The signs were there—every drop and clot of blood adding to the horror rising in my belly that I was having a miscarriage.
My mind raced and my throat clogged as if stifling a scream while I sat in the bathroom in the middle of the night. My husband lay sleeping in the bedroom, blissfully unaware of what the signs were telling me—we might be losing our baby.
I’d had a miscarriage scare with my first pregnancy around 10 weeks, the signs ushering us from the church sanctuary to the ER. Thankfully, after an afternoon spent silently sobbing while poked and prodded, I was released from the hospital with hope—our baby was still alive.
Two years after our scare, that healthy baby girl was now excited about becoming a big sister. But this time felt different. When I finally made it to the doctor to confirm what I knew, there were no remaining traces of our baby inside me.
There’s no way to minimize it. The next few months were some of the most painful of my life. But I treasure some of what I gained through that experience: namely, what I learned about God, myself, and comforting those who grieve.
Comforting a friend who had a miscarriage
If someone you love has experienced a miscarriage, you likely want to help but aren’t quite sure where to start. Every person’s experience is different, and things that comfort one person may not help another. Vague “what can I do?” questions may not be best—grieving people can’t always think of what they need—so offer something specific, that they can answer “yes” or “no.”
If you’re wondering where to start, consider the following suggestions.
1. Reach Out to Her.
Unless she’s communicated a need for space, reach out. Express your sadness for her loss, and your love and care for her and her family. Communicate you’re with her in grieving the brokenness we experience in the world and in our bodies.
I remember feeling intense loneliness, especially in those first couple weeks. It meant so much when people would check in to see how I was that day or tell me I was on their mind. Until that point, I’d always worried about “bothering” grieving people. But after my own loss, I decided to do my best to reach out to those hurting. If they don’t have capacity or a desire to respond or to talk, that’s OK. But I want them to know I am there—for big feelings, questions, or tears.
We can’t “fix” anyone and shouldn’t try. But we can offer ourselves as an extension of a gentle, attentive, compassionate God.
2. Encourage her to take care of herself.
Women who miscarry sometimes struggle with complicated feelings about their bodies. I remember feeling as if my body betrayed me and noticed a very subtle attitude of sabotage toward it.
I began to indulge in things I’d been abstaining from while pregnant, but each act was tinged with hints of hatred and revenge. It wasn’t just another cup of coffee or too much sugar, it was a semiconscious rebellion against my body that had let me down.
I had to remind myself that even if/when my body is not sheltering another human life, it is worthy of nurturing and special care. If you can communicate this verbally, do! But a small gift or gesture could be a meaningful way to encourage her to be kind to herself: a nutritious meal, a nice candle or lotion, or her favorite tea.
3. If she has other children, offer to watch them for a few hours.
Grieving mothers need time—for naps, journaling, reading, conversations with a friend or spouse, or even for a shower. And while losing a baby can make you appreciate your living children anew, it is also difficult to find the time to grieve.
Not that it’s not OK to be sad in front of our children. One counselor friend encouraged me that it’s a chance for our kids to practice attuning to another’s feelings and having an opportunity to comfort. It also reminds them we all need help sometimes—grown-ups help kids and Daddy (or another grown-up) helps Mommy. Even so, it can be hard to form a complete adult thought while caring for young children, let alone address our deepest hurts and longings. Offering to pick her kids up for a playdate might be an appreciated way of helping.
4. Care for her soul.
Encounters with death within your own womb (to borrow phrasing from Jessalyn Hutto’s Inheritance of Tears: Trusting the Lord of Life When Death Visits the Womb) can cause people’s deepest doubts and fears to bubble to the surface. Does God really love me? Is He actually good?
We can come alongside our friends who’ve experienced a miscarriage, not as the thought-police to immediately squash any surfacing lies, but prayerfully offering them potentially new ways of relating to and enjoying God.
Tell her the ways you are praying for her or share any Bible verses about God’s tenderness toward her or His empathy with what she’s feeling. One dear friend who’d experienced a stillbirth before me, transformed my perspective when she shared how she learned to relate to God as a fellow grieving Parent. He knows what it is to lose a beloved Child (John 3:16), and He is a very present help in trouble (Psalm 46:1).
In Hutto’s book, she explains “the woman who has miscarried desperately needs to fellowship with her Savior in the garden.” In Gethsemane (Matthew 26:36-46), we see Jesus in anguish, feeling the sting of isolation and brokenness.
I came to know Jesus in a newer, deeper way: Jesus, the man of sorrows. My Friend who sees every tear, hears every sigh (Psalm 38:9, 56:8), and who has cried and sighed through His own troubles during His life.
Jesus’ life and death not only gives us hope for eternity—that one day the brokenness will be made right—but hope for this life too. My miscarriage was not good. It was broken. But I will always cherish the new ways I learned to love God and to be loved by God as I walked that broken path.
5. Simply offer your presence.
Two memories of peoples’ presence stand out to me from that time. The first, a friend inside my home, a day or two after the miscarriage, standing in front of me wanting and willing to hear how I was feeling. I answered something like “this sucks,” as the sobs began. She simply repeated it back to me with tears in her eyes and offered me a long, firm hug. She wasn’t uncomfortable with my ugly cries, she embraced them. That memory remains as a time when I allowed myself to be exposed in a vulnerable way, and experienced a beautiful, healing love.
The other was with my long-time best friend, who was also long-distance at the time. After exchanging texts for a few days, we finally connected over FaceTime. Just the sight of her face brought me to tears. That was the face of a safe friend, who had been grieving with me from afar. Her face, even digitally, was really all it took to comfort me, to chip away at the icy sting of grief.
It’s easy to overthink how to comfort people, afraid of saying or doing something that makes them feel worse. Sometimes, the best thing we can do is just to “show up” and listen.
Extending God’s comfort after a miscarriage
While grieving my miscarriage, a scene from C.S. Lewis’ The Magician’s Nephew was balm to my soul. A young boy timidly asks Aslan (who represents Jesus) to heal his gravely ill mother. When he gets the courage to look up, he sees Aslan’s “face was bent down near his own and (wonder of wonders) great shining tears stood in the Lion’s eyes. They were such big, bright tears compared with Digory’s own that for a moment he felt as if the Lion must really be sorrier about his Mother than he was himself.”
We must not use the Bible to minimize the loss or pain our loved ones are experiencing. Instead, we can help to validate that brokenness and death are not what God desires for us. He hated the impact of sin and death on His creation so much that He gave His one and only Son so that for everyone who believes in Him, death and brokenness will no longer have the final word (John 3:16).
We grieve for the brokenness in the world—even to the point of anguish—yet, we do not grieve as those without hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13).
Copyright © 2020 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.
Laura Way serves with FamilyLife as a writer and lives in Orlando, Florida with her high-school-teaching-husband, Aubrey, and their two vibrant young daughters. She and Aubrey lived in East Asia for seven years until relocating last year. She enjoys writing about becoming more fully human while sojourning through different places, seasons of life, and terrains of mental and spiritual health at hopeforthesojourn.com.