October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. I've tried to post a little something during this month each year in honor of our baby we miscarried two years ago.
As I reflected on miscarriage this month, I realized how incredibly difficult it is not only because of the grief you experience on a personal level, but because of our culture's confusion and insensitivity when it comes to life in the womb. If someone wants an abortion, our culture denies that the baby is a person, a human life, a unique individual. We callously state it's all about a woman's body and it's her choice and no one should judge or have specific opinions about it. We close off the matter entirely from each other. It's no wonder when a woman has a miscarriage, the world has no idea how to comfort her or how to offer respect and condolence for the unique little life she has just lost.
People say a lot of stupid things to a woman who has miscarried. And sometimes they say nothing at all. Here are four things NOT to say to someone who has a miscarriage...and a few thoughts on what you could do or say instead.
1) At least you can get pregnant and can have more kids. / At least you already have ___ number of kids.
These two go hand in hand depending on when your miscarriage occurred-- your first or somewhere down the line. Again this is our culture's predominant view on life in the womb-- that it's replaceable. One pregnancy is as good as another. Yet what a huge miss of the mark! Every conception results in a human being with unique DNA that has never been before and will never be repeated again. This is a unique human life. When a woman loses that life within her, she knows intuitively it cannot be replaced or repeated. That child was unique and the parents will never get to know him or her in this life. What to say instead: I'm so sorry for your loss. Acknowledge that this unique child's death was indeed a great loss, not something to be brushed over or replaced by other children. There are many organizations that sell sweet jewelry with a birthstone or engravings...these would make beautiful gifts to acknowledge the uniqueness of this child.
2) At least you were only ____ weeks along.
I get it. I get the sentiment behind this. We often think that the longer we know someone (or carry them beneath our hearts), the deeper we love them and the greater the loss. But you know what? Sometimes the earliest losses can be so deeply painful because we didn't get to have those moments and memories and we'll always wonder what might have been. This statement also suggests that human life becomes more valuable the bigger and older a child gets (something we see a lot of in abortion discussions...scary how much that has seeped into our view of life in general). I remember after our early loss having such a deep, tangible pain because my body was no longer carrying our child...I wanted so desperately to have more days, more weeks knowing he was alive beneath my heart. What to say instead: I'm so sorry for your loss. Sensing a trend here? It's always appropriate to give heartfelt, sincere condolences. A dear friend also asked my due date and remembered on the very date many months later to reach out to me-- that was so touching and amazing and rare.
3) Heaven needed an angel.
This one drives me nuts for a couple reasons. First of all, humans don't become angels when they die. We become saints (hopefully if we go to heaven, that is.). I know it's cute to think of babies with angel wings but it's just not theologically sound or true. It sounds trite and superficial, however well-meaning it may be. The other thing is that heaven doesn't need anything or anyone. We don't understand God's ways or timing, so let's not assume we know that a mother lost her child because heaven needed it up there. ;) What to say instead...This may actually differ depending on your faith background. As Catholics, we believe in the Communion of Saints-- that those who die and go to heaven can pray for us from heaven in the same way we pray for each other on earth. So we believe that our miscarried children (knowing we would have baptized them had they lived) are in heaven, waiting for us and praying for us. For me, this was comforting to have others acknowledge. It further showed their respect for the tiny soul that had once been inside me, that my child's soul was eternal and his life has eternal significance despite the too short time on earth.
4) Everything happens for a reason.
While it's true we have a sovereign God and nothing happens without first passing through His loving hand, this statement is so cliche and feels superficial. Kind of like something that someone says when they don't know what else to say. It's like a "shrug it off" type of statement. The truth is that we don't know why bad things happen sometimes...children die, people get cancer, hurricanes devastate. Yes, God is in control, but we also live in a fallen, broken world because of sin. So sometimes things happen that would not have been in God's perfect will. Yes, He permits them but He doesn't always cause things to happen because He had a "specific reason." Personally, I find much more comfort, strength, and hope in Romans 8:28 (an actual Bible verse instead of a cliche *wink*): "And we know that in all these things God works for good for those who love Him." We don't know why things happen, but we do know He will bring good from them. He is the Redeemer of all people and all things. What to say instead: God is with you in this. God weeps with you. God will bring grace in the midst of suffering.
I hope this has been helpful on ways that we can weep with those who weep (Romans 12:15). Miscarriage is such a silent cross in our country. Don't be afraid to step forward with your time and your presence to someone experiencing one. Acknowledge their loss. Offer a meal or treat. Give a gift of remembrance. And best of all, remember their child through the years by mentioning it on or near the miscarriage date or due date.
Every single person is created unique and unrepeatable by our good God. You are. Your friends are. And every tiny person in the womb.