Supporting a Mother Through Her Miscarriage: A Guide for Friends and Family

Hope-2-570x379 A couple of weeks ago we celebrated Mother’s Day and I was filled with emotion: love, contentment, delight, fulfillment. Being Mom to my two boys is one of my greatest joys in life, and I adore having a whole day each year when this blessing is called to mind.

Mixed in with those beautiful feelings, however, there was a twinge of heartache this year. This sorrow is because, unlike in years past, this year on Mother’s Day I was reminded of a recent loss. Nearly four months ago I had a miscarriage and we lost what would have been our third child. Although time has passed, the wound that experience left on my heart is still very fresh.

Difficult as this whole experience has been, it could have been worse. Thinking back on my own miscarriage, I realize that people around me said and did much to aid in my ability to heal and move forward. The topic of miscarriage is admittedly a very tricky subject to navigate–especially if you’ve never experienced one personally. The sad truth, however, is that most of you reading this right now will experience a miscarriage at some point-whether it is yourself or someone you know. Thankfully, there are plenty of ways you can help a mother through this difficult time.

Here are some practical tips that I have found particularly useful as I find hope and healing after my own miscarriage:

Let her grieve
I used the word mother in the title of this post, as opposed to woman, because when you have a miscarriage you are losing your real-as-anything child. With my miscarriage, it was not just some cells that gathered in my womb before disappearing, it was my baby. The loss a mother feels from a miscarriage is very real, and it deserves a good amount of mourning. Don’t diminish this. The grieving will be strong at first, then eventually it will subside. At some point you will think that the time of grieving has passed, but then–maybe even months or years down the road–something will remind her of her loss and she will grieve all over again. When this happens, just tell her that it’s alright to be upset, give her a shoulder to cry on, and tell her that you love her.

Share your story
For some reason that I don’t completely understand, the topic of miscarriages is still widely seen as taboo in our culture, and many people are simply unwilling to talk about it. This is much to the detriment of the nearly one million mothers who face a miscarriage each year.

For some mothers, talking about their miscarriage will be the most difficult part of the whole ordeal–but it is necessary. Encourage the mother to talk about her experience and share her story with others. Even if she only confides in her husband and a few close friends, she needs to talk about this. Holding the devastation of a miscarriage inside is like dragging around a thousand pounds of dead weight–it will eventually break you.

On the flip side, if you have already gone through a miscarriage, be bold and share about your experience with another mother who is going through her own miscarriage–this simple act of letting her know that she’s not alone will alleviate so much pain. There is great healing in sharing your story with others, allowing them to help you, and learn from them. When you share your story you will be surprised to learn how many other people have also been through this, and they will help lift you up.

Acknowledge that the baby she lost “counts”
The most heartbreaking thing somebody said to me when I was going through my miscarriage was, “I’m sorry you weren’t pregnant”–as if I’d made up the morning sickness, the surge of maternal joy that came when I saw the positive pregnancy test, and the doctors confirming this joy at my first ultrasound. The reality is that I was pregnant, but I will never get to meet that child.

Through sharing the story of my miscarriage, I met a woman who had experienced a miscarriage over 30 years ago. She told me that after years of struggling to cope with her miscarriage she decided to name her lost baby, and that was what finally allowed her to move on.

We decided to follow suit, and we have named our lost baby Lily. Since the boys were with me at every one of those early ultrasound appointments, I don’t want to diminish the loss of our baby or act like all of this never happened. We will continue to talk about Lily, and the boys know that they have a sister waiting for them up in Heaven. In some small way, by keeping the memory of our baby girl alive we will help our family move forward more completely.

Reassure her that the miscarriage was not her fault
The first thought I had when my doctor told me that my pregnancy would end in a miscarriage was “What did I do wrong?”. My doctor assured me that I had done nothing to cause the miscarriage, and that there was nothing I could have possibly done differently to have a more favorable outcome. The truth is, 15-20% of all known pregnancies end in miscarriage, mostly due to chromosomal abnormalities in the embryo and other non-preventable medical issues. Reassure her that the miscarriage was not her fault, and that she is not to blame.

Do something kind 
Going through a miscarriage can make you feel pretty crummy, so do something that will help lift her up. Go above and beyond, and do something thoughtful for her.  Send her flowers. Get her a gift certificate for a pedicure or a massage. Buy her something pretty to wear. Make sure the house is well-stocked with her favorite chocolates. All of these little acts of kindness will let her know that she matters to you and that you love her.

Offer practical help
One of the hardest things for me while I was going through my miscarriage was taking care of others–some days it was hard enough to just take care of myself. Going through a miscarriage is exhausting and physically painful, and she’ll relish the idea of some help. She may not ask for help, so step out and offer it anyway. Babysit her kids so she can take a bubble bath or a nap in peace. Order takeout or pizza (or better yet, cook her favorite meal for her) so she doesn’t have to worry about dinner. Clean her house or do her laundry. Offer to take her somewhere fun so she can get out of the house for a bit. Anything you can do to help her day go smoothly will be appreciated more than you’ll ever know.

Hold on to hope
Help her to realize that a miscarriage is the end of something, but it is not the end of everything. I have found great comfort during this time by counting my blessings and holding onto the hope of what is yet to come. My faith has been a huge factor in my perspective, as have the encouraging words of others. Just knowing that there is a light at the end of the tunnel makes getting through the dark days so much more bearable.

And, if all else fails, just be there for her. Because, really, with love all things are possible.

XxX

In Loving Memory

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Clockwise from top left: Grandpa’s military photo; Grandpa holding me as a baby; Grandpa reading me a story; Grandma and Grandpa holding baby David

Several months ago when we planned our trip back to Washington for Christmas we knew that it would be a special time for us to spend with our family. I had no idea then, however, how perfect God’s timing was going to be.

When I got off the plane on Saturday afternoon after a very full day of travel my mom gave me the unfortunate news that  my grandpa (my dad’s dad) had taken a turn for the worse. He has been ill for quite some time now so the news was not shocking, but the urgency in her voice told me that this was serious. We decided that the very next morning I would drive down to see him one last time.

So, after a fitful few hours of jet-lagged sleep, my mom, sister Jessica, and myself drove 2 hours south to Grandpa’s home in Longview. When we got to the care facility where he has been living for the past few months, my dad, Grandma and Aunt Rose were already there at Grandpa’s bedside.

It was a difficult but wonderful day visiting Grandpa. He was mostly unconscious, but there was a good bit of time that he woke up and was able to make eye contact with us and even whisper a few words. I got to tell him about Ireland and how big his great- grandsons are getting and reminisce about some of my favorite memories with him. I got to hold his hands, pray over him, and tell him that I loved him. I got to give him a hug and a kiss and say goodbye. It was God’s grace to me that I had that rare day with Grandpa, and I will forever be grateful for those last moments we had together.

Then, just two days later, early in the morning of Wednesday, December 18th, Grandpa passed from this world. My dad was with him at that moment, and he said that Grandpa went out the same way he lived his life: courageously and lovingly. He had truly lived every minute of his 90 years to the fullest. The phrase that Grandpa kept repeating on that last day I spent with him was “Wow”. I can only imagine that at this moment Grandpa is sitting at Jesus’ feet whispering that same word: Wow. Forever and ever, Wow. And, while I’m mourning his loss, I know that I am lucky to have had 30 years with my grandpa.

Grandpa was my real-life hero. When Grandpa was a small boy he was put into foster care because of his unsafe home with alcoholic parents. He grew up on a farm in Ohio during the Great Depression and was about as poor as they come.  He should have had a terrible life and left a terrible legacy for our family. But he didn’t. Grandpa rose above his situation because he wanted better for his future family than he ever had for himself. When he was still a teenager he enlisted in the Marine Corps and courageously served our country throughout World War II. He returned from war, fell in love with my grandma, and they married in 1947. They had 3 children and were happily married for 66 years.

Grandpa went on to study education at the University of Washington. The poor farm boy who literally had to share a pair of shoes with his brother so they could take turns going to school earned a Master’s Degree and was a science teacher to hundreds of students throughout his career. He literally built his family a home with his own two hands–the home that my dad was born in and that my grandma still lives in to this day. He cared for his family, loved his wife, and served his community. He was a man who others respected and admired and loved.

Some of my favorite memories of Grandpa are just the time we spent together: holidays, birthdays, graduations, my wedding, the births of my babies. Growing up, we would spend the night at Grandma and Grandpa’s house fairly often. In the morning, he’d always ask me how I’d slept. The correct answer was always, “With my eyes closed!”–I guess I get my unique sense of humor from him!

IMG_0015Grandpa was also a dependable pen-pal and we exchanged letters throughout my life. All growing up, Grandpa would send each of us handwritten letters and clippings from the newspaper. I always looked forward to receiving Grandpa’s letters, even if his handwriting was nearly impossible to interpret! I have to credit a lot of who I am–my love for writing, my sense of humor, the fact that I became a teacher–to who Grandpa was and how he helped to shape me.

As we were looking through some old papers this week we came across several of Grandpa’s letters. In one of his letters addressed to me, he wrote about his dreams when he was younger. He wrote, “I wanted to have a loving helpmate and our own home. Also, I wanted a family so I would enjoy watching the kids grow up in a family situation…and YES! My dreams have come true!”.

Yes, Grandpa, your dreams came true. You lived a remarkable life, and you will live on in our hearts and our memories forever. Thank you for who you were, for your influence on our family, for your beautiful legacy.

I love you.