Friday, October 10, 2014

When Parents Grieve

I was due to deliver my second child four years ago today.

For about six weeks, October 10 was a wonderful date. My future was laid before me and all thoughts revolved around our new life. We found out in March 2010, however, that the date would mean something different. That pregnancy ended in miscarriage and though I've delivered two babies since then, my heart still aches for the one I never held.

Over the years I've learned that I'm not alone. I sat in a memorial service as my friends mourned their son, I listened when another reached out after her third miscarriage, and I wept when another had to deliver her baby the day after he died. It's tough to know how to react to death, but it can get even more complicated when it's a baby. That's why today I'm offering a few {unsolicited} suggestions. If you've said any of these to a grieving friend, don't feel bad. I'm guilty, too. I know your heart is in the right place, but here are a few easy ways to protect feelings and provide solace:

  • Don't say: "There was probably something wrong with the baby." Even if a medical anomaly is diagnosed, do not say this to a grieving parent. They wanted that child more than anything and no medical issue could change that.
    INSTEAD: "She was perfect/beautiful/insert any other encouraging word." Whether you got to see pictures of the baby or she was gone before her features began to form, she was known and loved. She was knit together in utter perfection and she was wonderfully made.

  • Don't say: "At least you can have more." Honestly, any sentence that starts with the words at least are best avoided. There's no silver lining when it comes to the death of a child. The same goes for "at least you weren't that far along" and "at least you're still young" and "at least you already have children."
    INSTEAD: "This is awful, and I'm so sorry." It doesn't sound like it's enough, but it is. As much as you may want to fix your friends' broken hearts, you can't. Do not underestimate the power of simply loving them.

  • Don't say: "I'm praying that you're blessed with a healthy child soon." Even though you're being honest, you can't assume the couple plans to have more children. When the wounds are fresh, many parents don't want to think about a different baby. They just want the one who passed away.
    INSTEAD: "You are amazing parents." Acknowledge that this couple had a baby instead of dismissing the life that ended. One big fear is that people forget. The memories may bring tears, but the memories are all these parents have. Help them not to fade.

  • Don't say: "God needed her more than you did." Even if the parents know this to be true, it can be tough to hear. These parents are so desperate to have their child that they can't fathom anyone else needing her more.
    INSTEAD: "I know {Baby} is being cradled by Jesus now, and he's watching over his mama and daddy." Obviously keep the parents' faith in mind, but this thought is much more comforting than focusing on the baby being taken away. It's horrible to know he's gone, but it's uplifting to know he's safe.

    Every situation is different, but every grieving parent needs support. Don't assume they're getting it elsewhere, but figure out what they need and give. Remember their child and cover them in prayer. My heart goes out to anyone who can relate, either as a parent who's been shattered by a missing heartbeat or as a supportive friend. This is a devastating situation, and there's no easy fix. I hope this helps you approach the path to finding or providing a soft place to land.

    Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.
    -Matthew 11:28

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    Unknown said...

    In September we passed what would have been our first's fourth birthday. 2010 was a rough year, wasn't it? There were so many things that people said that just made matters worse, but I'll always remember just the hugs and shared tears of friends. Sometimes... sometimes not saying anything but being present is the best thing a friend can do.

    Amanda said...

    Agreed! I miscarried as well and had a whole list of "What Not To Say To Me". I know people mean well- but some things are just not the right thing to say.

    Jessica Bauer said...

    Thanks for sharing, girls. It's hard to know what to say sometimes, even when you've been in their shoes. And absolutely just being present and not saying a word can often be the most comforting thing.

    Karen said...

    This is wonderful advice. Thank you so much for sharing it.