This is truly my favorite time of the year. I love how the days are comfortably cool, and the evenings are crisp and perfect for cardigans, jackets, and pretty scarves. The trees are putting on their fall’s finest, contrasting beautifully with the bright blue skies.
Amid all of the wonderful things that make the end of September and early October my favorite time of the year, there is a bittersweet memory that comes to mind as well. September 30th is a day I mark on the calendar as Remembering Hopeful. It’s the approximate due date of the baby we lost to miscarriage a year and a half ago. In one way, it seems so far away; yet, the memory is still very dear to my heart.
If we hadn’t lost that baby, the little one would be turning one year old. That is a strange thought to me now, for if we hadn’t lost that one, I wouldn’t have my Baby H now. She will turn a year old near Thanksgiving, and she has brought us so much joy in these past ten months.
As I spend some time reflecting on our experience of miscarriage, I thought that it might be helpful to share some ways that you can help support someone who experiences the same kind of loss, should it happen to someone near to you.
I can still look back on that very sad time and remember how the prayers and kind words of concern held me up when I felt so devastated. On the other side, I may never forget some of the things that were said or left unsaid that hurt me deeply during a vulnerable time, though all is forgiven. Of course, it isn’t that anyone would purposefully hurt someone who is grieving, but it seems that miscarriage is a loss that often leaves people without words and unsure what to say or do.
I am by no means an expert on grief or miscarriage, but I want to speak from my personal experience, and from the experiences of those friends who have also endured miscarriage, so that those reading might have a better idea on how to be a support person for someone they love. Every woman and couple handles miscarriage differently, and repeat miscarriages may have a different impact each time on the same couple. This is a list of ideas, and if you’ve experienced miscarriage and would like to share something that helped you heal, please comment below. Your input might be just what someone else needs to read.
Ways to support those who suffer miscarriage
Listen and sympathize: I remember when a close friend suffered a very traumatic miscarriage, and I spent much time listening to her sort through her grief. My heart broke for her. Then it happened to me, and though my experience was not physically traumatic like hers, my heart was shattered. She then spent time listening to me, as did others. My husband patiently listened to me grieve, and sometimes his quiet presence was all I needed. When someone told me that they were sorry that we had this loss, it added to the healing.
Validate: Let the woman or couple know that their grief is important to you, and let them talk through the hard feelings they are dealing with. Some of those feelings may be irrational or false, like feelings of guilt or blame, but be careful to not quickly disregard those feelings if they are expressed to you. Speak the truth, but only in love, and only with much wisdom and carefully chosen words. Put yourself in those painful shoes before you express your thoughts.
Send a card or write a note: I hope that I will never forget the cards that came to me while I was grieving. They came from people who I never would have expected, and some from those who also knew the pain of miscarriage. A simple card or note of sympathy can be greatly comforting.
Encourage grieving: Let the woman or couple grieve, and encourage them to work through the pain. Grieving brings closure.
Give it time: Some women may find that their grief lasts days, some weeks, some months, some years. If miscarriage is coupled with infertility, it can be especially devastating. Give your friend all the time she needs to heal, and don’t rush her process. Asking someone when they will be over it will probably only set back the healing further.
Follow up: After some time has gone by, you might consider checking back in to see how the couple or woman is doing with the loss. Just ask a simple question like, “How have you been feeling about your recent loss?” and let it go from there. Perhaps they need to talk, and perhaps they don’t. But either way, reaffirming that you care is always comforting.
Never assume: Never, never, never assume. Just because she smiles or looks fine outside, it doesn’t mean that she isn’t hurting inside. Just because you know someone who wasn’t bothered by a miscarriage, it doesn’t mean that another will take it as easily. Just because one miscarriage didn’t hurt someone deeply, it doesn’t mean that a second won’t devastate her. Let her tell you how she feels.
Offer help at home: I was surprised how postpartum I felt after my miscarriage. My body felt very drained, and I wasn’t really up for much housework for a while. An offer to help with housework one day could be a real blessing to someone who is healing both physically and emotionally.
Make a meal: Providing a comforting, nourishing, and homemade meal for a grieving woman would be a tremendous help, especially if there are other children in the home that need fed. Can’t cook? How about picking up something as nutritious as possible from a restaurant, or bringing a simple snack tray for the family?
Give a gift: A gift to comfort the mother and perhaps memorialize the baby can be a precious treasure to the hurting woman or couple. I treasure a large prayer shawl that was knit for me, and I wrapped it around me often while I was healing. My husband took a special trip to a nearby plant nursery to buy the Sweet Autumn Clematis that I wanted, and I so appreciated the fact that he made it a priority to get, knowing how it was important to me. Another dear friend made a necklace and hair clip with special meanings. Each gift was so special to me. My friend Shannon of It’s A Blessing knits miniature baby blankets just for those suffering miscarriage, knowing herself what it is like to suffer the loss.
Suggest ways to memorialize pregnancy: If some time has gone by and you are close enough with the couple, you might suggest ways to memorialize the baby if they haven’t done anything themselves yet. It may be that the thought hasn’t crossed their mind, or perhaps it did, and they thought it might be considered silly by others. I wrote a letter to my baby, and my husband did the same. I blogged about it. I planted a special flowering vine for what would have been the due date. We picked a name for our baby. I knew that I wanted to do these things because I had known friends who did similar things when they experienced the loss, and so I knew it was okay. If I hadn’t seen their outward expressions of grief and remembrance, I may have not known how to remember my lost child.
If you are concerned, consider suggesting outside help: If time has gone by and the grief still seems more that the woman can bear, or you are concerned that she is being crippled by the emotional hurt, consider gently suggesting outside help. Talking with a pastor, midwife, or OB/GYN may be just what the woman needs. She might need help getting to appointments, arranging child care, or in other ways getting the outside help that she needs, and knowing that someone cares enough to help her take care of those things would also be very helpful.
Pray: Pray for her, pray with her, and let her know that you are holding her up before God’s throne. When you think of her, pray for her. Pray for dad, too. He might be just as hurt as she is.
All photographs in this post are of the Sweet Autumn Clematis that bloomed this year. It climbed up our two-story deck and blessed my kitchen with a sweet vanilla scent, and the mounds of tiny, fragile, white blossoms were a gentle reminder of the baby we call Hopeful.