Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Miscarriage: How to Comfort

It was March 2009. A whole entire dream, something to look forward to, something to love and hold and cherish and hope in... Ended abruptly in a miscarriage that shook me to my core. I deeply, deeply hurt. Each stage of grief was made even worse because my husband was recently deployed. I was an empty shell of a person trying so hard to hold on to what little life I had left in me.

Fortunately for me, I was surrounded by a loving network of friends and family. While sorrows like sea billows were rolling, I was equally overwhelmed by the tremendous support and care I received. I am forever grateful to each and every gesture of compassion and love.

While my memories of that dark stage of my life are mercifully blurred, certain things do stand out. One was this thought that, "Where is the manual of How to Comfort Those in Grief, and how come nobody has read it??" Whether such a manual exists I do not know, but it should. And it seems especially in the case of miscarriage, few really know how to truly be a comfort. They tried, but there were countless times that I just had to tell myself, "Okay, they meant well. They really meant well. They didn't mean that. That's not true. Breathe in, breathe out, say Thanks."

I feel that I am at a stage in my life now where I can write about this because I have experienced the loss, known the pain and have begun to heal. And now I want you to read this, and remember what I say because someday you may be in the shoes my loved ones were in back in 2009, and you will be feeling desperately helpless.


Your friend is hurting. You want to make them feel better. You feel you should say something, but you don't know what. It's ok that you have no words to say!
 It's in our nature to hate that feeling of being one hundred twenty thousand billion percent HELPLESS while someone you love is hurting so bad. But the following is so, so important:
You don't have to have anything to say. 
 In fact, if you think you might have something to say, it's probably best that you not say it. Understand that no amount of words will ever, ever, ever help the pain your friend is experiencing!
The most comforting thing anybody ever said to me during that time was, "I don't know what to say!" Literally. It made me feel like they were identifying with my pain. They weren't trying to rationalize it, explain it away, or make it better. They were feeling it, and that was like a teeny tiny dose of ibuprofen to my world of hurt.


"If it had lived, maybe it would have been a bad person and brought you a lot of hurt."
Really? Am I supposed to jump up and down for joy now since my baby is dead and is sparing me pain??

"At least you know you can get pregnant."
Way to look at the bright side. However, who said I needed to know?

"You didn't eat enough protein."
Suggesting something I could have done differently is like saying, "It's your fault. Your baby is dead because of you."  

"You're still young. You will have another baby."
It's not A baby I wanted, it was THAT baby. I loved him. A replacement doesn't make the loss go away.

"There was probably something wrong. It would have been severely deformed or retarded."
And this makes me feel better how?

"God takes care of imperfections."
You're telling my baby wasn't perfect? You think God made a mistake and had to do away with it??

"There comes a point when you just need to suck it up."
You're probably right. But you telling me that postpones that time.

Yes, all this and much, much more well-meaning people said to me or my husband in hopes of making us feel better. That experience made us hesitate to tell anyone of our pregnancy with Jimmy until I was over three months and as far out of the woods of miscarriage as I could be. If you have experienced such a loss, I'm sure you can identify with and certainly add to this list. To those of you who don't know better though.. Just don't. Don't say these things, even if you think them. It's like taking acid and pouring it over a wound.


"You're a mommy!"

"You're baby is safe in the arms of Jesus."

"Just think, your baby gets to learn how to walk on streets of gold!"

"It's ok to cry."

"I loved your baby too. I couldn't wait to meet him!"

"I'm crying too."

"I don't know what to say." 


Be there.
 Be there to listen, but be ok with silence. Be aware though that sometimes the loss is so great that it becomes tiring and she's willing to take her mind off of it. Talk about something in your life that's cute or sweet. Watch a funny chick flick and eat chocolate. Help her smile, but don't feel bad if she doesn't.

Give a Gift
To demonstrate your sympathy, sending notes, cards and simple gifts means a lot. Care packages, chocolate, inspirational books, appropriate music, flowers... be creative if you want. I received these sorts of gifts and they really touched my heart.

I'll never forget feeling bitter as that Mother's Day was rolling around. It seemed there were babies and wonderful pregnancies everywhere, but here I was with an empty womb, empty arms and an empty heart. That Sunday morning my sister gave me a beautiful heart-shaped crystal-studded pendant outlining a mother and a baby along with a touching Mother's Day card in which she said I was the best mother she knew. It was so thoughtful, so unexpected... so beautiful. I hardly took that necklace off. It was so precious to me that she remembered my baby.

Be Grateful
If you have children, or a baby, or are pregnant... Don't complain. Really. It seemed like the complaints of the mothers around me echoed relentlessly in my brain... nausea, heart burn, sore back, aches and pains, stop and go labors, sleep-less nights, fussy babies... But all I wanted was to be going through all of that for my baby. Realize how blessed you are. The pain and toils of motherhood are a blessing, because you have a beautiful child to show for it.


While I referred to the mommy of a loss throughout this post, it is equally important to understand that the daddy hurts just as bad too. Miscarriage is hard for him too. It's the loss of a child in which he had invested so many hopes and dreams in. In some ways, I think it's even more difficult for dads because at least the mom had some sort of connection with the infant whereas the dad's connection is only his awareness of his child's existence. It's not uncommon for them to feel as though they missed out. Much of what I shared here can be applied to the fathers as well.

In closing, miscarriage hurts. Even early miscarriages, or multiple miscarriages. It's a pain that is hard to be understood unless experienced. Your friend knowing you care is the biggest, most meaningful thing you can possibly do. Be sensitive. Any gesture of true love and sympathy goes a long way.


Rachel said...

This post was so comforting to me. My mom had a miscarriage when I was three and I'm an only child. I know it must of been really hard on my parents because it was hard on me.
Although I don't have anyone right now that's going through this, your advice is helpful and encouraging in knowing what to say and not say to someone going through a time like that. Thank you.
~Rachel <3
I know that someday I'll have a sibling come up to me in heaven...I'm excited. :)

Jessica said...

This is such an awesome post. I've gone through a miscarriage too, and I can sooo relate! The tips you offer are just wonderful! It's really one of the hardest things I have EVER been through in my life!

Jessica said...

This is GREAT!! People definitely need to read this. As a mommy of 4 babies in heaven, I can definitely relate to all of this. I especially love your lists of things not to say, and things TO say. I've heard almost every one of the things on your list "NOT" to say, at least a dozen times. I can't stand it when people try to tell me that my baby would probably have been deformed. That is no comfort to a grieving mother. And to say that your baby would have probably been a bad person and now they are at least in heaven. Ugh! Again, no comfort. Since I have had 3 miscarriages, I could add one to your list of things not to say... "Well, you've done this before. It's not like it's the first baby you've lost". Oh, like it gets easier the more of your children you loose?? NO, not at all. :(

Ben's Girl said...

The perfect post Brittney.... I totally agree with the list of what not to say... we had plenty of those and they hurt, even thought they meant well. the most comforting is a shoulder to cry on. I'm so thankful I had your encouragement while we were going through our miscarriage. You truly are a blessing to this girl! Great post... I bet our babies are playing together in Heaven.

Kate said...

I've never experienced a miscarriage so I can't even begin to say I understand - because I just haven't been there.
Thankyou for writing a "manual"! :) I wish more people would.

I should write one on longing to conceive and having to wait... ! While we have been blessed - SUPER blessed with a darling girl, the wait was hard and peoples comments just don't help any!

Happy birthday to Jimmy by the way!

HIS daughter said...

Wow...thank you so much for posting this. I had a very early miscarraige and ended up finding a forum with 7 pages of a thread discussing and tearing apart my posts about the baby and it was just so painful and so unbelievable. But the Lord gives grace and it is nice to be reminded that it is ok to GRIEVE and that there is no right way or wrong way!
So yeah, not sure if that made sense but thank you for sharing from your heart!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this post - although the topic is so sad, I hope it helped you to heal to think and write so elaborately about it. I heard all of those things you suggested not to say, and it hurt. I don't know why people who didn't experience such a loss feel the need to make suggestions.
I sincerely hope you will be a wonderful mommy someday!!! Praying for you!
Empty Arms