***Disclaimer: I feel that it’s important to acknowledge that grief is very unique to each individual. Some women prefer to quietly grieve and some women (like myself) prefer to be open about their loss. With that in mind, I have done my best to provide insight into walking with someone through grief and I feel these tips can be applied to everyone.
It has been three months since we lost our baby girl, Marigold. We had never experienced a loss like this before so it was unfamiliar territory. We were given brochures and books and packets on how to walk through grief. I made appointments with counselors to make sure I was “doing it right” and not avoiding my feelings. And yet still, I find myself in this frustrating season where the newness of loss has worn off and I just feel numb most of the time. As much as I wanted to, I knew I couldn’t sit around and cry forever. At some point, I had to decide to get out of bed, put real clothes on, resume our regular social commitments, and carry on with life. Carrying on is not moving on, but I struggle with making room for grief in the day-to-day. How do I mourn the loss of my daughter while folding another load of laundry or making PB&J for my kids at lunch? My Type A personality hates that grief is unpredictable and uncontrollable. It comes and goes as it pleases and the only choice I have is to surrender to it.
With mother’s day approaching, I can’t help but think of all the mothers who are carrying this sadness, as well. It’s a wonderful thing to set aside a day where we appreciate the gift and importance of motherhood, but for a grieving mother, it’s a painful reminder of what will never be on this side of heaven. I am still in the thick of learning how to grieve and live my life, but I wanted to take time to shine a light on helpful ways to support loved ones who have experienced miscarriage. After being on the other side of grief, I’ve been given a new perspective on what it looks like to comfort others in their sorrow. We have an amazing community of friends and family who went above and beyond to carry us through our miscarriage. Even as I was sorting through all of my confusion and frustration with loss, I could clearly feel the love of God through the hands and feet of the church. I knew I wasn’t alone and that made all the difference.
I believe there are three things that are necessary to remember when supporting someone through miscarriage: (1) say something (2) do something and (3) remember.
- Say Something
When a person in your life experiences miscarriage or infant loss, say something. I know what you’re thinking…”but I don’t know what to say! I know that nothing I say will take away their pain and I don’t want to say the wrong thing.” I get it. I was this person. When someone I knew would face something hard, I would usually stay quiet, assuming they just wanted privacy and knowing that I didn’t have any great insight into what they were going through. But after losing my daughter, it was helpful when even people I hardly knew took the time to reach out. I didn’t need answers or wisdom, I just needed people to recognize that my grief was valid, that my daughter’s death was worthy of my sorrow and worthy of noticing. I know that the people who kept quiet were thinking exactly what I used to think, “I don’t want to make her uncomfortable and she probably just wants her privacy.” It’s very well-intentioned, but I personally think that it is best to say something. If you don’t know what to say, just keep it VERY simple: “I’m so sorry you’re going through this. You’re not alone and we are thinking of you.”
NOW. There are most definitely many wrong things to say. So if you’re worried about saying the wrong thing, stick with the script above. There should be a rule when comforting a grieving mother: no “buts”. Some may not agree with me, but when a mother is in the throws of sorrow, she does not need to hear about God’s purpose or plan or how good He is. She knows. And there is most definitely a time and place for acknowledging that God is sovereign. Here is an example of what not to say:
“I’m so sorry for your loss, but God is going to work all of this for good.”
A grieving mother is fragile and needs plenty of time to just be sad. Be sad with her.
2. Do something
It will mean more than you know, to actually do something to show that you care. Bring over a meal, send a gift card to a local restaurant, send flowers, offer to watch any other children for a date night, come over and listen. There are so many practical things you can do to help and I assure you it will mean so much. We received many cards in the mail from people we haven’t seen in years and it was so comforting to know that others were thinking of us. Grief is a very lonely thing and even though you may not be able to fully understand what that person is experiencing, the best thing you can do is show them that they are not alone.
This might just be the most important rule. The hardest part about experiencing loss is after a week or so when the initial shock wears off, the rest of the world moves on and you’re left with this intense pain. It feels so lonely. To support someone through their grief is to remember their pain. Remember the day they lost their child, remember their baby’s name, remember them on mother’s day, remember them on a completely random Wednesday afternoon and instead of thinking “ohhhh, I don’t want to bother them,” send a note and let them know that you have not forgotten.
There is a beautiful strength that comes from the support of a community. The valley of grief can feel lonely and dark, but there is a peace that comes when you’re encouraged by those around you. The Lincoln Marathon took over our town last weekend and I think it’s a beautiful image of what grief looks like. A marathon can only be run by the individual, it’s a personal journey that is long and tiresome. But to have people along the road cheering them on gives them encouragement to keep going. May we always be that for each other as we face the harshness of this world.