I never thought I would write a post like this-but here I am. It’s been about two months since we lost our precious Shiloh, meaning “Peace”, our tiny miracle who is resting in the Father’s arms now, but who we never had the privilege of knowing or holding.
Do you know how common miscarriages are? As many as half of all pregnancies end in a miscarriage. About 15-20% of these miscarriages occur when the mother is aware of it, some miscarriages occur very early and the mother may not even be aware of it.
I realized when I started sharing more about our loss, that this is way more common than I ever thought possible. People I’ve known my whole life have walked this journey, yet I had no idea. So many couples and women suffer silently through heartache and quietly remember due-dates and what-ifs and if-only’s while so many of us have no clue. We have no clue of this reality and we have no clue how to love them in this.
So that’s part of why I want to share my story. It’s not to make you feel sorry for me or for my family. It’s to open the page of a new chapter in the story God’s writing. Where we talk about miscarriage and we cry together and we talk about it and we heal together. In time.
If you haven’t faced it yet, the reality of a miscarriage is one someone you love will likely deal with at some point in your life.
I’m not saying this to cause fear or dread. I’m saying because, until my own experience and loss, I also had never really crossed paths with the reality of miscarriages-at least in my own immediate circle of friends and family to my knowledge. So this post is written to the woman I was three months ago, not having a clue how to comfort someone who is walking through this dark place. And it’s also for you if you ever wonder how to love someone through a chapter such as this.
This post is also not written to allude that my family wasn’t loved and cared for well during our loss of Shiloh. We were loved well. Family and friends alike cared and blessed us so much with their love and presence. I just wanted to share our story and examples of how other loved us, in hopes it might help you someday love someone going through this difficult time.
What is a miscarriage?
- According to the Mayo Clinic, a miscarriage is the “spontaneous loss of a pregnancy before the 20th week.” After the 20th week, the loss of a baby is considered a “stillbirth.”
- A common belief by many (including myself just a few weeks ago) is that something is amiss in the carrying of the pregnancy. In other words, a miscarriage always results from the mom doing something wrong. Sometimes this happens, but many times it has nothing to do with mom but rather the embryo not developing normally. So, while your friend might want to take the blame of this loss, it’s not always true or possible that she had anything to do with it.
- Just because you’re young and healthy and active does not exempt your risk or chance of a miscarriage. Ugh. I don’t like writing that because it shows the pride hidden in my own heart before I experienced this firsthand. That was me! I never thought it’d be a reality which would happen in my very own family.
Why do miscarriages happen?
I’m not a doctor or a nurse or remotely aware of most medical terminology. I did take biology and anatomy in high school and college though! (Don’t worry, I had my sister-in-law who is a real life nurse fact-check me so I’m not misinforming you 🙂 ). According to the Mayo Clinic, here are some common causes of miscarriages:
- abnormal genes or chromosomes (fetus not developing normally)
- maternal health conditions (infections, uncontrolled diabetes, certain diseases, etc.)
The following list and perspective of comforting a friend is from the specific lens of a miscarriage. However, after a recent conversation I had with a dear childhood friend of mine, I realized it may apply to grief in general. In my friend’s tremendous year of suffering (many deaths in her family, all within 12 months), I realized that how she felt loved in that time seemed to ring true with how I did. So, hopefully, these ideas will radiate out into the various circles of grief and suffering you may encounter as you love and comfort those around you.
6 Ways to Love Your Friend Experiencing A Miscarriage
Here are the things that meant the most to me in this hard time. Every woman and mother is different, so the most meaningful way you can love your friend in this time will vary based on who they are and how they grieve. But I hope this helps!
It can be so hard to just listen. Especially when you feel the pressure to say something profound or comforting. But listening has power. Especially if you set it up with, “I know you may not want to talk about xyz right now, but if you do, I’m here and I want to hear about it..” Be okay with some silence sometimes.
Also, always weigh your words. Things that are meant to be helpful can be be like salt in the wound. I never would have thought of this until I had a miscarriage and started discovering how many people I knew had one as well and how they might have been hurt by certain words. I am totally that girl who puts her foot in her mouth after saying too much, so this, my friend is just as much of a reminder for me as it may be to you!
Things like, “At least you lost the baby as early as this instead of later on…” or asking about when you will try to get pregnant again..all these things are probably said in love and genuine concern, but they can make the reality of a lost child all the more deeper. Losing a baby, whether he/she is 6 weeks in utero or 6 weeks after birth-is always difficult. You might mourn differently, but you still lost a life. There is always a void in mama’s heart, no matter how long the little one was there. Talking about the next pregnancy can seem disrespectful for the life that’s just been lost. It can seem like that little life didn’t matter if we just focus on when the next life will come.
(Don’t get me wrong-the question of the next pregnancy can be asked, but be sure it’s happening when the mom brings it up and/or the conversation is very respectful and gentle.)
2. Stay in the room
Everyone grieves differently. Your friend may be very emotional or not. Don’t read how she is doing based on how her feelings or expressions seem to match up. There are tons of hormonal fluctuations and ups and downs in this time. She’s going through some postpartum changes not only in her emotions but in her actual body as well.
Give her space and time. Just sit with her. Or watch a movie. Or go for a walk. Just be present. Even if it is quiet.
3. Give her something she loves
Little things and acts of kindness can mean so much. One of my closest friends put together a care package for me. It wasn’t so much the stuff she had inside (which was exactly what I loved and this was so thoughtful), but it was the fact that she was thinking of me and mourning with me even though she was far away. I could feel her love and I wept because of the overwhelming comfort it was. God had laid it on her heart to love me in that way and He blessed her faithfulness greatly in my grief and healing.
Some ideas might be:
- de-caffeinated tea
- aromatherapy candle
- a favorite music album with words of comfort (Audrey Assad’s Fortunate Fall was such a blessing to me in this time of mourning and missing Shiloh)
- devotional (this is the one I received, so good!)
- favorite treat for friend and her spouse too (you could even drop it off-like coffees or donuts and just give a hug and head out. This made us feel so loved and also respected our space and time to grieve.)
- a letter of honest sympathy and love (this can be a great way to write down your thoughts if you worry you won’t know what to say and when to say it- a struggle I often wrestle with when loved ones lose someone). It can be short. That’s okay. Just tell her you love her and you love and miss that little one too.
4. Give her space to talk or be quiet together
Like I said before, it’s really important to give space. If you are with her for more than just a few minutes or in passing, be mindful of the time but don’t rush away. She may need you to just sit with her. And not say anything. Let her be quiet with you. She may start talking or crying or she may not.
Your willingness to sit in (sometimes) uncomfortable quiet (for you not for her) will speak volumes to her of how you care. I had a family member come over and just be with me. I didn’t feel like I had to talk the whole time. It was wonderfully calming and peaceful to just have someone with you without the pressure to speak.
5. Tell her you love and miss the baby too
Because the sweet baby that is now gone is often never physically seen or held, the mom can feel like she and Dad might be the only ones who remember, love, and miss the baby. She is the only one who has had physical connection to the baby. This can feel really heavy and lonely.
Remind her that you love the baby and miss the baby too. It’s okay to cry with her.
Celebrate the life of the baby too. One thing my husband’s family is doing this with us is to make a Christmas ornament with Shiloh’s picture and due date, just like the rest of the grandkids. We’ll see it and remember baby Shiloh each Christmas.
6. Pray. With her and for her.
As soon as you hear of the baby’s loss-pray. Pray for the mom. And the Dad. And when you are together, ask if you can pray for your friend. There’s a peaceful presence that comes from the Lord when believers come together in grief and are honest with Him.
I’m adding one more thought here about comforting your friend. I had a dear friend of mine who has also walked this journey of miscarriage who shared an incredible song with me recently. This song impacted her healing journey from her own miscarriage. I remember walking through the thick of mourning Shiloh and feeling like I couldn’t find many songs that related to how I was feeling or thinking about the future. I share this with you here in hopes it could be passed on to a friend at the right time-or for you to hold onto in hard times as well.
The Last Thing You Need to Know about Loving Your Friend.
Remember the value of presence. It’s not so much that you say the right thing. Or give the right gift. It’s just letting your friend know you are there. And you care. Whether you swing by to tell her that or text her or call her- this knowledge will be such a comfort for her. She will remember she is not alone. And she is not grieving alone.
Where has your life intersected with miscarriage or grief in general? What ways have you felt loved or given love in these times and tragedies?