When life turns tragic, it can be hard to feel like you’re getting it right. Grief is so personal, and no two people will need the exact same thing from their partners. These suggestions are by no means a road map. But take it from someone whose spouse has done each and every one of these things for her more than once: They’re a good place to start.
Everyone can use a partner that speaks kindly, considers their needs, and supports their healing.