I have found myself still a little surprised each time I sit down to write about our miscarriage this past fall. There remains an aspect of shock at the words my fingers type and string together on the screen before me; surely this cannot be our story. It is often uncomfortable and always painful to share, and yet we have resolved to allow God to bring life from these ashes in the hope that our story would somehow bring light and goodness and faith.
And so, it is out of this desire that I have chosen to speak to this topic, that of how to best meet and minister to those walking through miscarriage or fertility issues.
For several months I have planned to sit down and put to paper the many thoughts and ideas I have had, but repeatedly I have resisted doing so out of the concern that my intentions would be misunderstood. However, I believe there are too many couples walking through this particular aspect of suffering for me not to offer up some words of wisdom.
To firstly note, this blog is meant to act as an instructive resource, not one which induces guilt upon the reader. I myself have said many of the things to people who miscarried in the past that I will caution against below. Because here’s the thing I have learned: you just can’t possibly understand what to say with a loss like this, even if you have endured it yourself. However, I have seen in myself how the experience of losing our first baby did indeed better illuminate to me the words to freely offer and those to restrain, and I realized that I don’t want only those within this community of loss to have understanding of what those words are.
It’s too common.
It’s too painful and wrecking and shattering.
So, this blog is to you: the ones who have not walked through miscarriage or infertility themselves, yet long to bring encouragement and comfort to those around them that have.
Also, everyone is different. Those things which were difficult for me to hear may not be for someone else walking through loss, but I have done my best to share openly from my experience (which, by the way, was incredibly encouraging. Dan and I have been so blessed to be loved on so well from our people.) Here is to hoping these suggestions help you better serve and love on those you know walking through something similar!
DON'T: Don’t say, “It just wasn't meant to be.”For the woman who has held a pregnancy test with that second line, or who has seen the flicker of a heartbeat, or has for even a moment considered what it would be like to welcome that baby into their lives, this statement is of the most confusing to hear. How could it not be meant to be when you instantly fell in love with that little life? Rest assured, whether the size of a poppyseed or watermelon, you are changed when receiving the news that you are expecting. Imagine if your engagement was broken on your way to the altar; you’d have spent so much time planning and dreaming and anticipating the sweet changes it would bring to your life only to have it torn from you. “It just wasn't meant to be” would just simply not suffice in the face of that heartbreak; neither would it in miscarriage.
DO: Instead, acknowledge the hurt and pain the couple is walking through. Sometimes the sincerest of apologies for the path they are walking through speaks louder than anything else.
DON'T: I would encourage wisdom and tact in ministering the Bible to those walking through this experience. Don’t speak the word of God to them in a way that seems to deem their hurt, confusion, and wrestling as wrong. Don't chastise them for their questioning, pain, and even potential anger. Take a look at what Job’s friends did, and then avoid it!
DO: Assume a Christlike presence to the couple. Practically this means giving permission to wrestle before you. Speak the word in a healing manner. Take note of any potential lies they are believing about God and His plans, and then offer up promises that speak truth and life. For me, I had a few people write down encouraging bible verses on cue cards for me to read through on my own. Others waited for the right time and then sat down with me to gently address the fears and misconceptions I was having about God. Pray for discernment in this area!
DON'T: I would caution against trying to provide the reasons for why it happened. To preface, I truly believe each comment made that may be interpreted as insensitive is actually rooted in a desire to bring comfort in the form of understanding. The desire to control our circumstances and possess understanding of everything that happens to us is ingrained in humanity and a consequence of sin. All of us resist acknowledging the at times senselessness of suffering. I do it too, which has caused additional suffering for me throughout this experience. I understand, but I encourage us all to accept that there are just some things for which no answer will seem sufficient. I encourage us to vehemently search the Scriptures for God’s wisdom, and then to submit that which remains unresolved to Him and His perfect, good, and redeeming ways.
DO: Acknowledge that you don't have the answers and that no words will heal the hurt. Instead, encourage them that healing for them will not wait until they have reached understanding. There is healing in the confusion and the gaps in our understanding. Give them permission to release their striving for control and total comprehension. One of the most powerful things said to me came from my sister in law, who, though she admittedly did not understand why we lost our baby, did understand that God was in the business of using our suffering to bring much life and glory and goodness. She said to me, “Liv, imagine what God is going to do through you because of this. You will more effectively minister to our congregation now because you will have understood. You will carry a greater weight to your ministry because of this.” WOW. That was a game changer for me. So, cast some vision on that which is to come. Bring to their mind the character of God and His dealings with His children in their suffering. This makes the pain purposeful, and therefore, more endurable.
DON'T: I would strongly encourage against offering up the widely known statistic of the commonness of miscarriage. Though not intended, it can feel dismissive in nature.
DO: A sweet friend of mine directly combated this by saying to me, “Even though it is common, that doesn’t make it natural. This is not what God intended, it was not His design.” Its not natural for a mother to lose her baby, though it’s unfortunately a reality for many of us.
DON'T: I would suggest avoiding questions pertaining to family planning moving forward, including:
“Well, you’ll be most fertile in the 3 months following the miscarriage, so try again!”
“Are you going to try right away again?”
Okay here comes a little word that’s been on my heart the last couple of months. I have come to strongly believe that it is wisest to refrain from asking people about their family planning, whether they’ve encountered fertility issues or not. Why? Dan and I are the exception to the large majority of couples that suffer through miscarriage and infertility in silence. You just often cant know where the recipient of your questions is or has been with regards to starting a family. Imagine if a couple recently miscarried, chose to keep the loss private, and then was asked in a crowd why they haven’t had kids. Or if they received word that the likelihood of their starting a family is low. Or what if the topic of starting a family is a contention point within the marriage? Lighthearted comments and questions can be incredibly triggering and painful. Err on the side of caution, and refrain from asking.
As a general rule of thumb, if you have to ask, assume that they likely don't want you to know. This is nothing personal against you, but understand that fertility-whether it presents issues or not-is a private manner for many people. Respect those boundaries.
DO: Shortly after our miscarriage, a close friend of mine asked me if fertility was something she could talk to me about. I valued that so much, because it both acknowledged that she saw the potential hurt it could inflict on me while also giving me permission to make the call. If you are unsure if a close friend or family member would like to talk to you about their experience, simply ask them to make that decision while also letting them know you are there for them should they want to. (Turns out that friend has become one of the few people I can be most candid with regarding where our hearts are at; I think part of the reason for it is because of her asking me!)
DON'T: “If you get pregnant again within the next several months, you will have never had that second baby had you not lost the first.”
Honestly, I struggled with whether to include this one because I believe its also one of the most beautiful things God can do through miscarriage. I have spoken to many women who shared with me their stories of how God brought them another baby in the months following their loss. I loved hearing those stories. I love how God can bring such life and redemption out of incredible pain. If you have experienced this and are comfortable doing so, please do share it. However, I think its most helpful to share it as just that-your story. If I had to share one of the biggest revelations that has seeped into my bones this last 6 months it is this: God alone is the author AND sustainer of life. As Psalm 127 teaches, there will be no life in a womb that God hasn’t orchestrated to bear life. Something personal I haven’t shared much? In the first 3 months following our miscarriage I found myself frantically desiring to get pregnant again as quickly as possible. I feared having to encounter June 1 (the due date) without the hope of another baby on the way. It only stole my peace and rest and cultivated discontentment because our hearts can only rest when set on Jesus. It's only been in the last couple of months I have been able to put my expectation back onto Jesus, the only One who holds the freedom, rest, and joy I fought to find in another pregnancy. Surrender has been sweet to my soul.
DO: As I said, please share you story if you are comfortable doing so! However, because it's impossible to know if God will indeed bring life to their womb again in the coming months, focus instead on which God promises to do. We can know for sure that much spiritual life awaits the believer who endures miscarriage. Point them to that which is undeniably theirs: greater faith, trust, sanctification, deeper union with Christ, a new ministry to others, etc.
DON'T: Don’t assume the dad doesn’t care and doesn’t need tending to as well. Dan was heartbroken alongside me. Don’t overlook the pain and loss the dad walks through too. Just because not all men express their emotions as much as their wives, rest assured that there is a weightiness to this pain for them as well.
DO: Ask him how he is doing. Dan felt blessed by his friends offering their consolations, spending time with him, and checking in to see how he was doing.
Here are some additional ways that people poured out love on Dan and I that I wanted to leave as suggestions:
- Gift card to go out for a dinner date.
- Food/meals. I didn’t cook for two weeks after our miscarriage; it was a gift to be able to have others step in in this way.
- Give them permission to not show up for some things for a time. My sister in law’s baby shower was during the time of our miscarriage, and she so graciously gave me permission to not go and focus on healing from our loss. Even though it was such a significant celebration in her life, she never held it over me that I wasn't there. What a gift! Let those walking through loss know that they can take the time they need before showing up to some responsibilities, relationships, and events.
- Gifts that speak to this season: I received some gifts that brought so much healing, including some jewelry and books that truly blessed me so much. I think I will do a blog soon on some acts of service/gifts specifically that blessed me!
- Let them sit in silence. I recall a friend of ours coming to our house on a particularly heavy day for me. I didn’t have the energy to speak, so she unpacked the snacks she brought, set the flowers she picked up on the way into a vase, and left. It was a blessing to not be expected to talk about where I was at. Show up, even if in silence!
That’s it for now. I truly hope this blog will bring some encouragement to those searching to better love those walking through miscarriage and infertility. If it does, please let me know!
Also, if you have walked through miscarriage or infertility and are comfortable doing so, I would so love for you to leave a comment below with anything you would add.
Would we emulate and experience the God of all Comfort (2 Cor 1:3).