Comforting a woman who miscarried

The American Pregnancy Association website states that 10-25 percent of clinically recognized pregnancies end in miscarriage.

This same website only recognizes a miscarriage as a pregnancy ending before 20 weeks and therefore does not include stillborn children or children lost so early the couple has not seen a doctor.

In a world in which science fights away every smallest sniffle, a logical assumption would be that the rate of miscarriage is decreasing.

Instead, the older I get, the more miscarriages I hear occurring.

Each one is devastating, and with each miscarriage, couples feel unable to openly grieve in a society that does not acknowledge that a child has been lost.

Doctors tell mothers and fathers, “Well, things just happen, and there’s nothing we can do this early in the pregnancy.”

Most OB-GYNs will not see a woman until she is about eight to 10 weeks pregnant, a point that many miscarried children never reach.

They also tend to avoid any extra tests unless specifically requested by the couple until two to three miscarriages have occurred.

The world tells parents they are not allowed to grieve, and even when they have a support network, it’s hard to find someone who can understand the loss of someone that they never met.

What can we do to reach out to those who are straining under that weight?

When I lost my baby last year, I kept it a secret. Only my immediate family, and the priest I had asked to bless my pregnancy knew.

I went to work the next morning. I was sobbing every second I had alone.

I felt horribly vulnerable, I hated my body and I could not share my grief with the people who could only attempt sympathy.

I have since found that many women feel like failures after a miscarriage.

Human sympathetic reactions tend to include “I know how you feel,” “There must be a reason, even if we can’t see it,” or “God must need another angel in heaven.”

None of these help, but there are ways to reach out to grieving couples.

One of the most consoling things I was told was “I am so sorry for you, I cannot pretend to understand what you are going through right now. There are no words I can say that can help you feel better. I am here for you, and I will be praying for you. Come and sit in silence, or come and talk to me anytime you need it. Is there anything I can do to help you now?”

This particular response acknowledged that no one ever feels the same (even people who have had the same experience of loss will not feel the same).

Grief isolates and feelings occur in different ways, and openly acknowledging it is often a relief. This response also realized that it would fall short, that it could not make anything better, and did not force the consoled to try to look brightened by the words of the consoler.

The offer of prayer may not always be welcomed depending on the disposition of the couple.

However, the offer to be available, and to be open to doing nothing as well as doing something, allows the griever to control to what degree the consoler is involved.

Simply being upset that the cause of the grief occurred and being available to be silent can be a great comfort.

Other advice

Most of the time, it is the disposition of the person who is grieving that needs to guide the person trying to help.

Examine the person before saying or doing anything. Some couples would love to have a meal delivered to them since making their own food is too much for them.

Other couples will dislike the idea of being pitied by people who cannot relate to their situation.

Most people will feel consoled by close friends and patronized by acquaintances who insert themselves to sympathize.

Many women find comfort in reaching out to other women who have had miscarriages and are open to discussing the feelings of being torn apart and useless and miserable and debilitated.

If there is a young mother who lost her child, and she does not know anyone who has had a miscarriage, and you or a friend who have experienced one can give her a phone number, this could be a great help.

Lastly, the greatest aid that you can give – whether or not you tell the couple you are giving it – is in prayer. Only God can provide peace and consolation, and asking Him to help them carry their cross is not only a non-invasive way of sharing in that cross, but also a means of emotional support that is beyond human understanding, human science, and human psychology.