There is a unique pain that comes from preparing a place in your heart for a child that never comes.David Platt
The days that followed our miscarriage in early 2018 were some of the darkest days of my life.
At the time we had two sets of close friends who were both pregnant. Neither couple had really planned on being pregnant but nonetheless were about to welcome beautiful little girls into this world. I was excited for them but deep down I was grappling with jealousy that stemmed from my own desire to be a mom. Then we got pregnant and I was elated to join the club only to then feel like I had to hand my membership badge back in just 2 weeks after getting it.
So there I was, a childless mother watching her friends welcome their healthy babies into this world when I reluctantly had to hand mine back into the arms of Jesus.
It was REALLY hard.
I’ll be completely honest here and say that, while I know DEEP down I truly was happy for them, on the surface I wasn’t. I struggled to find joy in their present circumstances because I wanted nothing more than to be in their shoes (swollen feet and all).
I had a feeling it would be difficult for me – so much so that the day after we miscarried I messaged both of them to apologize for the distance I was about to place between us as I learned to grieve amidst some of the happiest seasons of their lives.
I expected the hurt that came in the season that followed. I expected to naturally distance myself from those who were pregnant or already mothers. I expected my already introverted self to want to shell up inside the comforting 4 walls of our home. What I didn’t expect was how people would respond or how Ben and I would grieve differently.
First, let me tell you that it is incredibly uncomfortable to watch someone grieve and mourn. It’s SO hard to walk alongside someone in their grief and do it well. Here are some tips and tricks as someone who’s been on the other side of grief.
- Say you’re sorry for their loss
- Offer to meet their physical needs in any way you can (some friends sent meals or brought me pads because they had been through miscarriage before and knew what to expect. Others sent us flowers which were so refreshing and much appreciated).
- Acknowledge their lost loved one by name (if applicable)
- Understand that you can’t possibly understand exactly what they’re going through
- Offer to sit with them in silence and be a shoulder to lean on
- Pretend like you know exactly what they’re going through
- Say cliche things like “It was probably for the best” or “At least you know you can get pregnant” or really anything that makes you feel more comfortable or gives the promise of a brighter outcome
- Promise that God will give them another baby in the future (He may not bless them in that way and unfortunately no one is able to guarantee anything)
- Try to relate their present circumstance with any experience you had or your mom’s best friend’s daughter had (as much as you want them to know they aren’t alone it ends up taking the focus off of them and placing it on you)
- Diminish their hurt (they are allowed to feel as hurt as they do for as long as they do even if you feel otherwise)
- Place an expectation of when they should “move on” (You never stop grieving, it just looks different over time)
These aren’t all inclusive lists but these are some of the things we appreciated most (or didn’t) and honestly a lot of the don’t things are things I’ve even done in the past. As well-intentioned as they are, they really aren’t helpful. These are usually just things we do out of habit because we’re uncomfortable when someone else is grieving and we want to make ourselves and them feel comfortable and happy.
When I think of how to comfort someone in their grief I think about the book of Job in the bible. Job was a blameless man who God allowed Satan to afflict to essentially prove a point to Satan. Job was a wealthy man with many possessions and lost all of it. He lost his possessions. He lost his children. He even lost his health. In the midst of his grief, 3 friends came and sat with him for 7 days and said NOTHING. Not a word was spoken between them for SEVEN days!
And then they started to pipe up and accuse Job of sinning and viewing God and Justice incorrectly and blah blah blah. But the thing I want to point out is that while God himself calls out the friends as being wrong in the things they said in their conversations with Job and their own views of God and Justice, their initial 7 days of silence is one of the most perfect examples of how to walk alongside someone in their grief and do it well.
Sit with your friends and allow them to mourn. Learn how to be comfortable being uncomfortable.
Alright – I’m off my soap box for that one. I just needed to get that off my chest.
Back to my story.
I wasn’t prepared for Ben and I to grieve differently. In the five or so years that we’ve been together, we’ve experienced loss together. Two of Ben’s grandparents passed away as well as one of his uncles and then I lost my grandfather. We have been to just as many funerals together as we have weddings (possibly even more). What we hadn’t experienced up until this point was a mutual loss. While I could understand the sorrow in Ben losing his loved ones it didn’t affect me nearly as much because I had only had the pleasure of knowing them for such a short amount of time and vice versa. When it came to losing our child, though, that’s when things were different.
For the first time, we had lost something equally important to both of us. We had lost our first child.
So naturally I assumed we would both experience the same grief – and that is where I was wrong.
Initially we were both devastated and we both wept. But I wept a lot longer and more often as Ben. After all, my body had already started to physically change during the very beginning of that pregnancy. My hormones were all over the place. I was nauseous. My breasts had already started changing. I knew that my womb was carrying life. And then suddenly it all stopped. The nausea seized. The changes to my body halted. And, while I never saw the life, I felt instantly empty the moment I knew we were miscarrying.
After the initial physical changes, I went through a deep spiral emotionally. I began to realize that I may never become a mother in the way I hoped for. It was very possible that this was the beginning of a long road of infertility and struggle. I had to wrestle through that with God and somehow come to terms with God alone being enough for me.
During my downward spiral I had some really dark and twisty thoughts that, up until now, I’ve only shared with God, Ben, and my closest friend. I had thoughts of genuinely wanting everyone to have to lose a baby just so that they would understand the pain of it. I had some bitter thoughts of being incredibly unhappy for friends. I never had suicidal thoughts or thoughts of harming others in any way but nevertheless my thoughts and feelings got very dark and twisty to the point where Ben started to wonder if I needed to see a therapist.
Ben on the other hand seemed to move on a lot more quickly than I did and looking back it makes sense why. He didn’t feel any changes in his body from before we were pregnant, to being pregnant, to after miscarriage. Nothing physically changed for him. It’s also really difficult for most men to feel a fatherly connection with their babies until they are born and they can physically hold them and see them and interact with them. It’s not that Ben didn’t care, it’s just that we were having completely different experiences and we couldn’t relate. While he saw me as being overly emotional at times, I saw him as being cold and careless. The reality is, Ben did struggle in his own ways. Even to this day, grief still sneaks up on him and there are times when he tears up being reminded about our loss.
The point is, we both grieved. It just looked different.
Overtime my thoughts got less and less dark and less and less frequent. As the days wore on my grief slowly started to change. I was able to laugh again and find joy in the little things.
Eventually I did get to that place where God was enough for me. The day came were I was finally able to honestly say that I would be okay if I never got to have another baby – not that it would always be easy or that I wouldn’t be frustrated – but I would be okay.
Less than 24 hours later, I found out I was pregnant again.
Getting pregnant again and having a healthy child did not replace our first child. Nothing will ever fill the void that miscarriage has created. I still grieve. It’s not a crippling grief like it was in the beginning but it still sneaks up on me, usually when I least expect it. My body will always ache to hold the two lives my womb has now carried. But for now I’ll have to settle for rocking one this side of Heaven and entrusting Jesus to rock the other – and, really, who else could I trust more to love my child?