Many people feel awkward when they learn that a friend has had a miscarriage. How should they respond? What should they say? How do they balance between acknowledging the loss and giving encouragement and hope for the future? What is the emotional impact of losing a child that she never even felt or saw? Is this something that is over with quickly, or something that hurts forever?
For those who want to help, but don't know what to do, here are some insights and suggestions.
Don't put any pressure on her to communicate.
Not every woman wants to talk about her loss. Some women simply wish to receive acknowledgement of their pain, and work through it themselves. Other women need the cleansing that communication brings.
Whatever the case, your job is not to appoint yourself as her special confidante. She will choose the person with whom she wishes to communicate, and you may not be that person. That's okay. Your job is to simply be her friend. That may mean letting her know that you are praying, or that may mean actively listening and encouraging. Be flexible to her needs.
Consider practical needs.
Sometimes miscarriage is accompanied by medical problems. If her husband is not available to take her to the doctor for follow-up care, are you available to drive her? Does she continue to feel ill, and will she need help with housekeeping or making meals? Taking care of her physical needs is a way of ministering to her emotional needs, and she will appreciate your quiet, practical service.
Don't minimize the loss.
People tend to say things like, "At least the fetus wasn't older" or "You are young. You can still have children." Consider what those words would sound like, if spoken of a child that died after birth.
"At least it wasn't older"--as if the child's age made its loss less difficult!
"You can still have more children"--but those children will never be that child.
The loss is real. A life was created, and that life was taken. Let the mother know that you acknowledge that she lost a child. Whether she was ever able to meet her baby is irrelevant; she was a mother, for a brief period, of a little one that she misses with all her heart.
Be careful when giving spiritual comfort.
It can be very easy to quote Scripture about the Lord's provision and timing, but there is one verse that should be uppermost in the comforter's mind: Weep with those who weep (Romans 12:15). Share in the mourning before you offer Biblical counsel. Remember, even when Jesus knew that He was going to raise Lazarus from the dead, he first wept with Lazarus' sisters and friends.
A time of grief is not the time to fix the woman's heart (you can't) or to correct her theology (if, say, she's struggling with accepting God's will for her child). It's a time to remind her that, just as you are her constant friend, so is the Lord. If she asks Why did this happen? you can answer honestly that you don't know. Be faithful in prayer and availability, and let the Lord heal her spirit in time.
Remember the baby.
When one of my clients at the pregnancy center miscarried, in the week of the miscarried baby's due date, I sent a handmade card that communicated to my client that I was thinking of her, that I was remembering her baby too, and that I was available to just be her friend.
Remember the baby. If you know the due date, or the date of the miscarriage, or the name given to the lost child, make a note of that and take time to let the mother know that you care. Sometimes it is very lonely for the grieving mother to feel that she and the father are the only people who remember their child's life. Let her know that, however short her baby's life may have been, you remember that child too.
None of my life has gone the way it was "supposed to go," but I don't love my life any less because of the hardships and new directions. I see so much unexpected good in it, and I want others to see the good in theirs.