by Renee Parris
January of 1993 began for me, as it does for most of you, with plans and dreams and resolutions. This year would be even more exciting for us as we learned, much to our delight, that we were expecting a child. It would be our second pregnancy. The first had ended in miscarriage after eight weeks. We had been waiting for this pregnancy, and so, we excitedly told people and were making plans of how this little child would change our lives and specifically, my career. However, it wasn’t long before I began to have unusual symptoms and discomforting pain. After many trips to the doctor, weeks of bed rest and several ultrasounds, God again chose to take our child—at ten weeks.
How many times have you wondered what to say to someone who has recently lost a child? Specifically, I want to help you in knowing how to comfort a lady who loses a child through miscarriage or premature birth. However, you can apply these suggestions to any situation in which you are trying to be a comforter.
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FIRST, remember that losing a child during pregnancy is very different than losing a loved one of any age. The reason is, in part, that when you have a miscarriage, you are dealing with physical and emotional pain as well as hormonal changes. When a pregnancy terminates itself, it typically takes six weeks for the body and emotions to adjust to the fact that you are no longer expectant. God created such a marvelous system for carrying a child, and when a child is conceived, the body sets in motion the adjustments that will take place over a nine-month period. When a pregnancy doesn’t last nine months, all of those adjustments take place prematurely which causes emotions that are often out of control. I remember experiencing days of crying and being depressed and not being able to control how I felt. Understanding then that losing an unborn child is very different from any other loss should indicate that a very different means of comforting is needed from people who care about that mother.
SECONDLY, comfort in a safe way. Many times, we say things that hurt the very person we are trying to help. We have all heard it said that sometimes the best thing is to say nothing at all. But, how often do we not remember that
truth until we have blurted out some words that wound our friend. We often don’t realize how we are hurting people by trying to make light of their situation. People need to grieve over any loss. Don’t breeze over their grief; grieve with them. Here are some “wrong” statements people make, and the subsequent response felt by mothers who have lost a baby:
“There will be other children.” “That doesn’t make up for this one.”
“At least you were only ‘x’ number of weeks along.” “I’m just as pregnant at one week as 40 weeks.”
“You’re young; you can try again.” “It’s not supposed to hurt as much because I’m young?”
“Be thankful. Maybe that child would have been less than perfect.” “I would love that child in any condition. That was my baby.”
Some ways you can safely comfort:
- Say you care. To comfort someone in a situation in which I have never been, I say, “I can’t say that I understand how you feel, but I can say, I care.”
- Give a hug or a loving touch if you are a lady friend. Some of the best comforting I received was through a hug or a touch from someone who was choked up and couldn’t say a word.
- Talk about the baby being in Heaven. An Assistant Pastor at First Baptist Church of Hammond, met my husband and me at the surgery facility just before I was taken in for surgery. He talked to us about their child in Heaven (who would be 11 years of age), our first child (who would be 5 years of age) and this infant child. Heaven is a reality. Don’t be afraid to talk about it as a real place.
- Remember that grieving people are the same people they were before the tragedy came. Don’t treat them as if they have a plague. Later, many people would say, “I wanted to call but didn’t know how you would feel” or “I wanted to give you some space.” They need you now! Don’t stay away.
- Send a note or card. A quick note to say you are thinking of them and praying for them is very welcomed.
- Prepare meals for the family so the family can rest.
- Offer to clean the house or do laundry. This is especially helpful if there will be guests in and out.
- Be silent. One of my dearest friends spend many, many hours at my house in total silence. I was glad she was there and even more glad that she was wise enough to know I needed her presence but wasn’t ready to talk.
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Comforting is a skill. Learn from people who do it well. There are things to say and things not to say in any situation. However, if you find yourself not knowing what to do, don’t stay away, go to the person if all you do is give them a hug and say, “I love you.”