Two years ago, my husband and I lost our first baby. I soon learned that miscarriages are very common. Because of this, I made a point to share our story and my journey through grief. Since then, I have had numerous people ask me how to go about helping someone they know who has miscarried. These are my thoughts in response to that question.
First of all, my heart hurts with your family.
There are a few things that immediately come to mind when I think of what helped me grieve well.
First was when a friend reminded me that he (our baby) was never mine to have in the first place. He always belonged to his Creator. And His Creator has only love for him. As I dwelt on this thought, the Lord changed my whole perspective and I found a deep comfort in this truth.
The idea of my precious child dying tore me to pieces, but my heart was okay with him being held even tighter in his loving Creator’s hands. Proclaiming that he belonged to and was being held by my Good Shepherd was what brought my heart to finally say it was well with my soul.
Secondly, for me, I needed a body to grieve over. I needed a sort of funeral, burial or formal goodbye. Grieving that little life, especially without a body, was so hard. I didn’t miscarry naturally. I didn’t learn I had miscarried by seeing blood or going into labor. I had no symptoms of the loss.
We went to our first doctor’s appointment and there was no heartbeat to be found. Our little peanut’s measurements told us his heart had stopped about 2 weeks before the doctor’s appointment. Because he had already been in there, lifeless, for so long, my doctor wanted me to get a D&C if I didn’t go into labor within a week. You can’t control when you go into labor and my husband hated the thought of me going into labor and miscarrying our child at home, alone while he was at work.
We decided a D&C was a good option so that we could be together when it happened. But after the D&C, I simply woke up with an empty-womb. I never got to say goodbye. For me, that closure never came until my family dog died and I had a physical body to grieve over. Another thing that I thought might help was burying an ultrasound photo.
After the D&C I was all over the place. I would feel I was grieving well. Then would have a sort of relapse and completely fall apart again.
My advice for those comforting the grieving parents (especially the mama). MANY people said things to me along the lines of, “Oh, you’re so young, you have time, you’ll have more babies. Don’t worry, you’re obviously fertile. You’ll get pregnant again. You’ll have another baby before you know it,” “You know it’s just nature’s way, something was probably wrong with the baby and this was best.” And these were just the worst things anyone could say to me. It was so hurtful, at the time. To me, it was shutting down that there was any reason for me to be grieving. It was like saying this specific child didn’t matter. It wasn’t a child, it was just a thing, a pregnancy. It’s called an “early pregnancy loss” but to me it was the loss of my first child.
I later realized it’s important to acknowledge BOTH the loss of the child and of the experience of pregnancy. Don’t invalidate the family’s experience in your efforts to have something comforting to say. Simply grieve with them, or allow them the space to grieve. Ask for practical ways to help. Maybe you could help by bringing over a meal or simply sitting and hanging out to bring a sense of community and normalcy in their difficult time.
My husband was very understanding and validating of my feelings on the pregnancy and our child. I wanted to talk about him all the time! About pregnancy and about my experience for the one month I did have him in my womb. It was sort of my way of acknowledging he was alive, and wanting others to see him as alive too. I later read this is very normal with a pregnancy loss. Really, it’s normal of any parent. We want to talk about our kids. And the fact that they were never visible to outsiders doesn’t change in our mama hearts that they are indeed our children.
So, as uncomfortable as it can be for other people, I’d encourage her (and your family) to still talk about the baby if that’s what she wants to do. And if she doesn’t, then don’t. But don’t be afraid to talk about him/her, because that can be a way to validate his/her life, your feelings, and process the grief. For me, that often meant writing more than talking. But I still talk about it and that pregnancy just like I would my second pregnancy with my son.
Psalm 139:16 “Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.” This was a verse that spoke to what I said in the first paragraph. It helped me to think his life had purposes only He knew.
One book that really helped me sit with God and keep my heart vulnerable with Him at the time was Shattered Dreams by Larry Crabb (never finished the book but what I did read helped me). Another book I recently found that I wished I had at the time is Grieving the Child I Never Knew by Kathe Wunnenberg. It’s a devotional, and has really great questions for each devotion that are labeled “steps toward healing.” The questions are really, really great.
A few articles that were affirming for me:
You can read through the writings I’ve posted about my experience with miscarrying our first baby.
To those grieving, take your time, don’t hide from the pain. Lean into the discomfort, walk through this with one breath at a time. Let God be your comfort.
If you ever need someone to talk to or want to talk about your baby with, I’d love to be available to you. Either head on over to the Contact Me page and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.
Much love, Jesse