Miscarriage and Empathy

October is almost over and I have yet to mention anything about Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness. It’s not because I’ve forgotten about my losses or am somehow “over it” now. But the waves of sadness are smaller and farther apart. It’s been 2 years, 3 months and 9 days since my last miscarriage…so, the season of intense mourning has passed, thankfully. But that doesn’t mean I never get sad about it or that I’ll stop talking about it or acknowledging it.

I’ve shared my story a bunch of times. On here, on facebook, at my MOPS group, etc. So I don’t necessarily want to re-tell it again today. But I do want to share some tips/advice for how to support and encourage someone who is suffering from a miscarriage (or just suffering in general really). I want to tread lightly because I don’t want to shame anyone or make anyone feel bad for saying/doing something that I think is unhelpful or even hurtful. Honestly, I’ve been there too. I once made a very cliche, shallow comment to a friend who finally got pregnant after trying for a long time to conceive. I had the best of intentions, but the comment was less than helpful and basically minimized the pain she went through during all those years of trying.

But instead of just going through a big list of “things NOT to say/do” ….because there are plenty of those articles floating around the Internet to make you feel bad, I’ll try to just focus on what TO do/say. And please note: these are my opinions. Everybody grieves a little differently and what I find helpful and encouraging, might not be the same as someone else. Feel free to share your own thoughts if they’re different than mine. I ain’t afraid (actually that’s not true….I do fear big, mean  internet trolls…which is why I get to approve comments before they’re visible lol). For real though, do share.

So let’s talk about empathy. Rather, let’s let Brene Brown talk briefly about it, because she kind of nails it with this video. Watch this first, then read on.

What does empathy look like when someone you know just suffered a miscarriage and is in the pit of despair?

  1. Go down in the pit with her. Well-meaning people want to just reach down and pull them out, but usually way too soon. It’s okay to sit in the pit for a bit. (….I’m /facepalming myself right now, don’t worry). It’s okay to spend time just sitting in grief and not rushing through it. But no one should be down there alone.
  2. When in doubt, say nothing. If you’re worried about saying the wrong thing, it’s probably safer to just say nothing at all. Your presence alone speaks volumes. Offer a hug. A shoulder to cry on. Listen. Don’t speak.
  3. When you do speak, say  “I’m so sorry this happened. This sucks.” Period. No “But…”….no “At least….”. By adding “but” or “at least” statements, you can minimize the pain they’re feeling. Just because it “could be worse” doesn’t mean the pain they feel right now isn’t legitimate. It still may be the hardest thing they’ve ever gone through. For me, hearing about how it could’ve been worse, somehow doesn’t make me feel any less sad. It just doesn’t.
  4. Now I’m gonna get slightly controversial here for my fellow Christians. Are you ready? Please use caution (read: wisdom, discernment, good judgment) before throwing a bible verse their way. I am NOT saying scripture isn’t powerful. I am not saying it isn’t truth (I’m well aware of 2 Timothy 3:16). BUT (and I’ll preface this statement by saying that “for ME” because it might be different for others,)…not all scripture is helpful or comforting while IN the pit of despair. I think there’s a time and a place for certain verses while suffering. “God works all things together for the good of those who love him” (Romans 8:28) . I know it’s true. I believe it in my head. But that verse does not penetrate my heart in the thick of my grief. I can’t relate to that in that moment. I’m just not there yet. What verse DOES bring me comfort? “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34:18) . Brokenhearted and crushed? Now that’s a verse I can relate to. That’s God meeting me where I am at. The pit of despair. Knowing He’s there with me in that place, THAT brings me comfort. Seeing how He worked it all together for His good? That comes later. The book of Psalms is there for a reason, ya know? And they ain’t all about praise and good times. Embrace the laments!
  5. Likewise, (I know I said I wouldn’t say what NOT to do..but…)… please avoid cliche biblical (but probably not actually in the Bible) Christian statements. I won’t list ’em…I’m sure you’ve heard ’em. Just don’t.

    And finally….

  6. Help with basic needs- like providing meals, cleaning or childcare if needed. When people are in mourning, basic tasks become incredibly difficult (at least for some people…like me). After my first miscarriage, I remember letting the dishes sit in the sink for days (and I didn’t even had kids then). I didn’t have the emotional energy to go back to daily routine stuff right away…because the last time I did the dishes, I was pregnant and excited and hopeful. The last time I did the laundry, I was daydreaming of folding little onesies and footed pajamas. Depending on the person, they probably won’t ASK for it, you may need to just go ahead and do it, or arrange it with their spouse, etc. Use discernment based on your relationship with the person so you can provide what will truly be helpful to them.

 

This is all just scratching the surface really, but I hope it was helpful to you. Sadly, since 1 in 4 women will experience this kind of loss, odds are pretty dang good that you will know someone who has gone through it, is going through it, or will go through it at some point. So  I hope this will help you bring comfort to your friend, sister, wife, daughter, etc. when the time comes. <3

 

 

 

 

 

 

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