Just Hold My Hand: Offering Support to a Loved One Who is Going Through Miscarriage or Stillbirth
Mrs. Amy Schultz
When I was going through my first miscarriage some close friends sent me a beautiful bouquet of flowers. For a while they lit up my kitchen table while I wandered around the house in a saddened daze. It was a thoughtful touch of spring during a gloomy time in my life. However, in the next couple of days I watched those flowers gradually fade and die, which became a painful reminder of my inadequacy and the inevitability of death. I couldn’t even keep those flowers alive! How could I ever become a mother!
Watching someone you love go through the loss of a child through miscarriage or stillbirth can be a heart-wrenching time. Even your most thoughtful gesture of kindness and support can be taken the wrong way by someone who is grieving. You may not know what to say or do that seems appropriate.
While pregnancy loss is a very common occurrence “experts estimate that over half of all pregnancies actually end in miscarriage”1 to the parents this is a devastating loss and an extremely painful time. As with all deaths, the parents need to go through the appropriate stages of grief, and they need to turn to the Lord for strength and comfort.
Although it is not easy for you to witness the sorrow of your loved ones, in a sense you are holding the hand of the grieving parent. You are part of their journey toward healing. You have the awesome opportunity to share the comfort of the Gospel.
Following are several points, written from the perspective of those who have gone through these losses, to keep in mind when you offer your support.
– Acknowledge our loss. Don’t try to pretend that we didn’t lose the baby with whom we had bonded. Don’t try to protect us from the hurt. Don’t avoid bringing up the subject because you are too afraid of what to say. We know this may be too difficult for you to talk about as well, but your silence and retreat from the situation only compounds our sorrow and loneliness. Even if you don’t know exactly what to say, at least be there for us.
Often, even years after the miscarriage or stillbirth, you may still be afraid to bring it up for fear of reminding us again of our loss. Keep in mind that we never do forget these losses. It isn;rsquo;t a case of being reminded, it’s a matter of remembering with us, and letting us know you still remember, too.
– Be careful of certain phrases that may only add to our hurt. While it is important to acknowledge the loss, there are some phrases that we can take the wrong way, even though we know you don’t mean any harm. Be careful of saying such things as:
– “It’s all for the best.”
While this may be true, it’s difficult to hear these words in an intense period of grief. It is especially difficult to hear this from someone what has not been through the same situation. Certainly God works things out for the good of those who love him, but it doesn’t take away from the pain that we inevitably encounter when facing death.
– “Most likely the baby would have been deformed and you are probably better off.”
Certainly you don’t mean to convey this! We would have given up everything for this child! Certainly we wouldn’t have loved a disabled child any less. No one can prove that our lives are somehow better off without this child. God alone knows the reasoning behind taking this baby at such an early stage. We rest in the comfort that God is in control.
– “You’re young. You can always have another.”
It’s not always a matter of being able to have children. Of course we may be able to go on to conceive and bear another child. Yet, no other baby will be able to replace the one that has died. This baby was a unique individual, and we must grieve it as such.>
– “Your baby is now an angel in heaven.”
Be careful when using such phrases so loosely. Unborn babies who have died are not turned into angels to look down on us from heaven. Sometimes people try to overcome their grief through these types of visualizations. We need to find comfort alone in the fact that God knew and loved each child and knit each together in the womb. Certainly He is still in control and taking care of these souls in the very best way.
Sometimes you only need to say “I’m sorry. I am here for you.” And then . . .
– Just listen. Sometimes even your silence is okay. Even though there are times we may seem quiet and distant, there are other times when we really just want to talk. Take the time to listen patiently.
It is natural, after you are done listening, to try to soothe the situation. Many well-meaning people try to associate this pain of loss with something in their own lives. Don’t try to act as though you understand if you really haven’t been in this situation. Even if you also have suffered a miscarriage, don’t forget how unique each personâ’s grieving is.
– Allow us to grieve in our own way. Everyone going through a period of grief in their lives handles it differently. Don’t expect us to suddenly get back into the swing of things. Be sensitive and compassionate to our need to handle this situation in our unique way. Let us work out our feelings in our time. Some of us may want to move on quickly with the routine of life. Others may need extra time away from it all.
– Be mindful of certain triggers that might bring back painful reminders.These triggers may be events such as anniversaries, holidays, baptisms, or baby showers. They may also be certain items – the picture of a friend’s ultrasound or a rocking chair that resembles the one in the hospital where we held the baby for the last minutes of his life. Even years later it is very natural for certain things to bring back these memories. We may not even understand what causes the sorrow to resurface. Just be aware that these times may come.
– Keep us involved. Be careful that you don’t stop inviting us to outings with other couples and their children. Don’t shelter us from a social life. Always offer the invitation. If we aren’t comfortable or ready for such social interaction, we can decide for ourselves.
– Share God’s Word. Find favorite passages that help and strengthen you during tough times, and share them with us. Write them in a note, leave them on an answering machine, or send them in an e-mail. Remind us that you alone are not powerful enough to provide healing, but the comfort of God’s Word is all-powerful.
– JUST HOLD MY HAND. Sometimes I don’t even really know what I need to get through this period of sorrow. Just offer me simple encouragement. Consider dropping a card in the mail. Send a token gift showing your thoughts and prayers. Bring us dinner some night just to talk. In a sense, these small gestures are a way of holding my hand through this difficult journey.
You are my blessing from God along the way.
1 “Preventing Miscarriage” by Johnathan Scher, M.D.
Text taken from pamphlet produced by Christian Life Resources. CLR offers other brochures dealing with the Christian perspective about miscarriage. Click here for this resource, as well as other valuable pro-life materials!
April 20, 2018
April 15, 2018