When a child is conceived and two people rejoice, images and hopes of what life will be like begin to blossom in their minds. And if, tragically, the pregnancy isn’t viable and the child is lost, the parents mourn. In America, our culture still seems unsure on how to mourn or indeed how to even acknowledge miscarriage. Women may be embattled with feelings of how much grieving is “appropriate” or wonder why they can’t seem to move on. It’s a strange phenomenon really. The privacy that generally clouds miscarriages is something that I theorize to be an ironic blend of early Victorian sensibilities and the modern attitudes toward abortion. Don’t talk about it. Don’t make people uncomfortable. Was it really an actual child of yours anyway? This is just my theory but I wonder what society would be like if we felt comfortable talking about miscarriage and maybe how that might impact the abortion industry.
So many people are very touchy about miscarriage and others are awkwardly open about them that it makes it difficult to find a delicate, respectful balance on how to bring this discussion to light. The truth is, just as you probably know a woman who has had an abortion (whether you realize it or not) you certainly know or are a woman who has had a miscarriage also. If we are able to acknowledge the unique, unrepeatable lives of miscarried babies, would the dialogue change on intentionally destroyed “products of conception” as well? Would people start to wonder why we mourn the lives of early lost children who were wanted… but not the lives of early lost children who weren’t? It’s hypothetical, but I can’t see any reason why opening up the conversation about miscarriage wouldn’t help the pro-life cause.
As someone who has lost three unborn children, all I can offer is some perspective in how people might consider both talking and listening about miscarriage. If we were able to really open up and practice some healthy measures on dealing with miscarriage, society just might find the solace of honesty falling like rain to soften their hardened hearts:
- Offer empathy to others who’ve recently experienced a loss while not diving right into your story: “I know just how you feel…”.
- While always being open about your losses, consider not advertising your miscarried children when people ask how many children you have. Saying things like “… and three more in Heaven!” makes the listener unsure of how to respond to that and feel obliged to offer awkward condolences. In most religious persuasions, children aren’t seen as “ours” anyway, but gifts that we receive and offer back to God when their time comes.
- Let your friends and family know when you lose a baby, even those hostile toward new life. Seeing you grieve a child, so young and not even known yet, can be a powerful witness.
- Consider having a little memorial service or planting a flower or tree for your baby. Discuss the baby with siblings and light a candle on the memorial day of their death. It doesn’t have to be a downer, it can be a simple, beautiful testimony to the sanctity of life that’ll stay in your children’s minds forever.
- Be patient with grief. It manifests itself for years and may not ever totally heal. Being open about discussing lost children from a decade ago can still have an immediate effect on attitudes of today.
- Express genuine concern and sorrow for the loss.
- Don’t say thing to diminish the loss like “It’s a good thing you weren’t further along!” or “You’ll be pregnant again soon!”
- Ask what you can do to tangibly help; specific offers are best. Food is love. The woman will probably say something like “I’ll be okay.” or “Don’t worry about it.” in which case, gentle firmness works great. Either make a bunch of burritos and leave them on her doorstep or mail a gift card for pizza if you think the family wants their privacy.
- Consider a sympathy card or flowers or some other demonstration of support that would be typical of “normal” deaths. Prayers are always appreciated.
- Be patient in supporting the grief of a friend or family member. Resolution takes time.