On Tuesdays I have been taking a look at different ways to support a mother after a miscarriage. Last week we focused on some common mistakes that are made. This week I want to take a more positive look at support. Our focus this week will be on ways to build up a mama after her loss, to help her focus on the Lord and grieve in a healthy way.
When giving comfort after a miscarriage DO:
1. Remind her that she is still a mama, if the baby she lost was her first. This is a struggle because culturally the only form bereavement not recognized is that of a parent toward their children. A woman whose husband dies is a widow. A man who looses his wife is a widower. A child who has lost their parents is an orphan. But what is a mama who has lost her baby? Remind her that even if she never saw her baby she is still a mama, and that it is okay to grieve the baby.
2. Pray for her, both in and out of her presence. This is huge. When I was dealing with the start of postpartum depression this was the main thing that brought me out of it (though there were other factors, and I don’t mean to indicate my experience will be the same as someone else’s experience). It is comforting for the mama to know she is being prayed for, but it is huge for a friend to come and lovingly, personally, specifically take her before God. A good question to ask is, “Is there anything specific you would like me to pray for?” And then pray for it. Right there with her.
3. Be willing to listen if she wants to talk. Obviously, you may or may not be able to listen to the details of what the mama is experiencing both physically and emotionally. She also may not feel like talking. But if she is able to talk, it is helpful to have a listening ear. As part of this, you must be willing to ask her questions. “How are you doing emotionally?” “How are you doing physically?” “Do you want to talk about it?” These questions are ‘open door’ questions. Asking them indicates to her that you are willing to listen if she wants to talk, but it doesn’t force her to talk if she doesn’t feel up to it.
4. Give a hug. A simple hug can really lift the spirits. There’s no way for YOU to know whether the mama is on a “down” day or an “up” day, especially if she is the type to grieve in private. Either way, a hug of love and friendship can really lift the spirits.
5. Share “war stories,” if appropriate. This will depend on the mama, but it can be helpful to hear from other women who have miscarried. “Yeah, I miscarried my first one also. It was rough. But here are the things the Lord used to help me through it.” It can be helpful to see other women model a healthy form of grieving, and this also lets the mama know who is “safe” to talk to.
6. Talk details if the experience was similar. Again, whether this is helpful depends on the individual mama (so pay attention, and give her a chance to get out of the conversation or change the subject if she needs to), but if you’ve experienced a miscarriage that was similar to the one she is going through sharing your experience can be helpful in a very practical way. In my case, last year a lady at church had experienced a miscarriage at 10 weeks, about the stage mine happened. Before my actual miscarriage occurred she was able to tell me what to expect physically, which helped me face the “unknown” with less fear.
These are a few things that really helped me, mainly because it showed me I wasn’t “alone.” They are unexpected, but very loving gestures if you feel the urge to do something extra. I have awesome friends.
Offer to bring a meal over, or help in some other way. In some parts of the country this practice is totally foreign, but down here in the south we look after our friends who are hurting. Had a baby? Lost a family member? Dealing with a move or job loss? We’ve got your meals covered. When dealing with something major it is a big help to know that dinner, at least, will be on the table. Miscarriage is typically overlooked in the list of “major losses” mainly because the mama is still fully capable of handling her usual duties, or isn’t down for very long. But simply making the offer, whether or not it is needed/accepted, tells the mama, “I see your pain, I know I can’t make it better, but I care about you and really DO want to help.”
Send flowers. Again, a typically overlooked gesture (and certainly not expected!), but meaningful.
Offer to give her something to remember her baby by. When a mama looses her baby after birth she usually has something physical to remember her baby by—baby clothes, a tombstone, something. A mama who looses her baby to a miscarriage, particularly an earlier miscarriage, doesn’t have that. Having a physical item can be helpful in moving through the grieving process. There are a number of different things that could be offered. Willow Tree has a few figurines that would be appropriate. I was offered a piece of jewelry with a birthstone. There is an Anne Geddes print that would be a lovely gift (though hard to find). Depending on how she grieves (and where she is in the grieving process) the mama may or may not want this. But the offer is very thoughtful and will be appreciated.