This post is the third of a series of three regarding miscarriage. Our intention is not to overlook other types of loss, but to shed understanding for those experiencing miscarriage or ministering to those who have lost through miscarriage. We also understand that this is a trigger for many mamas. We love you and pray for healing in your hearts.
Watching others walk through miscarriage presents so many challenges. It’s a unique loss because, other than the parents, no one has seen the child (and that’s only if there was a sonogram). With most losses, friends, family, and acquaintances have seen the deceased in pictures or met them or even had extended time and memories with them. With miscarriage, there’s not the emotional connection of having seen a cute baby’s smile, cuddled with a snuggly warm little one, and heard coos and cries.
How does one relate to the hurting parents and help them during this time? Anyone who acknowledges the pain and grief has a desire to help, but sometimes the good intentions do not translate well to words. From a mama who’s been there, I would like to humbly share what does and doesn’t help.
What Not To Say:
- Any phrase containing “it could have been worse” or “at least….” The pain of losing a child is deep and unique. In an innocent effort to point out how this isn’t the worse case scenario, this phrase indicates that this isn’t the “worse case scenario”.
- Unrelated Attempts to Relate. “I’m sorry you’re hurting…. I totally get it! I experienced __________ this week, too.” Before you speak, just ask yourself if what you’re about to say can truly relate to the circumstance, whatever it may be. This is not an appropriate time to compare hardships.
- Anything that indicates something was wrong with the baby. Attempts at lessening the pain by explaining that the baby probably would have had severe mental or health issues is far from a healing word. What this does is: 1) Lessens the value of that baby’s life. 2) Indicates that God made a mistake. “Oops! This one is less than ‘perfect’.” 3) Indicates that the baby would have been all burden and no joy. If you are going to (rightly so) assign limitless value to babies lost in the horror of abortion, please give babies lost through miscarriage the same value. More about this here. 4) Assumes God’s purposes in the loss.
- There’ll be more babies. Don’t gloss over or rush past the current grief. This is often spoken to give hope to the grieving parents, but it indicates that the baby is replaceable.
What To Say:
- I’m so sorry.
- I’m praying for you. And do it. For a long time. The pain doesn’t lessen overnight.
- I’ll be thinking about you. And let them know you are. Check in with them periodically and ask how they’re doing — and be prepared for long, honest, complicated answers.
- Nothing. This is not to say you shouldn’t mention it at all, just that sometimes saying “I don’t know what to say” or “There are no words…” and then hugging their necks is enough to let the parents know you care and grieve with them.
- Just Being There. A dear friend brought flowers and just sat with me – was “just there” – when we realized we were losing our baby. Her willingness to lay aside her day’s agenda and give support meant more than she will ever know.
- Treat it as a Legitimate Loss. This is NOT simply not being pregnant any more. This was a living baby who was growing in his or her mother’s body. And that baby died. Another dear friend gave me books on grief to read. Did the books help me in my loss? They did. They helped me see God’s greater purpose. What helped even more was the validity that she gave me grief. By her loaning the books to me she was in essence saying, “I know you’re hurting – and your pain is justified”.
- Minister. If a friend of yours lost a parent, a child, or a spouse, how would you minister to them? Do that for the family grieving miscarriage. Small tokens like sending flowers mean a lot. Consider taking them a meal or offering to help with household tasks. In many cases, the mama has gone through pain and physical strain almost as great as childbirth. Tangible help is something the family will appreciate.
- Remember with them. Two dates will never be the same to the family: the loss date and the due date. Please make an effort to let them know that they aren’t alone one those days. It means the world! Another meaningful gesture is remembering their deceased baby when you “number” their family. Simple phrases like “she’s a mama of three” or “she has three babies – two on earth and one in heaven” are the ultimate expression of remembrance.
Statistically, 1 in 4 pregnancies will end with the loss of a baby through miscarriage or stillbirth. It’s highly likely that someone you know is grieving this loss. Remember to love them “big and well” while they hurt.
I’m forever grateful for those who showed us love while we were hurting so much. We love you and thank you for being there!
In tender, loving memory of our second baby, Elianna Hope (“God has answered our desire for hope”) . April 1, 2014