Carry Each Other’s Burdens: Ministering to those Enduring Miscarriage
- Teske Drake President, Mommies With Hope
- 2013 1 Jan
Editor's note: This article is Part 2 of a 3-Part series on healing from pregnancy loss. Today's author, Teske Drake, writes on the miscarriage, stillbirth, and infant loss. Part 1 can be read here.
The news of pregnancy elicits emotions of all kinds for expectant parents. Whether the pregnancy was planned or took the parents by surprise, one can’t deny the presence of emotion. Joy, excitement, surprise, trepidation. Emotion enhances the attachment bond that occurs between parent and child in those early days. Often, bonding first occurs in the form of hopes and dreams that take root long before pregnancy occurs. Pregnancy is then the culmination of dreams for the couple and give confirmation of what’s to come: a new addition to the family. When those hopes and dreams are dashed due to miscarriage or infant loss, grief naturally ensues. The response of those surrounding the bereaved has the potential to lift up or tear down. Scripture commands that we are to “Carry each other’s burdens and in this way, you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2). Why, then, do we find it so hard to know how to comfort those who endure childbearing losses?
When I found out I was pregnant with our second child, I raced to the store to buy an “I love Daddy” bib as my way of sharing the news with my husband later that night. Within days, we told family and friends, excited to see our plans unfolding before our eyes. Weeks and months went by until we were halfway through our pregnancy and heard these words at a routine ultrasound: “Your baby is going to die.”
Questions poured out, almost as quickly as the tears as we learned more about our baby’s diagnosis and our options. We discovered we were having a little girl who had a chromosomal abnormality that impacted her brain development. Thus, we had two options: 1) We could continue the pregnancy to term, knowing that our baby would die shortly after birth, or 2) We could terminate the pregnancy. We trusted that our baby girl’s life was in God’s hands and continued the pregnancy. I gave birth to Chloe Marie at 32 weeks along after going into premature labor due to pregnancy complications. Chloe lived for 45 minutes and we treasured every moment.
Chloe’s life and death helped me understand the magnitude of grief experienced by parents who endure childbearing losses. I also became more keenly aware of the prevalence of such loss. In the United States, it is estimated that 1 in 4 pregnancies ends in miscarriage and there are 26,000 stillbirths each year. These statistics became even more of a reality to me when a couple of years later I experienced two miscarriages, baby Jesse at 6 weeks gestation and Riyah Mae at 14 weeks gestation. Throughout our journey, there have been those who’ve come alongside us to carry the burden, pointing us to the hope we have in Christ. There’ve been others, well-meaning I am sure, whose attempts to comfort have brought about more hurt than healing. My own experience has compelled me to embrace the calling to be a comfort to others because of the comfort I received from God, as described in 2 Corinthians 1:3-4.
You may be wondering how you can be of comfort to someone who has been through such a loss if you haven’t experienced it yourself. Yes, shared experience plays a role in creating a safe environment for openness and vulnerability (2 Corinthians 1:7). Still, each of us has the opportunity to minister to those hurting as a result of miscarriage, stillbirth, or infant loss. Losses such as these quite often go unrecognized, are minimized, or are outright disenfranchised, despite the frequency of their occurrence. Even further disenfranchised is the silent grief experienced by the millions of Christian American women who are grieving after loss by abortion. There are millions of women grieving all types of reproductive losses, within the walls of our churches. We are called to carry the burden together.
Romans 12:15 instructs us to “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” Might we be a people who are willing to go deep into the trenches with those who are grieving just as readily as we are to stand upon the mountaintop with those who celebrate a season of blessing? As members of one body, the Body of Christ, we are to use our gifts to build each other up.
The prevalence of miscarriage, stillbirth, infant loss and abortion are so pervasive that if you have not experienced this type of loss yourself, you know someone who has. How, then can we come alongside, carry the burden, and minister to those grieving such losses?
Acknowledge the Life: Those who’ve endured loss need validation. Failure to acknowledge the life and loss may cause parents to feel like people don’t care. The simple gesture of sending a card or expressing your condolences sends a wonderful message of support, opening doors for additional opportunities to minister. As you acknowledge the deep grief, be careful to avoid common Christian clichés that may unintentionally minimize the loss. Simply validate their pain and offer love.
Don’t Forget Dad: In pregnancy and infant loss situations, most of the attention is focused on the mother. However, dads grieve too! Each person is going to experience his/her grief in their own unique way. Dads whose babies die are often expected to “be strong” and to protect the mom. Such expectation places added pressure for grieving dads.
Remember Special Days: Facing special days, such as holidays, birthdays, anniversary dates and the like can be difficult for anyone who has had someone special in their life die. For parents whose baby has died, there are some additional dates to be aware of, including: the due date of the child as well as Mother’s and Father’s Days. Send a card to show you care and be sure to acknowledge the significance that these special days hold.
Give them a Gift of Remembrance: When someone loved dies, we are left with memories to help us cope. When a baby dies, there are few memories or tangible mementos, if any. There are numerous gift ideas to give in remembrance or as a keepsake. Some specific examples may include:
-Create or have a baby quilt made and personalize it in some unique way.
-Give the family an outdoor perennial planting that will bloom each Spring.
-Customize a piece of jewelry with the baby’s name or initials or consider giving a special charm.
-Purchase a meaningful figurine in remembrance of the child.
-Be creative and put together a small scrapbook or shadow box that details this journey.
- Pray for the Parents (and tell them so): Never underestimate the power of prayer. James 5:16 reminds us, “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” Let the parents know that you are lifting them up to the Lord in prayer.
Together, let’s unveil the silence surrounding this real and widespread issue that permeates our churches and beyond. Let’s do what Scripture says and carry each other’s burdens. In doing so, we grasp the opportunity to point those hurting to the healing hope of Jesus, who is our hope. Then, our Father in heaven is exalted and glorified in the building up of the Body of Christ.
Teske Drake is a mommy to three babies in heaven, mother to two on earth, and wife to her one and only, Justin. Inspired by her own loss experiences, Teske serves as co-founder and President of Mommies with Hope, a biblically-based support group ministry for women who have experienced the loss of a child through miscarriage, stillbirth, or infant loss. Teske is the author of Hope for Today, Promises for Tomorrow: Finding Light Beyond the Shadow of Miscarriage or Infant Loss (Kregel, 2012) and she leads women to live in hope at www.mommieswithhope.com.
Publication date: January 15, 2013