Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Together Through Pain {miscarriage}

I've been hearing over and over again how helped y'all have been by the posts from the women in our Together Through Pain series. Isn't our God wonderful!?

This week we'll be hearing about a topic that touches us all. I guarantee that each one of us knows someone who has gone through a miscarriage or have experienced this yourself. Statistics show that at least 1 in 10 pregnancies end in miscarriage. What a perfect area for us to be armed with wisdom on how to care for each other!

Our contributor this week is Abby. She experienced a more rare 2nd trimester miscarriage and will be opening up to us about her loss and pain. Abby is a former middle school teacher (bless her!) and college English teacher. After she and her husband C.J. had a beautiful little girl, Abby put her skills to work full time in her home. Abby is also a gifted writer and is currently working on a book about how God shows up in people's stories of infertility, miscarriage, and stillbirth. You can follow her work on her author's Facebook page HERE and can read more of her eloquent writing on her blog HERE.


I'm honored to be included in this wonderful series on Alyssa's blog.  Alyssa's asked me to share a little bit about my experience with miscarriage and what was helpful to me in the days, weeks, and months following my loss.

Let me start by telling you my story.  My husband and I have the privilege of being parents to our beautiful two year old daughter Ellie.  It took us a full year to get pregnant with her, so I was surprised and delighted when we got pregnant right away with our second child.  Ellie was almost one at the time, so my first trimester was full and challenging as I tried to keep up with a busy toddler and deal with my ever-present nausea.  My obstetrician has an ultrasound machine in her office, so my husband and I were able to see our little baby several times at my prenatal check-ups.  Everything seemed to be progressing perfectly.

And then, in late May of last year, I went in for my 15 week check-up, only to discover there was no heartbeat.  It seemed our baby had died somewhere around 14.5 weeks, well past the 12 week point where the odds of a miscarriage drop dramatically to somewhere around 1%.  We underwent many tests, but doctors were never able to uncover a clear reason for our loss.

For me, grieving the loss of our baby was an incredibly difficult time.  I felt lonely as I didn't have any close friends who'd experienced a miscarriage, and I didn't know anyone who'd walked through a second trimester loss.  I was always aware of how far along I "should have been" and felt sadness and envy as I watched the swelling bellies of other pregnant women who appeared to be due around the same time I would have been.  We found out our baby was a little girl, and I grieved the daughter we'd never know, the sister Ellie wouldn't get to grow up with, the member of our family who'd always be missed, no matter how many children we might later go on to have.  For months, sadness lingered at the edges of everything, and I genuinely wondered if I would ever feel truly happy again.

Now, a year later, I still miss the little girl we named Avaleen, but the grief is different:  softer, less consuming.  I'm so grateful for the care I've received and continue to receive from friends and family as I've mourned.  What follows is a list of several ways I've been blessed by them - with a few thoughts about things that weren't so helpful mixed in.  I share these suggestions realizing I'm no expert on the topic and that what blesses me, an introspective, emotional type, may not be as meaningful to others walking through a similar loss.  All the same, I hope these suggestions will serve those of you who are or will be walking alongside a friend who has lost her baby.

1.  Validate her loss.  One of the first things my amazing obstetrician said to me after having to tell me my baby was dead was that I wouldn't be ok for months.  On first glance, that may seem like a harsh or unhelpful thing to tell someone who's just experienced a miscarriage, but it was actually one of the best things anyone said to me because it validated the deep sense of pain and loss I felt rather than trying to minimize it or brush it away.  In times of tragedy, we all want to say something that will make sufferers feel better, but the reality is that no words can magically erase a loss.  Upon hearing about my miscarriage, well-meaning people told me things like, "This is just a setback," or, "At least you got pregnant quickly this time," all of which felt very unhelpful because they minimized the fact that I'd just lost a particular, unique child, one I'd carried for 3 months and seen on an ultrasound, one I desperately wanted back.  At the time, I didn't want another baby; I just wanted Avaleen.  And I really appreciated the family and friends who understood this, who wept with me, and who affirmed the validity of the grief I was feeling.

2.  Show love in tangible ways.  In the days following my miscarriage, it seemed that every time I opened our front door there was another package:  homemade cranberry orange scones, flowers hand-picked from a friend's garden, a delivery from a local bakery, all accompanied by thoughtful cards and notes.  As I sat in our living room recovering, not feeling emotionally ready for lots of visits or long talks, I was surrounded by visible expressions of the love and care of family and friends scattered on end tables and shelves throughout the room.  In a very real sense, the flowers and cards and food upheld me in those early days, making me feel supported and cared for and loved.  Similarly, the families in my small group from church offered to bring us meals for a few weeks after our loss.  I felt strange accepting their offer because my pregnancy nausea finally gone, I actually felt better physically than I had in months.  However, receiving the meals not only freed me up to focus on grieving and being with my family, but it also was yet another way I felt loved in the midst of my pain.  As I told the small group later when I thanked them, each meal delivered said to me, "Your loss matters.  It is a real and hard thing.  We care about your pain, and we care about you."  And though I could have managed to put dinner on the table myself, that care meant so much to me.

3.  Free her up to grieve.  After my miscarriage, one particular friend offered to watch Ellie for me on a few different mornings.  For several hours, she freed me up to take a walk, grab a cup of coffee, think, or to just be.  As the mom of a toddler, this was especially important for me because I was generally too busy changing diapers and making lunch to analyze my thoughts, feel my emotions, or dissolve on the floor in a puddle of tears.  But to move forward in the grieving process, I needed to be able to do these things.  I needed help creating space to mourn.  I think the same would be true for most women, even those who aren't currently caring for small children.  Life is busy, and grieving takes a lot of time, space, and physical and emotional energy.  There are many ways to help a friend find that space:  offer to clean her house or give her a gift certificate for a cleaning service; deliver several frozen meals for days when she just doesn't have the capacity to cook; send her away for a one-day retreat or spa day.  Anything you can do to lighten her load will help.

4.  Remember.  The flowers and notes poured in at first, and as I mentioned above, I felt surrounded by expressions of care and sympathy in those early days.  As time passed though, it was easy for me to feel like no one cared anymore, like I was expected to just move on and get back to normal life.  It meant so much to me when people remembered, months later, to ask how I was doing with processing my loss or genuinely wanted to know how it felt for me to sit through a baby shower.  It meant even more when friends remembered to express their care on a few particularly hard days.  Several people e-mailed or texted to let me know they were praying for me on the day Avaleen was due to be born.  At Christmastime, some dear friends of ours made a donation in her honor to a charity that supports the medical needs of babies in developing countries.  I also received a thoughtful e-mail from a friend on the anniversary of the day we'd lost Avaleen.  Practically speaking, I'd encourage you to make a note on your calendar of your friend's due date and of the anniversary of her loss; that way, you'll be prepared to care for her on those challenging days.

For me, and for many women, a miscarriage is a deep and dark experience, and there's nothing any friend can do to take the pain of that loss away.  I'm so grateful though that pain does not have to be carried alone, that others have chosen to enter into my sadness and walk with me through it.  I hope that hearing how they did so will inspire you as you seek to "mourn with those who mourn" (Romans 12:15).


  1. well said.....that's exactly how I felt and still feel.....my husband cares but he does not understand, sometimes I am ok and then some days I just miss my baby and wonder how he/she would have been....but I know that they are in a better place...

  2. Thank you so much for sharing! It's so good to know what has blessed you and encouraged you and what I can do to be a better friend, especially to those who are grieving and morning a loss. Thank you dear friend...

  3. I'm so sorry to hear about your loss. I can definitely relate to the ups and downs of the grieving process.


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