Want to make people feel awkward? Grieve.
There’s nothing more awkward than being around someone who is grieving. What do you do? Should you ask them about the person they’ve lost? Or pretend nothing is happening and talk about something else? And what if you say something wrong and upset them even more?
From my experience, as much as people don’t know how to react to grief normally, they really don’t know how to react when you lose a child. Especially a child that hasn’t been born yet. We were beyond blessed to have lots of people in our life who loved us and supported us after our miscarriage, but I know it’s a hard topic for a lot of people.
That’s why, in honor of National Infant and Pregnancy Awareness Month, I wanted to share how people can support someone who has experienced miscarriage or lost an infant.
Remember that losing a child is losing a child.
Whether you believe life begins at conception or not, I think it’s fair to say that most people who find out they are pregnant after trying to conceive feel like that positive pregnancy test is a child in some way. They’re already thinking about names, about decorating the nursery, and about saving for college. That person, while not born yet, feels like a real person to their parents.
When you’re supporting someone who has experienced miscarriage, make sure to remember that the person is grieving the loss of a real, tangible person.
Don’t say “Don’t worry, you can try again!”
If there’s one thing I could tell you to NEVER, EVER say, it’s this. It’s like telling someone whose 10-year-old child died, “You can have another one though, right?” Like, sure they COULD have another child, but that doesn’t replace the child they lost. A loss is a loss. The best way to be supportive is to treat the loss of a child like the loss of anyone else: a loss to be mourned.
In addition, it’s important to understand that some people experience miscarriages for no medical reason at all; others experience miscarriage because they have a medical condition that affects their ability to conceive and carry healthy children to term. For some, it’s not as easy as “trying again.” It may have taken them years to conceive that child, and it may be that there is no guarantee they will be able to conceive again. Be gentle.
Don’t say “When you’re a parent…”
I know this seems like something natural to say. If someone has experienced pregnancy loss and the pregnancy was planned, you know that they are interested in starting a family. It seems natural – and supportive – to want to talk about them being a parent eventually.
But for many who have already experienced pregnancy loss, this is a painful reminder that they are parents – to a child they never got to meet.
Losing a pregnancy puts you in a weird limbo where you’re not not a parent, but you don’t have a child to show for it, either. Talking about what it’s like to be a parent or what it will be like when the person is a parent can bring up a lot of painful feelings for someone who is grieving the loss of a child. It’s best to avoid it.
Be mindful of triggering situations (aka children).
When you lose a child, the last thing you want to do is be around happy people with children. This doesn’t last forever, but especially right after a loss, it’s incredibly triggering to be around people with children.
In the words of my (very wise) sister, making someone who’s lost a pregnancy spend time with kids is like inviting someone who lost their dad to a father-daughter dance. It’s painful. I cried the first time I had to be around a baby after our miscarriage.
I don’t think a lot of people think about this, especially people with kids. People assume that because someone wants children, they won’t mind being around them. Which might be true…except for when they’re grieving the loss of a child.
I remember when my sister-in-law pulled me aside the first time we met her new foster baby. She told me she knew that being around babies might be hard for me, and told me she wasn’t going to be offended if I wasn’t interested in holding or playing with her new foster baby. That meant so much to me, just to know that someone understood what I was going through.
If someone is grieving the loss of a child, be mindful of what might trigger them. Try to avoid talking about everyone you know who is pregnant, or inviting them to events where there will be tons of people with kids, especially baby showers. If you know that an event might be triggering for the person, give them a heads-up and permission to duck out if they’re feeling overwhelmed or too sad.
Keep checking in.
Anyone who has experienced grief knows that it comes and goes in waves. You can feel totally fine for a week, then have a horrible day out of nowhere. It’s no different with pregnancy loss.
If you know someone who has experienced pregnancy loss, it’s important to be there for them not just in the moment, but in the weeks and months following. Just because they’ve stopped talking about it or stopped looking sad doesn’t mean they’re over it. Don’t stop checking in. Don’t stop asking how they’re doing, asking how they’re feeling, asking if they need anything. The pain of losing a child doesn’t go away quickly, especially if medical issues prevent them from trying again. Continue to be there.
While all of these tips are important, the best thing you can do to support someone is just to love them. Check in. Pray for them. Be kind to them. And remember that with 1 in 4 pregnancies ending in miscarriage, it’s a lot more common than you think.
When I found out I was pregnant last December, I remember having a weird thought one day in the shower: If this goes south, I need to blog about it.
Kind of bizarre, right? Not the thing an excited mom-to-be usually thinks about. But I felt this weird conviction in my soul about it.
When things did go south in January, I felt that same pull to write. I knew I needed to put into words what I was struggling with, to share our very private struggle publicly.
As life has continued to throw me challenges, I’ve continued to write about them, openly and honestly, in all of their ugliness.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about why exactly I write about the hard stuff. This quote popped up on my Facebook feed last week, and it’s stuck with me. It puts into words why I feel I’ve been called to write.
You have been assigned this mountain so that you can show others it can be moved.Mel Robbins
Don’t get me wrong; I don’t have it all figured out. I lost 40 pounds – then gained it back. I have PCOS. I still struggle with anxiety. I’m still grieving the loss of my dad. I had a miscarriage – and still don’t have a baby. Trust me, I’m a hot mess.
But what I do know is that there’s power in sharing that mess with others.
See, all of the things I’ve gone through lately are stigmatized. People don’t talk about mental illness, weight and body image issues, pregnancy loss, or grief, and I don’t blame them. No one wants to be called fat, crazy, or receive people’s pity.
For whatever reason, be it due to bravery or stupidity, God gave me no shame when it comes to these things. I’m not embarrassed to talk about the hard stuff, and the awkward stuff, and the stuff most people wouldn’t even tell their friends they were struggling with.
You’ll hear me call myself an advocate, for mental health, for body positivity, for people struggling with infertility. It’s not because I think I’m a savior or something.
It’s because I feel comfortable speaking up and sharing my story, and by sharing, I know I represent all of those who, for whatever reason, can’t share theirs. It’s an honor I take seriously. Advocacy, or whatever you’d like to call it, is the only thing in life I can say with certainty that I’m passionate about.
As I struggle to make peace with the painful hand we’ve been dealt lately, I feel that at least part of the purpose was to write about it, to show people the mountains I face (and they do too) can be moved, even if moving the mountains only means finding the strength to get out of bed and face them, one day at a time.
That’s why I write about the hard stuff, and why I won’t stop writing about it. Even if it’s awkward.
I felt the lump in my chest grow and the tears well up in my eyes. Someone else was slowly dispensing the good news to family and friends. Someone else was dreaming big dreams and making big plans and basking in the almost surreal joy of it all. Someone else was pregnant, and it wasn’t me.
When I got the news of yet another person I know having a baby a few weeks ago, my first instinct was to text my squad, the people who have walked with me through all of the hard things lately. I would probably ask for prayer, but what I really wanted was validation, that this sucked and that I had every right to pick up a pint of Ben and Jerry’s, plop down on my couch, and cry for a bit.
But something stopped me.
As I picked up my phone to text that first person, I heard God loud and clear from somewhere in my heart: People aren’t gonna cut it.
And immediately, I knew what He meant.
I knew in that moment that no amount of platitudes, of sympathy, or of pity partying could actually change anything. While we have the best support squad around, I knew that texting another friend about yet another disappointment wasn’t going to heal my heart, give me lasting peace, or fix my situation.
As I stood in my kitchen, phone in hand, it became clear what I needed to do: I needed to seek the one who can do all of those things. I needed to seek God.
In John 4, Jesus tells the Samarian woman, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again.”
I realized in that moment that I had been drinking too heavily of the wrong kind of water. Instead of drinking from streams of grace and from fountains of peace, I’d been gulping gallons upon gallons of water from this world. By relying too heavily on people to give me peace and make it all okay, I stayed thirsty.
While God gave us people who can help us bear our burdens, they can’t give us the lasting peace that He can. They can’t provide a steadfast spirit that can endure incredible heartache. They can’t give us an eternal perspective that allows us to see past the challenging now. They can’t promise us that everything will be okay.
We can have all of those things. We just need to stop drinking the wrong kind of water.
I remember when my sister and I were little, and we used to wrestle with my dad. Almost inevitably, our wrestling/tickling matches would end with Dad doubled-over in pain from getting kicked…in the you-know-where.
I don’t have a you-know-where, per se, so I can’t really speak to what getting kicked there feels like, but if there’s a spiritual equivalent, I’m there, doubled over, wishing such thing as a spiritual athletic cup existed.
Y’all know I’ve been through a lot. Since I blogged last, my dad passed away (more about that later – not sure what I want to say yet). Since I blogged last, I also found out, after some weird symptoms, a bunch of tests, and a lot of waiting, that I have PCOS.
If you’re not familiar, PCOS is some real BS if you ask me. Basically, my hormones are all out of whack, affecting my ability to get pregnant and causing all sorts of liver and blood sugar issues, including diabetes, in the long-term if not managed.
Yay. Just what I needed.
If that wasn’t bad enough, here’s the real kicker. You know what the main way to manage PCOS is? Diet and exercise, specifically weight loss.
Some people would say that’s great news. It’s manageable! It’s not a death sentence! It could be so much worse! For me, it feels like a big spiritual kick in the you-know-where.
The last six months or so, I have been working super-duper hard on how I think about myself. Since last fall, I’ve gained back a lot of the weight I lost a few years ago, due to stress, a new job, changing my diet, and the circus that has been my life lately.
At first, I was really not okay. I felt like a total failure. People aren’t supposed to lose the weight and then gain it back. That’s not how this works. I looked in the mirror and felt depressed. I put on clothes that no longer fit right and felt defeated.
Through working with a health coach over the last few months and a lot of hard work, I came to a place where I accepted the new me. Bodies change as life happens, and I started to truly believe that the size of my body said nothing about my worth, my health, or anything else.
Then, this happens. The one area of insecurity in my life, the one thing I’ve worked so hard to overcome has to become my main focus. I was becoming completely okay with my weight, and now my weight is undeniably the problem. Losing said weight is the only way to solve it. Oh, and all of our hopes and dreams are riding on my success.
I have been walking in faith since my life started falling apart last year. I have dug my heels in, doubled down on my faith, and tried to trust God as best I could through everything.
But, like my dad, who I’m sure was thinking “Please kick me ANYWHERE ELSE,” I feel like this is the one area of my life right now I just didn’t need to struggle with. I’m already crying on a pretty regular once or twice a week schedule given everything else going on in my life. I really don’t need to feel like crap about my weight, too.
I’m still metaphorically doubled over in pain at this point. I’m devastated. I’m frustrated. I cry a lot. I don’t get why this happens randomly and why FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS GOOD CAN I NOT CATCH A BREAK??
I’ve started doing some research on how to manage my symptoms and live with this new diagnosis. Plans are in the works for a potential half-marathon in November to give me a goal that’s not related to weight.
I haven’t yet figured out how I’m going to manage this weight loss thing while not going into let’s-freak-out-over-everything-I-eat mode. And honestly, I’m terrified that I can’t do it.
But I’m praying. A lot. And at this point, prayer is the best spiritual athletic cup I can think of.
Have PCOS? Any tips? I’ve read that low-GI diets can help too so if you’re diabetic and have any recipes or eating tips, please please let me know. And prayer is always appreciated.
It is now 10 PM on Easter Sunday as I begin typing this…nothing like waiting until the last minute to write something about Easter.
I spent this last week leading up to Easter reading through the different gospels’ accounts of the Last Supper, crucifixion, and resurrection. I always like to do this to put my heart and mind in the right space before Easter.
The other night, I was reading Luke’s account of the Last Supper, when something jumped out to me that I hadn’t noticed before.
Jesus had just gotten done speaking about the bread and wine, and how they would take on new meaning soon. This is a pivotal moment in Scripture; the disciples didn’t realize fully what was happening, but Jesus was turning Passover on its head. Passover would no longer be about the lamb, but the Lamb of God. No more blood on doorways. No more focusing on God’s deliverance from Egypt. There would be something much bigger to celebrate, and the disciples were hearing about it first.
Jesus delivers some heavy news: someone among them will betray him. They all begin to think about who among them might do this…and then what do they do?
Check this out:
“…The Son of Man will go as it has been decreed. But woe to that man who betrays him!” 23 They began to question among themselves which of them it might be who would do this.Luke 22, NIV
24 A dispute also arose among them as to which of them was considered to be greatest.
Right after Jesus spends his last meal with the disciples and lays out how he is completely changing what Passover means (and foretelling of his death, which is THE POINT OF ALL OF THIS), the disciples do what? They start a petty argument about which disciple is the G.O.A.T.
When I first read this, I had to laugh. What idiots! History is being made as Jesus is about to change the world forever and the disciples have front-row seats. Instead of pondering the meaning behind Jesus’ words and absorbing the gravity of the moment, the disciples are like “cool dinner party, Jesus” and get caught up in who among them is the “best disciple.”
The more I pondered this, though, I felt called to examine my own life.
I’ve been focused on a few things lately: my health journey, getting my house set up, making new friends here in Parker, and work. I’ve spent a lot of time praying over all of these things, and measuring God’s movement in my life based on how well He delivers on those exact things.
The disciples’ odd reaction to Jesus’ words reminds me that God isn’t just working in those areas I’ve asked him to focus on. There’s a lot more happening beyond what I see in my daily life.
It’s so easy to miss what God is doing in our lives when we’re focused on the stuff of everyday life. From jobs to money to friends to our looks, there are so many things vying for our attention. None of these things are bad, but when they become our focus over and above Jesus, what gets lost is what God is doing in our lives. We’re so busy praying for new jobs and friends and tangible changes that we forget to pay attention to what else God is working on in our hearts and in our lives.
When we focus on the clutter, we miss the cross.
Maybe God is sitting at the table with us, like Jesus did with the disciples, trying to tell us about all of the good things He has planned. We’re not really listening, instead caught up in thinking about our grocery list, how we’re going to pay the bills, or why God hasn’t answered a prayer yet.
We’re focused on the petty stuff. He’s got so much more planned.
Imagine how much we’re missing.
As I’ve wrestled this week with unanswered prayers, I feel challenged to look beyond the black-and-white of my clutter, the trivial stuff that gets me worried from day to day. Instead, my goal for this week is to ask myself what else God is doing in my life. Maybe He’s strengthening my faith, teaching me patience, or doing something entirely different that I can’t see but I know I need to trust.
If God is sitting at the table with me, I don’t want to be caught with my head in the clouds or checking my Instagram notifications. I want to be there, absorbing what He has for me in full.
You with me? Let’s focus on the cross, not the clutter.
Happy (almost belated) Easter to you and yours!