“A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be comforted, because they are no more.” – Matthew 2:18
Well! Fall has been outrageously busy for us and lots of good things are going on. I’m stretched far in all directions, but fall is one of my favorite seasons, and I’m really thankful that we haven’t spent these cooler months under the heavy weight of grief like we have during autumn in the last few years. One of my big projects has been working on some stuff about ministry and awareness for pregnancy and infant loss. I have some thoughts here to share as a follow-up to a conversation I had on a radio program on Friday about Christians ministering to each other after suffering miscarriage and infant loss. (If you’re interested, you can listen or watch that HERE.) Although Aaron and I are not particularly secretive about the babies we lost in miscarriages during the past few years, I haven’t really written about this topic publicly before. Privately, however, I have frequently shared from a huge file of unsorted thoughts and quotes, often sending these to people who are in their own pit of grief after a loss or are asking about comforting someone else going through this, and I thought I’d pull a few thoughts from there as an addendum to that radio discussion.
Unfortunately, it’s touchy to talk about how to minister to someone after a miscarriage. The people who can write about it have likely experienced both miscarriage and plenty of botched comforting attempts from their nearest and dearest. It’s hard to know how to share without pointing fingers at those who gave you the comfort of Job’s friends instead of the comfort of Christ. And so I have often hesitated in commenting about this because I don’t want anyone who has mis-stepped to feel like they “failed” me in my grief! However, I doubt holding back is doing anyone a favor here.
It seems like many people hear about a woman who has miscarried and immediately think, “Oh no! That’s too bad. I have no idea what to say to her or how to help.” I have heard those hushed statements not meant for my ears:
“Did you hear about so-and-so? They lost their baby. It’s so awful.”
“I know. I have no idea what to say.”
“I hope she has another baby soon. It’s so sad. I just stay away and pray. She probably doesn’t want to be reminded of it, so I don’t want to bring it up.”
And then when this happens, there is conversational fumbling and perhaps some avoidance or awkward, pithy statements, and the bereaved woman is then left feeling more alone than she was before. This is not always the case, which I know because I’ve experienced many kindnesses from friends, family, and my church, but I have seen the dark side of “comfort,” too, and I think the general attitude about comforting in evangelical culture is usually one of uncertain helplessness or avoidance. After thinking about this a little bit, I’m coming to the opinion that this is not how Christians should respond. Why? Here are a few things to consider. I am referring here mostly to the mother, but many fathers also deal with their own set of emotions. I can only speak for myself, but if you are smart enough to read this article, you should be able to glean insights to help you minister to a man after his child is miscarried as well.
1) We know that God is the creator and author of every life. If He has knit every person together in their mother’s womb, there is no reason to hesitate to minister to someone who had a miscarriage. Her dear baby was created in the image of God, fearfully and wonderfully made. This miscarriage is not just a disappointment or a little blip on the road to having a “real” baby. I will not mince words here: she had a real baby who is now dead; she is a mother in the valley of the shadow of death; she has every right to miss this son or daughter very much, often for a very long time. Since we know these things are true, there is no reason to say something like “You can have another baby,” or “At least you know you can get pregnant,” because these statements brush off the value of the life of her baby who was very real, very loved, and very much created in the image of God. This worth of a human life is just as true of a baby who barely grew as it is for another born healthy at full-term, or your brother, or grandma.
2) We know that death is real. Any death is a stark reminder of the Fall, that things are absolutely not as they should be, that Jesus has not come back yet. And if someone is facing these things head-on, because perhaps she has very literally “carried death in her body,” it would be unloving to look in her face of grief, just telling her to cheer up and get over it. Proverbs 25:20 says, “Whoever sings songs to a heavy heart is like one who takes off a garment on a cold day.” Please know the days of grieving a baby are often quite cold. A more compassionate response would be to sit with her in the hour of grief and offer your love in the way she needs it, not just in the way you want to give it. Pray, and when the time is right, lovingly remind her of the gospel and the Resurrection. Because that’s one of the best parts of Christianity: Death is real, but the Resurrection is, too!
3) We have the Bible as a “guide book” for our lives. Scripture has much to say about loss, personal darkness, and ministering to those in distress. You might have to do some extra digging, though, in analyzing entire chapters and books (like all of the Psalms, 1 Thessalonians 4 or Romans 8) instead of grabbing a verse and quoting it out of context (like Psalm 37:4 or Romans 8:28). You won’t find anywhere that scripture mandates you to comfort someone with a reminder of their possible future earthly blessings, but you will find a lot about clinging to the sufferings of Christ and the hope of eternal life. 1 Thessalonians 4 very specifically tells us how to comfort those who grieve: remind them of the truth of Jesus’ life, death, resurrection, and imminent return. That’s it. Keep it there. If you know how to say “I love you, and I am so sorry you are in pain,” and can really read your Bible, you can extend Christ’s comfort to someone who is suffering.
4) We have the gospel! We have a special understanding of the purpose of life, death, and salvation. We know any ability to truly comfort someone else comes directly from Christ, who has borne all sin, sorrow, and suffering on the cross. You don’t need to tell someone that “God will never give you more than you can bear,” when, in fact, there is nothing in life that we can bear apart from Christ and his work on the Cross. You don’t have to wonder how to approach someone in grief, because you can pray for them and lovingly share the gospel. In a season shadowed by terrible news, like, “we can’t find a heartbeat,” or “your pregnancy is over,” your friend needs now, more than ever, to hear the good news. It’s not just for the lost! Christians still need to hear it. And when everyone else is trying to comfort this woman with lies, half-truths, or unfounded prophecies (“I just know you’ll have another baby soon!”), you can lovingly recount the truth of her salvation with her. This is the greatest gift you can give anyone, and you have the opportunity to share it with someone in one of her darkest hours.
There’s certainly more that could be said here, but I’ll wrap it up for now. If you’ve experienced miscarriage, what ministered to you the most during your grief? And if you have been afraid to reach out to someone suffering in this way, what holds you back?
Since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.
– 1 Corinthians 15:21-22
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?”
She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.” – John 11:25–27
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