Tips From PAL Moms: How Did You Answer “How Are You Doing?” after a Loss?

By | 2016-10-13T17:08:08+00:00 July 13th, 2016|Tips from PAL Moms|2 Comments

Tips from PAL Moms is a column at PALS Magazine where we ask you, the PAL mom, for feedback about your experience during pregnancy after loss. We ask a question on our Facebook Page and hope that you can help answer it while also benefiting from the answers, all in an effort to relate and learn from fellow moms who “get it.”


I’m getting ready to return to the “real world” after losing our baby. I’ve taken all the leave from work I can, and I’ve avoided being around people as long as possible. I’m not sure I’m really ready, but honestly, I don’t know that I’ll ever be.

I know that my friends and coworkers are going to ask the dreaded question, “How are you doing?” and I’m wondering how other mamas answered that question. I’m afraid if I’m honest, I’ll break down, but I don’t want to downplay losing our baby either. It wouldn’t be right to say I’m okay, even though I know that’s what they’ll probably want to hear.


Oh, sweet Mama, first of all, I want to say how very sorry I am to hear about your loss. You have experienced what no parent ever should. It feels like the world has stopped, and ours has. It stopped the moment we had to say goodbye to our babies. It can be very difficult to find our way and learn how to navigate again in a world that never stopped moving. We struggle to find our “new normal,” but eventually we do.

Going back to work was something I dreaded. Like you, I avoided being around others for as long as possible. One thing that helped me  was talking with a co-worker who had also experienced loss. It helped me realize that I wouldn’t be “alone” when I went back because there was someone else there who understood how much I hurt and how much I was grieving. All of our experiences are different, but knowing that someone else understands and is close by can help tremendously.
I took life day by day, and it took me a month before I felt ready to go back to work. Before I went back, I communicated with my co-workers and supervisor several times via text. Texting helped. I was NOT ready to talk with or see anyone without breaking down, but we were a very close, small group, and I appreciated their concern and didn’t want to ignore them either. The text messages allowed me to control how in depth information went and helped me set the stage for what I was comfortable talking about when I finally did go back to work because they followed my lead.
My best advice is to take it minute by minute, take deep breaths, and take a time out or “bathroom break” when you need a moment to yourself.  Most importantly, recognize that how you are feeling is going to change often – maybe even every time you are asked how you’re doing. That’s part of grieving, and it’s part of healing. Answer as fully and as honestly as YOU feel comfortable.
I know that going back to work and facing questions will be hard. Just remember,  you ARE a brave, courageous mama. We will be thinking of you and sending love.

Here are some great TIPS from other PAL moms:

Sharon – The only advice I have is be honest with any supervisors/managers and find yourself a little support group or person. I thankfully work in a supportive and caring environment. I have already had days off since returning (4 months ago) because my anxiety has got the better of me. Most people already knew what happened but some didn’t. Some days I would answer truthfully; some days I don’t. Dont ever feel guilty either way. Whatever feels right in the moment is what’s best for your heart.

Shelby Find at least one ‘safe person’ at work, a true friend. Maybe let them update everyone for you before you go back so you don’t have to repeat the story for everyone. Talking about your sweet baby can be therapeutic, but LATER. You’ll be able to tell which coworkers genuinely CARE and which ones are just ‘following social protocol’ and asking how you are. You can just tell them you aren’t ready to share just yet, or I’m taking it minute by minute. Again seek out who feels safe! Practicing what you might say can help too.

Rebecca – Going back to work was so so hard and emotional. I cried as soon as I pulled out of the driveway and didn’t stop until after I got to work. I have very supportive coworkers and their hearts broke with mine. I got hugs and luckily most of them didn’t ask/say anything stupid. When asked I just said I wasn’t ready to talk about it but that I was happy to see how much everyone supported and cared for me. They really rallied around me.

Amanda – Only share what you are ready to share and feel free to tell people you aren’t ready to talk. It’s hard, really hard to get back into the real world. I won’t lie. But you will find a new way of life. Cry when you need to cry. The tears still come when I least expect them to after 5 months of losing our son. Triggers will occur without any notice. Continue to Grieve while you’re trying to find a new norm. Don’t try to suppress it, or it will make it worse. Praying for you!

Bilan – I’ve been back to work for about 5 months. There are still days that are very hard… things will happen that are hard (dreaded baby showers). It’s okay to fall apart once in a while. Most people will understand… and if they don’t understand, they don’t matter. Upon returning, I asked my Director to let everyone know that I needed some space and time. Just walking in the door was hard enough… I just couldn’t handle the sad eyes on me and I needed time to find strength to just be there. Over the next few weeks I did share my story and cry with many of my coworkers, but it was when I was ready and they were very respectful. My best advice is to be very honest and upfront about how you are feeling with your manager and let them do their job to express that to your team so that you don’t have to right away.  Much love to you!

Reba –  “We’re still struggling a lot and would appreciate prayers” is probably the easiest response to say. I would prepare yourself to hear some not so unkind things. The hardest thing ever for me returning to work after my first miscarriage was when a heavily pregnant coworker told me, ‘At least you know you can get pregnant’. That still haunts me to this day. Yes, I can get pregnant — but I can’t stay pregnant.

Has your doctor referred you to a counselor to help you begin to face your grief and figure out good coping mechanisms for being in public? Has your doctor offered any anti-anxiety drugs or antidepressants? PTSD is a very real thing for baby loss mamas.

I found the first two days back were the worst. After that, the business of work actually helped me to feel more normal. Don’t feel guilty if you feel that way. Your baby in heaven would want you to continue living your life to the best of your ability. Hugs, mama.

Christa –  I work at the hospital I delivered at. The last time I walked out of there I left my stillborn son behind. My entire team new what had happened which was good and bad. I was frustrated and angry for those that didn’t reach out or mention anything or give a sympathetic smile. I answered with either, “It’s going to be good getting back to a routine” or “There’s still good days and bad. Grief is a process and I’m in it. Thank you for asking.” I feel that there’s never enough time to make that initial cross over back to work. It’s like trying to cross over a raging river without a boat.

Sheryl – I would start with Today I’m ___  and go from there. I agree find a “safe” person who can update people and let people know that person is the one to ask. Don’t be afraid of breaking down…..there is no time limit on grief….. don’t put that pressure on yourself. (((((Hugs)))))) to you.

Caroline – Sometimes I said, “thanks for asking – I’m not sure how to answer that question.” Other times (at work) I’d reply “I’m here” or when I was in the mood to play it off more I’d say,”oh you know, there’s a lot of ways to answer that question.” I also made a point to talk with a friend the first few days/weeks back. I set up coffee, lunch, and had people I could call. Big hugs for the Mom on her reentry. Go gently.

*To read more Tips from PAL Moms about this specific question visit our Facebook Page.

* For extra support on how to cope after loss, please read the following PAL Original Pieces by Valerie Meek: How I Cope: Helpful Metaphors and How I Cope: “Just Breathe”

*If you have a question that you would like to ask other PAL moms, please message us on our Facebook Page.

*Photo Source: Concealment by KnockOut_Photographs at Flickr, use allowed with Creative Commons 2.0 license.

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About the Author:

Tara Bennett Kilian
Tara Bennett Kilian is the Social Media Coordinator and Editor for Pregnancy After Loss Support. She lives in Columbus, Ohio with her three living children. She's a former English teacher turned WAHM, a writer, and a businesswoman. Due to complications from her first two pregnancies and a diagnosis of secondary infertility, she was surprised and ecstatic to learn she was pregnant in January of 2014, almost a decade after her previous pregnancies. Her shock turned to grief and disbelief when she miscarried. Devastated, and hurt by those who couldn’t empathize, Tara reached out to other loss mothers. Less than two months later, she was pregnant again. Feeling a multitude of emotions, she found solace at PALS, where she could share her experiences with other moms on a similar journey. Tara is now the proud mother of a rainbow! As someone who loves supporting loved ones through difficult times, Tara is excited to help other mothers through the emotional journey of PAL, and she thinks it's a great way to honor the memory of the baby she lost. Tara also writes (sporadically) at her blog This Old Lady Had a Baby.


  1. christine July 14, 2016 at 6:42 am - Reply

    i love how she said she went back to work after a month i tried it had to go on disability maybe because i misacrried first then lost one at 6 months then had gaulblader out its over a year and i still have pstd

    • Tara Bennett Kilian
      Tara Bennett Kilian August 15, 2016 at 10:25 am - Reply

      Hey Christine, I didn’t go into details here, but this was my part time job in a church nursery setting where I worked with very young babies and had worked for several years. They understood why I was not ready to go back to work there. Emotionally, I could not handle it. As far as my “real” job l am self-employed and work long hours, often from 7 am to 6 pm daily. I was unable to take anytime off of work, even the day I miscarried. I’m very sorry that your place of work wasn’t more understanding. I really wish we had better laws in place to protect all parents and allow them to take the leave they need.

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