October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. The entire month is dedicated to those who have experienced the loss of a baby, and it is a time set aside to grieve and remember families and their babies. One in four pregnancies result in miscarriage; one in eight women experience recurrent miscarriages; and stillbirth affects one in one hundred pregnancies. When someone is walking through a season of grief such as this, they are in a delicate state. Oftentimes, people try to offer comfort with the best intentions, but it can be interpreted as insensitive. Words carry an even heavier weight when one is grieving with an already heavy heart. Grieving can cause someone to hang on to every word and twist it in their mind. It may begin to feel, to that person, like no one understands.
In the same way, a lack of words can be just as damaging and isolating. Silence out of fear from loved ones—who fear saying the wrong thing—can make it feel to the one suffering like no one cares or nothing has happened. Now that heavy heart, already trying to make sense of comments, might be weighed down even more because of feeling alone in its grief.
As a couple who has walked through four miscarriages in a year and a half, my husband and I have experienced both sides of this. I have come to realize that people are not trying to cause us additional hurt—but the exact opposite. Our heavy hearts cannot always see it that clearly. Rather than lacking sympathy, people often lack knowledge or experience with a miscarriage or infant loss. Although one in four people in the United States experience this type of loss, that does not mean people know how to talk about it. Miscarriage and infant loss are topics that have often been kept silent, but more people are sharing their stories to help others feel less alone. Since more people are open now about their losses, other people want to know what to say.
Letting Go of Hurtful Words
Although these might sound helpful, these are things not to say:
- “This is just God’s plan, and we have to trust it.”
- “You’re still young. It’ll happen.”
- “At least you know you can get pregnant.”
- “My friend had a lot of miscarriages and now has kids, so you’ll be okay.”
- “It will happen in God’s time, not our time.”
If you have walked through a miscarriage and have heard painful comments, I encourage you to write them all down and then pray about them. I personally did this and have found that I was able to forgive many of the painful comments I had been hanging onto.
What can we say to someone who has lost a baby, then, when saying the wrong thing can cause damage but not saying anything at all can leave them feeling alone?
You can say, “I’m so sorry for such a difficult loss. I will be praying for you.”
That’s it. Your words cannot fix the pain, but acknowledging the loss and showing you care can go a long way. Pray for them each day and remind them later on that you are still praying. If you have a close relationship with the person who is walking through grief, look for additional ways to walk alongside them or sit with them in their time of grief.
Sharing Your Pregnancy or Infant Loss Story
Everyone is different, which is why pregnancy and infant loss is such a sensitive topic. Some people choose to share their stories, while others prefer privacy. My husband and I decided to publicly share our miscarriages to allow our loved ones to walk with us—and to help those walking the same path to not feel alone. As we experienced our miscarriages, I appreciated those who asked, “When is a good night for me to bring over dinner?” rather than “Let me know if there is anything I can do.” It relieved us of the burden of having to reach out to let others know we needed something. I have also had loved ones ask when our baby’s due date was so they could send a card on that day or give a birth flower or meaningful necklace. Acknowledging painful anniversaries and milestones that will come along during the calendar year, such as the due date or Mother’s Day, is a wonderful way to show someone they are not forgotten, and neither is their baby. These small acts show that you remember.
When we hear that someone is experiencing a loss, we might think we need to do something or say something. However, the best ministry in grief is best done through Jesus. Our Savior bore our sorrows and carried our griefs. Simply being present with someone rather than trying to “fix” things right away is best. We give ourselves when someone is walking through grief because that is what Jesus does for us. John writes, “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). We sit in one another’s sorrow because Jesus sits with us in our mess.
Read nine stories from nine real women who have experienced miscarriage or infant loss.