Ask Natalie by Natalie Bencivenga

How to Support a Friend Through Terrible Loss

DEAR NATALIE: My close friend recently gave birth to a stillborn baby girl. I have no idea how to handle this situation. She was dating a married man (he was separated from his wife) when she became pregnant, and now she is blaming herself and saying that losing her daughter is a punishment. She broke up with him after the birth, and she has been heartbroken. I'm not sure how to help her. It seems like no matter what I say, it's not the right thing. So I've been keeping my distance. I feel terrible. I want to help. What should I do? -- TRAGIC SITUATION

DEAR TRAGIC SITUATION: This is a true tragedy. It is not lost on her the poetic nature of losing her daughter and the potential of her life and how that intertwines with her now ex-boyfriend. I can't begin to imagine what she is going through, but in these moments, friends don't need to say anything. They just need to be there. Be there to cry with her. Be there to work through her emotions. Be there just to sit in silence and wait for time to heal.

If I were you, I would be scared, too, that I would say or do the wrong thing. But your absence speaks much louder than any words. Go to her. Bring her food, tea and white roses. Take her to plant a tree in a park in her daughter's honor. Just hold her hand. We often underestimate how just the physical presence of friendship can help heal deep wounds like this. You can't tell her what to feel or pass judgment on her experience. You just need to walk with her as she processes her loss, and in time you can remind her that the future holds promise and new possibilities to find peace and even happiness.

Please send your relationship and lifestyle questions to nbencivenga@post-gazette.com or tweet them to @NBSeen. You can also send postal letters to Natalie Bencivenga, 358 North Shore Drive, Pittsburgh, PA 15212

(This column was originally published by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.)