The kids in our house know about our fifth child. Big sister randomly mentions her, wondering how old she’ll be when we meet her in heaven. We all wonder if the baby would have been a boy or girl. In small ways, I still grieve the little life we miscarried eight years ago.
We had all the joy and anticipation of new parents, even though the pregnancy was only 10 weeks along. People adviced us not to announce too early, but once we heard the heartbeat, our doctor said there was a 2% chance that something could go wrong.
2%…that was an amazing statistic, and one we were willing to bank on. After all, we were eager to share, and anxious for prayers.
We announced the news at church, and I told the 6th grade class I taught. I even received a few gifts!
Just 4 short days later, we were sitting with the doctor, looking at a lifeless lump on the ultrasound monitor. The baby’s heart had stopped; our first child had died.
I felt like my mind was wrapped in saran wrap. I heard him say words, but not much registered. A couple days later I had a DNC, and it was done. The baby was gone…and awkwardness ensued.
Everybody knew. Our family. Our church. My sweet 6th graders.
We were so loved and people wanted to comfort. Some tried to tell me everything would be OK, even though I didn’t believe them. How could they know that? They said that God was in control and that He loved me. It felt like empty words.
Others shared their own stories of miscarriage. I heard of around 25 lost pregnancies. One woman said she had 9 miscarriages before she had a successful live birth! I felt hopeless and even more scared after talking with her…and like my 1 miscarriage was no big deal compared to her 9 lost babies.
Still other people didn’t talk to me for a while. They just didn’t know what to say. And for a couple of weeks, I taught with a giant elephant in the 6th grade room. My dear students were sad for me but uncertain how to talk to me about it.
I myself didn’t know what I needed until someone did it.
The pastor’s wife sat with me…hugged me…acknowledged that this awful loss was truly awful..and said that God knows my grief.
Her simple presence next to me and admission of the painful circumstances warmed my wounded heart. It did suck to lose my child. In that moment, I didn’t have to pretend that I was OK, because I wasn’t. She invited me to lean into a God who knows the wretchedness of death.
I don’t fault the loving people who didn’t give me the comfort I desperately needed. Their words had heartfelt origins. They just missed the mark.
But my own experience with grief has shaped the way I comfort others who are hurting.
I sit with them.
I listen to their story and process with them. I gently encourage them to share their feelings, their thoughts, their fears. I want to know what they are feeling, not what I assume they’re experiencing.
I admit that this is awful. It’s not the way it’s supposed to be. God did not want this. He didn’t plan death, sin, or suffering. And this is why we long for His return.
I only share my experiences if it seems appropriate. I want to give them space to heal by being heard, not by listening to my story.
And I pray with them right then and there. I touch them or hold their hand while I pray.
I realize not everyone has the same approach to comfort. There is no one-size-fits-all plan for solace. But these are some of the gifts the pastor’s wife gave me in my pain.
I believe admitting that the situation is horrible is better than trying to gloss over a loss. And I feel being present and listening are some of the greatest gifts we can offer to those who suffer.
How do you comfort those in pain?