Many of you have probably noticed the beautiful posts showing up on your social media pages as reminders of Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness Month. For many of us who have not personally experienced the loss of a child, we sympathize with these posts, and after leaving a “like” or a comment, we go on about our day. But for the folks who have lost a child, that post is just a small part of the grieving process that lasts weeks, months, and even years afterwards.
“After getting pregnant, you are completely aware that you are supporting another life. You create an immediate connection with the baby, rearrange everything and plan for what is to come during the next 9 months and beyond.” | Nina M.
A shocking 1 out of every 4 women will experience a miscarriage.
Not only is the process physically painful and demanding, the emotional and mental toll that it takes on a person can be absolutely devastating. Whether it was suffering a miscarriage, an ectopic pregnancy, a still birth or the loss of an infant, all of the excitement these couples once felt is suddenly replaced with confusion, frustration, anger, and sorrow at the crushing turn of events they’ve had to endure.
As bystanders, we may be tempted to think there isn’t much we can do about this. The truth is,
we couldn’t be more wrong.
In fact, properly comforting a couple who has experienced the loss of a child is a wonderful way of exemplifying the heart of Jesus and ministering to those who are grieving.
So… how do we do this? Well, who better to share advice than a few mom’s who have first-hand experience! I asked a few of these strong women to share their thoughts on the do’s and don’ts of comforting couples who have experienced loss, and for helpful tidbits to share with couples who have lost a child recently. Here’s what they had to say:
- Do provide meals/ready-to-eat groceries: They may not have much of an appetite, but they still need to eat. The last thing they will want to do at that time is go grocery shopping or cook. Providing a couple with food is a wonderful way to take care of one of their basic necessities so they don’t have to worry about feeding themselves.
- Do take care of errands/chores around the house: One of the most practical ways to care for a grieving couple is to simply take care of the things they need! Have you noticed that their dishes need to be washed or that the trash needs to be taken out? Step to it! Maybe they’re running low on toiletries, don’t have the energy to walk their dog, or maybe they need to run to the post office – whatever it is that will make their life just that much easier at the time – do it!
- Do send flowers, cards, & gifts: This is a really simple and effective way to show someone you care and that you love them. Thoughtful gifts can provide the couple with something tangible to remember their baby by. Many women shared that these gifts remind them of their babies and provided them with a great deal of comfort during the grieving process.
- Do be present: As you can probably imagine, feeling alone after losing a baby is extremely difficult. Whether you are going over just to watch TV together, or you want to give your friends the opportunity to talk out their grief with you, just be there and allow them to get everything off their chest. Let them know you are listening, and that they are not going through this alone.
- Do pray with them: Of course, hearing that you’ll pray for them is going to be comforting. But imagine how many times they’ve been told that same thing, over and over again. You know what these mom’s have found to be even more comforting? When others pray with them – when their loved ones stop whatever they’re doing in that moment, hold their hands, and pray for God’s comfort over them, right then. Let them hear you praying instead of hearing you make a promise to do it later.
- Do remember their baby as a person: No matter what, never forget that this baby was a person. These couples are grieving the loss of their child, and you want to make sure that they know you saw their baby as a person too. One practical way to do this: If they’ve chosen to name the baby, refer to their child by name. To all of the couples I have spoken to, this simple act has brought them inexplicable joy.
- Don’t feel pressured to have all the right words: The truth is, like any tough situation, sometimes there just aren’t words to express the way you feel. That’s okay! Most of the time for these couples, words aren’t necessary and actions go a long way. So even if it means just holding their hands or giving them a hug while they cry, a simple action will go far in comforting them.
- Don’t pray because it’s “The Christian thing to do”: This goes along with the “comforting do” mentioned above. If you’re going to pray for them in the future, do so. But don’t just say that you’ll pray because it’s what you’re “supposed” to do. Understand that this couple is going through one of the toughest times of their lives, and prayer has the power to bring them the comfort they need from God. Another quick reminder: follow-up with them afterwards, even if it’s a quick phone call or text message.
- Don’t pressure them to attend kid-centered functions too soon: The last thing most of these couples want to do is attend large functions, especially if it’s a kid-centered event like a child’s birthday party or baby shower. Understand that if they decline an invitation, it isn’t anything personal. Being surrounded by children after just losing a baby can be difficult and they need time before they can comfortably attend those types of functions again.
- Don’t ask when they will start trying again: Some couples may not want to try again at all and others might want to wait a long time before trying again. Either way, let them consider that when they are ready.
- Don’t act as if nothing happened or avoid the topic altogether: If I could bold and underline this point a thousand times, I would. One of the worst possible things you could do is act as if nothing happened. I get that it might feel weird to bring up the topic – especially if it’s recent. But no matter how “awkward” you might feel, don’t let them feel like their baby has been forgotten or that their grief is not important.
“No matter how early or how late in the pregnancy that the couple lost the baby, don’t ever try to make it seem more or less important. Whether the baby was lost at six weeks or at six months like in my case, it is the hardest thing in the world to lose a baby. If people could realize that and treat it all the same, it would bring about so much more understanding around the hurt and pain that comes from losing a baby.” | Joann J.
Advice for Grieving Couples:
- Find support: Reaching out to other God-fearing couples who have also lost their babies was found to be extremely helpful. Not only will they really be able to understand and sympathize with the way you feel, they will also speak truth into your life and remind you of the hope we have in Christ. They will remind you that you are going to see your baby again someday.
- Name the baby: Many couples choose to name their baby. This allows them to work through their grief and understand that although their child is no longer with them, they were still a person momentarily on this earth.
- Share your story: Don’t be afraid to share your story with others. Whenever you are ready, sharing your story will not only provide you with a sense of freedom in expression, but also give you the chance to possibly encourage another couple going through the same thing. You never know how God can use your testimony of grief to benefit and provide hope to someone else who might be grieving silently.
He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. | Revelation 21:4
I can’t wait for the day when all of us who have lost a loved one will see them once again in eternity. Until then, let’s provide our family and friends with the hope, comfort and peace they need here on earth. My hope is that we can help break the cultural stigma surrounding couples who have lost their babies, and instead, do our part in being there for them in a way that is helpful and constructive. Be blessed!
Note: I wanted to extend a special thanks to the beautiful ladies who shared their stories and advice with me so that this blog could come about. Nina, Joann, and Shelly – Thank you for your time and help in communicating these thoughts. I can’t wait for us all to be reunited with Micah, Malachi and Melissa someday soon. ❤