Pregnancy loss. Baby loss.
You would be surprised just how often I get a text, facebook message, email, or blog comment about it. At least once every two weeks. Oftentimes more. In the last week alone I’ve gotten three messages. And every.single.time, I want more than anything to ignore it. Because answering those questions, describing how I felt, what I did and didn’t need, hearing the details of another mom’s pain, I loathe it. It hurts. It’s hard. And it takes me back to that ‘body-racking-sobs alone in the quiet of the night’ kind of pain.
I didn’t want this. I didn’t want to be a ‘face of baby loss.’ I didn’t want to be the person that someone thinks to email for advice when they hear a friend has lost a baby. I don’t want to answer those emails, to hear their stories.
BUT. but. I truly believe that the Lord works good through all things (Romans 8:28). And part of the good I have seen come out of our loss of Job is the opportunity to share my story with other women. To be a sounding board, an understanding shoulder, someone who gets it.
I do it. I answer the emails. I give advice, I tell my story. Personal, painful details. And I am thankful for the opportunity to love on someone else. But I’ve noticed that it has an impact on my life at home, on my mood, on my daily life. So I’ve decided to create a little guide. A resource on my blog for ways you can help a friend going through a loss, good things to say, what to avoid, what they might want to hear.
Please don’t feel like you can’t email me, or ask me specific questions. And if YOU are experiencing the loss, by all means, please contact me! But maybe this will help you know how to be there for a friend or relative. And just keep in mind, every mother is different and every mother will grieve differently. Some will agree with me and others won’t. Think about your friend and what you know of her personality and how she has handled hard times in the past. It will be different for everyone.
- DO take her meal. Something warm and in something disposable. Meals are the last thing on her mind. But drop it at the front door and send her a text that it’s waiting. I promise you she will appreciate not having to open the door in week-old pajamas with messy hair and red-rimmed eyes.
- If she has older children, include a new coloring book, some stickers or chalk, or a little dollar bin toy. I promise you the whole house will appreciate the few moments of entertainment. And maybe a little sweet treat too. Joy will be in short supply around her house, no matter how hard she tries. Help her to not feel like she is failing her living children by providing little joyful times. Offer to babysit, but understand she may not want her children out of her sight for now.
- DO text her on the way to the grocery store to see if she needs milk or bread. It’s just not fun to start sobbing in the frozen food aisle as another new mother walks by you. She will appreciate not having to make a trip.
- DO send a card or email. And don’t expect a response. She wants to know people are thinking of her, but once again, she doesn’t want to cry in front of everyone, and no matter what you say, she will cry.
- DON’T avoid the topic when you see her or talk to her. You both are thinking about it, just ignoring it doesn’t help. Don’t be too afraid to say the wrong thing and instead not say anything at all, that’s actually worse most of the time.
- Words of encouragement are good, but realize there’s a time and place. Telling a woman 3 days after she buried her child that it is for the best and she can always have more children is just not appropriate. She will never be able to replace the child she lost. And while I believe God works good in all things, even the loss of a child, she needs time to come to terms with that, and it may take years. Dropping an encouraging bible verse or CD off with a meal, or in a card is good.
- DO use her child’s name. It will be very painful, but very healing too. She desperately wants validation that no matter how short of a time her baby spent on this earth, that he/she will be remembered and that he/she was important. Send her a message randomly, or on the baby’s due date or birthday. Just a simple, I was thinking of ____ and wanted to tell you that I remember and love him/her. You have no idea how much that will mean.
- More than anything, most mothers who have lost a child simply want someone to acknowledge how tragic and awful it is. People try to be encouraging and uplifting, which is good. But sometimes just hearing someone else say what they are feeling is more healing than anything else. This sucks. It’s not fair. It’s tragic and terrible. It simply is wrong that healthy babies are born to parents who don’t want them while loving parents lose wanted children. That may not be the ‘correct Christian answer’ or biblically uplifting, but I promise you she is thinking it. And will for a while. It takes time to come to grips with any kind of loss, but part of that is acknowledging that it isn’t fair or right. This imperfect human life isn’t fair, and we will never truly understand the ‘whys’ of anything until we stand before our Lord.
- DO keep extending invitations to her to get out, have play dates or girl time. But don’t pressure. She will decline at first, simply not understanding how the rest of the world keeps going when hers has come to a complete halt. But when she’s ready, eventually, it will be easier to begin to pick up the pieces and take those baby steps back into her forever changed life if the invitations are there.
- DO let her grieve. Do give her time and space to be upset and hurt and withdrawn. Every woman will react differently. Some will look like they continue on without a beat, even when they are broken inside. Others will take weeks or months or more to just get to some semblance of normal. Keep the lines of communication open but don’t be offended if she isn’t talking to you. DO make sure she is talking to someone, her mom, husband, friend, or another baby loss mama. She may only seek out one person and that’s ok, as long as she has someone.
- DO buy, recommend, or mail her about this book. I Will Carry You by Angie Smith. She writes a beautiful, honest, heart wrenching story of coming to terms with the loss of a child from Christian standpoint. She addresses a lot of the why’s and questions in a truly seeking Christlike manner. I read it several times a year and learn and accept something new each time.
Remember, this loss will forever be a part of her. Ten years from now, you may not remember, but she will. She will never forget. And it will be a constant bittersweet longing to hold her baby until the day they are reunited with our Lord. She is forever changed. And it’s up to her to make it for the better. As a friend, all you can do is love her. Anything you do truly out of love will be ok. It will be the right thing. If you care enough to worry, then you will make the right choice.
Once again, please don’t let this stop you from contacting me. I truly want to help, and I will get back to you. But maybe this can be a starting point for you, something to think about. I pray peace and discernment over you as you seek to be a Christ-like friend. God bless.
Job. My boy. This is all because of you. The people I have gotten to talk to, to witness to. It’s all because of you sweet boy. Your weren’t here long, but look at all the good you have done. You have grown me and challenged me and you hold me accountable every day. I would have much preferred to get to mother you, to not have to learn to live without you. I didn’t want this responsibility or experience, but sweet Job, you have made me a much better mother, friend, wife, and child of God. I miss you everyday Job. Every kick from bunny makes me think of the tiny, fleeting kicks you gave me. Of the feeling of your life inside me. Enjoy it up there baby, I can’t wait to hold you someday. But until then, I will take my pain and MAKE it for the better, with the Lord’s help, for you. I love you, Mama.