A friend of mine just told me that she recently had a miscarriage, and she asked a few questions about my experience after I miscarried a baby four years ago. Her questions got me thinking about what my family and I went through at that time and the resources that helped us through it. I wanted to share these ideas in case they might help any readers who are grieving a miscarriage.
Four years ago my husband and I went to an ultrasound appointment and we found out that our 12-week-old baby’s heart was no longer beating. We were shocked, especially because up until that point in the pregnancy I had had nausea, which I had assumed was a good sign of the baby’s health. We drove home with such deep sadness in our hearts, not knowing what to think or how to react to this news. We had a wonderful doctor who was very sensitive and kind, and she had explained that medically-speaking, between 10-25% of pregnancies end in miscarriage, and that doctors normally cannot pinpoint what causes one to occur, but emotionally I was at such a loss as to how to deal with the pain I felt.
The few months that followed were a rollercoaster of emotions, but looking back on that time I see that God gave us some very special blessings and resources that helped us to get through our loss and to gain many spiritual fruits from it. So often, miscarriage is a cross that people bear privately, which is understandable, but that fact can also be detrimental in the sense that if someone experiences a miscarriage for the first time, they may not know what to think or expect because no one has ever talked to them about the experience before. With the hope of helping anyone who is grieving a miscarried baby, whether the baby passed away recently or years ago, here are five things that helped my family and me, and that I hope will help to bring consolation and healing to others:
Grieve the loss
This may seem obvious, but often doctors and nurses do not treat a miscarriage as the loss of a baby, so people may attempt to stifle the emotions they feel because “it happens to a lot of people,” or “it’s just tissue.” Well, miscarriage does happen often, but it is a real loss, and when a miscarriage occurs it is a human life that has been cut short, so, if you or someone you know has experienced a miscarriage, please recognize it for the loss that it is. Without this recognition, the loss cannot be grieved, and additional problems can arise.
After my miscarriage, I was trying to pretend like everything was fine for our 2 ½-year-old son because I didn’t want to upset him. Well, he suddenly started acting out, a lot, and waking up every night for no apparent reason. A priest friend of ours suggested that we talk to our son about the baby and what had happened, and when we did that he took it so well. He really understood, and he was sad, but he was also happy that his baby sister was in heaven. Sometimes I think children grieve better than adults because they don’t stifle their emotions, they have purer hearts, and stronger faith. I learned a lot from our son about how to view the situation with eyes of faith.
Talk to someone
It can be very helpful to talk with a friend, especially someone who has experienced a miscarriage, but if you don’t know someone who has, there are other options. There are support groups available, and you can go here to find a group in your area (this website also has a 24/7 grief support counselor on call). You may also want to consider seeing a counselor if you are having a difficult time coping. I did all three of these things and the combination helped immensely. As a counselor, I know the therapeutic value of friendship, support groups and individual therapy, but when I was grieving the death of our baby I learned about their therapeutic value first-hand.
Have a burial service if possible
The Archdiocese where we were living at the time had a burial service once a month for anyone who had recently lost a baby in miscarriage or stillbirth. The priest at the service gave a beautiful homily and I still treasure many of the things he said, but one comment in particular stood out to me.
Looking around at all of the parents and family members present he said, “One day you will look back on your life and the life of your family and you will see that you were blessed in ways that would not have been possible had it not been for your baby interceding for you in heaven.” This was very consoling to us, to think that our child was praying for us, and there is theological support for it as well.
(For further reading, see The Hope of Salvation for Infants who Die Without Being Baptized, which was prepared by the International Theological Commission, and was approved by Pope Benedict in 2005.)
Name your baby
There is a beautiful part in the book Heaven is for Real by Todd Burpo where little Colton explains to his mother, who has never told him that she miscarried a baby before he was born, that he met his big sister in heaven and that she was so happy to see him that she couldn’t stop hugging him. He then tells his mother, emphatically, “you need to name her Mommy, she doesn’t have a name!”
When I tell people that we named our baby Bridget, they ask if we had found out the sex of the baby. While we had not found out through an ultrasound, we know in our hearts that the baby was a girl. When you name your baby it is easier to ask for their intercession, which leads me to the next suggestion.
Ask your child to intercede
Ask your child to intercede for you and your family, often, and especially in times of greatest need. This is something I try to do on a daily basis, and it has been a powerful aid in my life. A good priest encouraged me to do this one day, when I had a particularly difficult issue to work out, and the problem resolved itself very quickly. Ever since then, I have not failed to ask our little Bridget to pray for me when I face a challenging situation.
As you grieve the loss of your baby, turn to God and ask for his help. Grieving takes time, and in some way, it never really “ends.” There will be sadness about the loss well after the miscarriage has occurred, because when a baby passes away before birth you not only experience the loss of a beautiful infant, you experience the loss of a member of your family, of a child and a sibling who is no longer here on earth, and you will grieve the loss of the whole potential life that child would have led, so in a way, you will experience the loss for the rest of your life. That being said, with time, you will be able to find joy in the thought of your child, and in the hope of meeting your son or daughter in heaven one day, where:
“Eye has not seen, and ear has not heard . . . what God has prepared for those who love him.” (1Cor. 2:9)