27901_000_014How can you help when a loved one is suffering?
When I learned that a friend in a distant state had had a miscarriage, I offered a silent prayer as I stared at my computer screen, searching for words of comfort to offer. The only phrase that came to my mind was: “I cried for you today.” I typed those words and sent them in an e-mail, with another silent prayer that I had done the right thing. Although I was unsure about my actions, my friend later told me she had felt touched by my message.
Although statistics on the frequency of miscarriage vary widely, most indicate that miscarriage is fairly common. Yet that fact does not lessen the pain of those who experience this trial.
My sister-in-law Rachel knew there was always the possibility that she wouldn’t carry her baby to term, but she still was unprepared when the miscarriage occurred. Having a pregnancy go awry “isn’t something you can really prepare yourself for,” she says. “This baby was a real person to my husband and me, and still is.”
My friend Sabrina echoes Rachel’s sentiments: “When a woman learns she is pregnant, she feels an instant bond to the tiny life growing inside of her. To lose it is very painful.”
Until I became a mother, I knew little about miscarriage. As friends and family members married and started families, I observed the pain that comes with the loss of a pregnancy, and I experienced uncertainty as I tried to offer comfort during a trial I didn’t fully understand.
As I have since talked with mothers and fathers who have experienced miscarriage, I have learned there is much that others can do to be supportive of those dealing with this trial. Here are some suggestions these couples have offered.
Respect Others’ Privacy
People may be curious about a couple’s plans to have children after they marry. Although questions about these plans may seem innocent, they can cause pain when a couple is experiencing difficulty starting a family.
Rachel had to wait a year after her miscarriage before she could consider trying to have another baby. Questions about why she and her husband were delaying the start of their family only added to the difficulty of waiting. The timing of children is a personal matter and should be left to the couple and Heavenly Father.
We should also avoid passing judgment on a couple because of a miscarriage. No one should consider a lost pregnancy the “mother’s fault.” Most miscarriages have unknown causes.
Don’t Minimize the Loss
Now is not the time to share stories of other couples who have experienced similar losses. Doing so may be perceived as an effort to minimize the pain a husband and wife feel.
Sabrina says, “I had a hard time when people related stories of others who had had miscarriages. I especially didn’t like it when people told me about others who had more problems than I did, like ‘Susie had five miscarriages in a row.’ I knew there were people whose experiences were more difficult than mine, but that didn’t mean I wasn’t hurting in my own way.”
Recognize That Both Parents Experience Loss
A mother who has lost her baby experiences a particular kind of grief, but the father needs support too.
Rachel says, “I was the one in tears whom people hugged and loved and comforted. My husband just seemed to comfort me and forget about himself. Others didn’t really recognize the loss of our baby as our loss. I know Bennett felt strongly for the little one that was growing inside of me and longed to have the child just as much as I did. But he didn’t express the same emotions outwardly. And there wasn’t the feeling that expressing those emotions would have been socially accepted either.”
Both fathers and mothers look forward to the births of their children. Although a mother may be more open about the loss of her baby, a father also can draw strength from the love and support of others.
Ask How You Can Help
Simple acts of service can ease the strain on family members as they cope with their loss. An offer to help with everyday tasks such as cooking, cleaning, running errands, or grocery shopping might help lighten the load.
The thoughtful act of a friend made all the difference to Kristina and her husband, Dustin. She says, “When I got home from spending eight hours in the emergency room, a friend had a meal waiting for us. This was greatly appreciated since I had no desire or energy to make anything, and I hadn’t eaten for more than 20 hours.”
If the couple has other children, you might ask if you could take them for a few hours to allow the couple or mother some private time. Many parents appreciate opportunities to get out and focus on something other than their pain.
For Kristina, a visit from a family member was a welcome distraction: “I was fortunate that my mother flew down to be with me. I needed to talk about what had happened. My mom also helped me get out of the house, which made me more upbeat.” Dustin was grateful as well to know his wife was receiving additional emotional support.
Consider asking the couple if they would like you to inform others about their loss. Rachel and her husband thought the prospect of explaining repeatedly to others that they were no longer expecting a baby would be draining. When people whom they hadn’t personally informed approached the two of them with words of sympathy, they felt relieved. They appreciated others’ genuine compassion and concern.
Support in Simple Ways
Many parents say that one of the most comforting phrases is simply “I’m sorry for your loss.” Reaching out and offering a listening ear is one of the greatest services that can be offered after a miscarriage. Many couples feel validated when their loss is acknowledged and they know someone is willing to listen, no matter how long their grieving lasts.
Dustin, who was attending college at the time of his wife’s miscarriage, was grateful to have an opportunity to talk about his feelings: “Talking with some of my professors who are members of the Church provided me an opportunity to express my own thoughts and get additional perspective.”
A simple, heartfelt note or card can brighten a grieving parent’s day. Sabrina says she was comforted when a friend sent her an e-card expressing words of sympathy.
Damarys, another mother who experienced a miscarriage, was touched when a friend brought her yellow roses.
The Savior’s Example
The Savior provided the perfect example of how to respond to the pain and mourning of a loved one. After Lazarus’s death, Christ traveled to Bethany to be with Martha and Mary. To Martha He offered His testimony of life after death and asked her to reaffirm her testimony. When Mary expressed her grief over the loss of her brother, the scriptures simply state, “Jesus wept” (John 11:35).
The simplest acts can mean the most as a husband and wife come to terms with the loss of their baby. As we seek to follow the Savior’s example, we can help ease the pain of those we love.