I was never sure how to respond to the pain of someone who had lost a child in a miscarriage. I didn’t understand that kind of loss, and someone’s loss we are unfamiliar with can sometimes leave us speechless.
Then, in October of 2018, I lost our second child in a miscarriage.
My husband and I were already going through the most challenging season of our lives and having another baby wasn’t on the radar quite yet. But when we found out we were expecting, hope flooded into our life like a ray of sunshine.
Five weeks later, at my second ultrasound, no heartbeat was found. Oh, the sound I uttered when I found out was nothing I had ever expressed before. It was a soul-aching pain I had never experienced.
To make it harder, I carried our lifeless infant for two weeks before birthing it in our bathroom as my one year old slept soundly in the next room. It was the most traumatic moment of my life.
This description may seem a bit raw, but this is just one of millions of stories felt throughout the church today. I share the messiness of it because that’s exactly how these experiences go. They’re never tidy and rarely make sense. Those wrestling through such experiences are often left wondering where God was in the midst of the loss. They question His goodness, just like I did.
If I’m honest, there wasn’t much anyone could say to make it better. Since my loss, I’ve had women around me lose a child, and still, it’s a bit challenging to know how to exactly be there because I know I can’t make it better.
But I want to try and help other ministry leaders walk this valley with those in their congregation. Here are three things to consider when ministering to someone who has experienced a miscarriage.
Don’t diminish the wrestle
Knowing God’s truth and taking up the mantle to communicate God’s goodness, pastors sometimes want to jump in with the truth. Which I get because that’s me to a T. I have a hard time living in the gray. But what we sometimes fail to realize is that by jumping to the truth, we often negate someone’s feelings.
When someone loses a child, oftentimes, they may wrestle with questions about God’s goodness. They might wonder if He is even real because, as I recalled questioning myself, why would God take their precious baby?
These questions and the post-miscarriage wrestle is normal. And we have to allow them to wrestle it. It’s only through the wrestle that the person can find God and His goodness. And the wonderful thing is—the truth we all know—is that God can handle the wrestle. He welcomes our doubts and questions because there, in the vulnerability, He meets with us in a beautiful and intimate way.
I would encourage you to refrain from telling someone mourning to “just have faith and trust God.” Those are true words, but they may pass over a listening ear because the pain is just too overwhelming. You can speak the truth, and we’ll address that in a minute, but don’t minimize the wrestle a person is working through. Allow God to take care of their doubts, because He will.
Mourn with them in the despair
“Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” Romans 12:15 (ESV).
Honestly, the best thing you can do is sit in the grief with a person, no matter what the loss or ache may be. Your presence—just knowing you are there—goes incredibly far for a person experiencing grief. Perhaps further than anything else.
Sit with them as they cry; call them to see how they are doing and say a prayer; show up in their mourning. Extending empathy, in this way, will communicate love to their hurting heart.
Share these Biblical truths
The following truths are the ones I clung to in my mourning. In grace and patience, share these reminders with a parent who has experienced miscarriage.
God is still good
Although in dark times we often want to pull away from Him, it’s in these trying times we must press in even harder. Pressing in is where we find Him and hear His voice. His goodness. Because God is good and does work all things for good, even if we can’t see it.
“Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.” Romans 8:26-28 (MSG).
Wow, what beautiful words for someone who has lost a child. A powerful reminder, in our pregnant (or not so pregnant) condition, that God is working everything for good.
It’s hard to see how good can come from such loss. And it’s very likely that someone may have a hard time believing this for a while. But still, encourage them with this verse and piece of truth, because it will come around as comfort.
Right now, in the pain, there’s an absolute truth for that mom and dad: although their baby’s life here was short, they are still the parents to that beautiful child. And the good to be found is that their child’s life brought joy to their lives.
Jesus mourns with you
“Jesus wept.” John 11:35 (ESV)
Within hours of the news of our loss, this was the first verse that penetrated my pain. These were the words Jesus so gently reminded me of in the midst of my tears. That in my pain, He sat with me and wept also.
There was a sense of comfort in those words.
One of the few truths I would encourage you to share in the grief is this verse. Remind the hurting mother and father that Jesus is with them in the pain. He feels every ounce of grief, bottling their tears. They are not alone.
Uncover the good
In the hardship, we want to ask, “Why God?” It’s a very common question in the wrestle, and again, we must be okay with the wrestle. But what you can do in these most heart-wrenching moments with another is encourage them to turn the question to, “God, what can I learn about You, about myself, and about life as a result of this season?”
There is much treasure to be found in the trials and tribulations. It’s the storms that forge a more authentic and mature version of ourselves, and where we find God most intimately. Instead of pulling away and doubting, encourage them to press in and ask the hard questions. Uncover the value that can only be found right here, right now.
What can you learn about His character? What can you learn about yourself? And what nugget of wisdom regarding a flourishing life can be found in this loss?
Remind them that there can be an understanding and intimacy brought forth from this trial. Don’t waste the anguish—use it to forge a closer relationship with God, a better self and a more fruitful life.
There is hope in the darkness
The sweetest comfort I found in my grief was knowing that my baby is with Jesus. That he or she will never know loss, pain, cold, grief, disappointment or sorrow. That all their soul will ever know is joy in the presence of God.
Remind a parent that, although the loss is very real, there will one day be the most beautiful reunion in Heaven. One day they will have the sweetest moment when they get to wrap their loving arms around that precious child.
Their meeting is only delayed, not robbed
The role of a pastor to shepherd those hurting within their flock is no easy task, and it shouldn’t be taken lightly. You may try to interpret their loss from your own experiences and thoughts on life, thus speaking to your heart and not theirs. Remember to take yourself and your understanding out of the equation so that you can really see them, and minister in a way that sits with the mourner in their pain. Show up in love and empathy, and God will work through you to speak gently to their hearts.