fostering a grateful spirit

"If you have good thoughts they will shine out of your face like sunbeams, and you will always look lovely." -Roald Dahl

Miscarriage: how to help (and how not to help)

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My sweet husband and I recently suffered our second miscarriage. I was eleven and a half weeks pregnant when I miscarried. Even having miscarried before, I was not prepared for this. Everything was different this time. Our sweet baby, with fingers and a heartbeat and toes now had no heartbeat. He was gone, but still a part of me, and it was (and is) absolutely terrible.
Nothing I can say could ever prepare someone for a loss like that, so hopefully I can help your people love and care for you better if you do ever find yourself in this horrific situation.
We are so blessed to be surrounded by people who love us, pray for us and support us, but I feel like a lot of people didn’t have any idea what we needed, and to be totally honest, we had no idea what to ask for. The only thing we really wanted, no one could give us, so we just didn’t ask anyone for anything.
It is absolutely not my intention to make anyone feel guilty. It’s almost impossible to know how to handle such a terrible situation, and I know the people who love us have tried so hard to figure that out. We are so thankful. I just feel like if no one tells you what helps and what hurts, we might keep accidentally hurting the people we love, and I don’t think anyone wants that. I hope and pray no one ever needs this list, but I suspect that will not be the case, so I am praying that sharing this will help all of us love each other better and more.

DO

Pray. A lot. I have experienced some pretty unexpected and significant losses, but the loss of this baby is, by far, the hardest thing I’ve ever lived through. Not everyone deals with a miscarriage or loss the same way, and many will keep it pretty quiet, but regardless of appearances, it is a physically, emotionally and spiritually trying time. It can’t hurt to pray for peace, strength and comfort for them.

Check in. Regularly. Even if they don’t respond. I know it’s hard to know what to say, so just say ‘I love you’ or ‘I’m sorry’ or ‘I’m here’ or ‘you have every right to feel that way.’ If they don’t respond, be patient. I have treasured the words of my loved ones over the last two weeks, but I’ve said very little back. We don’t know what to say either. There’s just not really words.

Do something. Whatever you would do if one of their parents, their spouse, or their sibling died, do that. Send flowers. Send a card. Drop off a meal or have one delivered. There is this really strange and hurtful feeling that a miscarriage is somehow less than other losses, that if your baby dies before he’s born instead of after that it hurts/matters/counts less. This is ridiculous, but often unintentionally compounded by the words, actions (or inaction) of the people around the grieving parents. Their child just died, and whether they were 5 weeks pregnant or 30, I promise you they had hopes and dreams and plans for that sweet baby starting the moment they saw that positive test, and they are grieving the loss of all of that. The best comparison I’ve been able if come up with is this: if a young woman lost her fiancée on her wedding day, she would not just be mourning the wedding day she’s dreamed of, but the loss of the one she loved and also the loss of the life they imagined and planned together. The same is true for parents who have lost their unborn child, there is so much to mourn.

Offer specific help. We had tons of sweet people offer help, pretty much all something like ‘If there’s anything I can do, just tell me.’ I really, really appreciate these sweet offers, but the truth is that we couldn’t possibly figure out what we needed. The only thing I actually wanted was my baby back, and no one can give me that, so everything else just seemed overwhelming to plan. For example, we had to eat, but I didn’t care enough about eating to try to coordinate meals, so we just didn’t ask anyone for anything. So if you are able, please offer something very specific. And if you’re very close, don’t even offer, just do. Bring a meal. Have one delivered. (<– In my opinion, in most cases, these two are the best. They need to eat, and they very likely don't feel much like eating and really don't feel like figuring out what to eat.) Pick up some staples at the grocery store and drop them off. If there's other kiddos, pick them up from school or take them for a few hours. Do dishes. Send books, movies, or trashy gossip magazines. Offer to return maternity or baby items if they want, or offer to put away baby things if they don't want them out. If the parents are family or very good friends, you may also want to offer to help notify friends and family of the loss so they don't have to keep sharing it over and over. The only thing I'd note here is that you should not plan on staying if you stop by. The physical part of a miscarriage is painful and scary and horrible, your sweet friends may be most comfortable dealing with all that without anyone else around.

Use the baby’s name. One of the fears of miscarrying is that no one will remember or honor the life of the baby that is gone. If they’ve chosen to name the baby and shared it with you, use it. It is hard but wonderful to hear someone call your sweet baby by name.

Go to the memorial. If your loved ones choose to honor their sweet babe with a service, please go if they ask you. If they tell you about it but don’t explicitly ask you to attend, maybe ask if they’d like you to attend. They may want to be alone, they may want people to honor the tiny life with them. Whatever they’re most comfortable with, do that.

Be sensitive if you’re newly pregnant and announcing shortly after your friend’s loss. I promise you, your loved one loves you and your little and wants to be happy for you. Really. But unexpectedly seeing announcements all over social media right after a loss can be really, really hard. Announce and be excited, you deserve to be, but maybe give your grieving friend a head’s up so they can avoid the pictures and comments for a bit if they need to. Same if you’re announcing at an event they will be at, maybe give them a call and let them know beforehand so they can react in private instead of in front of a group of people. I hate so much that This hurt permeates so many relationships in my life and I have a lot of guilt about the fact that dear friends’ pregnancy announcements sometimes make me sad. The truth is that deep sadness and joy can exist in the same space, but that’s hard to explain to a group of really excited people who likely don’t understand what you’re going through.

Along those lines, DON’T:

Take it personally. The not answering texts, not wanting to talk or go out, the having a hard time with your pregnancy, none of it really has anything to do with you. Grief looks and feels very different for every person, so please give them space to do what they need when they need it. There is also often A LOT of internal guilt for the mama who loses her baby, there should not also be guilt for not being able to or not wanting to talk, how she feels, not wanting to go out, etc.

Say nothing. I know it’s really hard to know what to say, but please don’t say nothing when you do see your friend. Your friend or loved one may not want to talk about what’s happened, but it feels isolating and hurtful to have people you consider friends say literally nothing. Like I said, I know it’s really hard to know what to say, but for grieving parents who may be fighting to get out of bed in the morning, it just feels so stinking lonely. I know some people are concerned that checking in will remind the parents of their loss, but rest assured you saying something will not remind them of their loss…they remember. Every single day, they remember.

Say these things:

‘It was God’s will.’ I believe in a good God who loves me. I also don’t ever want to hear someone try to tell me that my sweet baby dying was God’s plan. That’s a cruel thing to say. Someday, in Heaven, I will see things how God does and I will snuggle my sweet babies, and until then being a mama with no babies in my arms is never going to feel right – and I think Jesus probably gets that.

‘There was a reason’/’Something must have been wrong’/’It wasn’t the right time.’ None of these things do anything to comfort anyone except the person saying them, and feel dismissive to the person grieving. Please just stop saying any of these things.

‘Maybe you should adopt.’ Two things about this one: 1. Adopting will not, cannot and should not replace a lost child. (Neither does having a biological child.) Adoption is a beautiful thing, but it doesn’t change what has been lost. 2. It’s not the same. It is so beautiful and I absolutely believe that adoptive families are just as “real” as biological families. But if your loved one is grieving the loss of a child and fearing they will not be able to have a biological child, let them process that without trying to find another solution for them. There is not a solution that makes that not hurt. If adoption is the best step for their family, they’ll decide that when they’re ready.

‘Better now than when you’re further along’/’At least it was early.’ Seriously? Just no. The only thing even remotely “better” about miscarrying now instead of later is that it may be slightly less physically painful. Maybe. Pretty much everything else about the process is equally painful and terrible no matter how long they’ve been carrying and loving their precious baby.

‘I understand how you feel.’ There is a time that it is comforting to have others who have been where you are share their stories. The first week is not that time. All loss is so different, and each person interacts differently with their grief, so your story is probably very different than theirs. YOUR STORY MATTERS. But for now, please let them share theirs. Even over and over if they need to.

‘You can try again.’ This is another might make you feel better but almost definitely won’t make the other person feel any better. They might be able to try again. They might have to wait. And no matter what happens no baby can replace the baby they just lost. In addition, it is very likely that if there is a next pregnancy, it will be scarier and far more stressful. A lost baby completely changes future pregnancies. It changes everything.

‘I know you’ll be a mom.’ Two things about this one, too: 1. A mama with a baby in Heaven is still a mom. A hurting mom, but a mom for sure. 2. I think what people mean by this is ‘don’t give up hope’ but the truth is that you don’t know the future and the mama who just lost her babe feels less sure of the future than ever, so this is of very little comfort.

Sweet friends, if you’ve experienced a loss like this, what would you add? What did you find the most helpful or comforting? What was said or done that hurt more than helped?

Let’s all try together to learn how to love each other better.

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4 thoughts on “Miscarriage: how to help (and how not to help)

  1. Sabrina,

    I will pray for you & Drew. I am so sorry for your loss. Please take care.

  2. Oh Sabrina, I am so sorry for the loss of your baby. Your gracefully written words will be a blessing to other grieving parents and their friends and family. Asking God to hold you close.

  3. I’m so sorry for your loss. I’ll be keeping you guys in my thoughts.

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