While Kay told her story, tears welled in my eyes. Her beautiful daughter died just a few days after birth due to a genetic birth defect. The doctors advised Kay and her husband to leave the baby in the hospital. She wouldn’t know them anyway. But for the days her daughter lived, Kay was the one who could calm her weak cries. A mother knows her child, and a child knows her mother’s voice. Kay treasures those moments with her precious daughter and grieves.
Toby had a cold, a fever, drippy eyes, and running nose. Mom put him to bed, which he didn’t fight. Two hours later, Toby was in heaven with Jesus. No warning. No struggle. SIDS, the experts said. And his mother and father were left to grieve.
On October 17, 1984, I lost my second child to miscarriage. It was sudden, painful, and life-threatening. My baby lost its life; I survived. With guilt. What had I done to kill my baby? Grief overwhelmed my husband and me.
No matter what the story is, a child’s life is lost through miscarriage, abortion, SIDS, illness, or accident more often than we want to believe.
According to hopexchange.com, more than 500,000 pregnancies each year end in miscarriage (occurring during the first 20 weeks), approximately 26,000 end in stillbirth (considered stillbirth after 20 weeks), approximately 19,000 end in infant death during the first month, and about 39,000 end in infant death during the first year.
The Mayo Clinic reports that 10-20% of all known pregnancies end in miscarriage. However, many women miscarry before they realize they are pregnant. While it is common, it is not easy to deal with. The woman feels the loss of the child whether she held that child in her arms and looked in the child’s eyes or not. Why? Because she held that child in her womb. God designed a woman to connect with her child in the womb in a way that cannot be explained.
I love what they say on the Mayo Clinic site. Miscarriage implies that something was amiss during the carrying of the pregnancy. As the article states, this is rarely true. Usually, as was the case for my child, the baby wasn’t developing normally. My child had the 13th chromosome (an extra one) which meant the baby would probably have been stillborn or died right after birth. While that didn’t relieve the grief Dave and I felt, it did help explain why my baby died in the womb.
So with 1 in 4 women experiencing such grief, how do you respond to a woman who has lost a child?
- At least you never held that child
- You can have more children
- It was just a fetus, not a child
- God needed another angel in heaven
- God spared that child from heartache
- Be thankful for the children you have
- You should have slowed down
- So you had a spontaneous abortion
When I heard a medical professional refer to my baby’s death as spontaneous abortion, I was offended. In medical jargon, spontaneous abortion is a miscarriage, which I didn’t know until that moment. But to say that to a grieving mother is cruel.
Here’s what you can say:
- I’m so sorry.
- I can’t imagine your grief (or if you’ve experienced a miscarriage, I understand your grief).
- May I pray for you right now?
- How are you doing today?
- Your baby is precious.
- You didn’t do anything to cause this.
- It wasn’t your fault.
- You can call me if you need to talk. I’ll listen.
- Nothing. Hug her and let her cry.
Be careful with your words.
I learned this valuable lesson after my miscarriage. Words have the power to heal or to wound. Too often, because we are uncomfortable with another person’s pain, we blurt out the first thing that comes to mind. We desire to fix their pain, not walk alongside them in it.
Sometimes the best comfort you can give someone is to sit with them in quiet until they are ready to talk. Then zip your lip and listen. Open your heart to their grief.
When a person grieves, spiritual platitudes can wound. Job’s friends sought to explain the disaster God allowed. Surely there was a reasonable explanation. Right? Well, not in a way that made any sense to human beings. In the end, Job admits that God is God. There is no other explanation. Until I experienced the death of my second baby, I didn’t understand the book of Job. As I recognized Job’s pain and his wife’s intense grief—curse God and die—God, the Father began to open my eyes to deal with my deep wound honestly. He alone could handle my questions and rawness. And He wasn’t afraid to walk with me through my healing process.
There is hope for you.
First, God your Father loves you and your baby more than you can imagine. Your grief doesn’t scare Him or put Him off. You can bring it to Him and know that He will cry with you.
Second, there’s an organization called, Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep, that offers a beautiful service to parents dealing with infant loss. Through a gift of beautiful professional photography, they capture your child to give you a remembrance. I hope you’ll watch the video that tells the story. But have some tissues handy. You’ll need them.
Third, as others who have a lost a child will tell you, you will survive and even thrive. The grief debilitates for a season. But, because of God’s mercies, you will learn to move forward. It’s been 34 years since my baby died. Every October 17, I remember and wonder what might have been. Without a doubt, I believe I will spend eternity with that baby. My child is fully alive and whole with Jesus.
Fourth, find a way to honor the memory of your child. Every life is precious and deserves celebration. Several years ago, my husband and I chose to sponsor a child through Compassion International who has the same birthday as our second child. Be creative, but find a way to celebrate your child that brings you joy. If sponsoring a child is something you’d like to do, please click here or on the banner on the right side of this webpage.
Here are some resources I recommend written by women who have lost a child:
After the Flowers Die by Melanie Delorme
When Tragedy Strikes by Laura Diehl
Up Close and Personal by Sharon Patrick
I also talk about my miscarriage in my book, Choosing a Way Out: When the Bottom Isn’t the Bottom. The loss of my child was one of the building blocks in my life’s tower that came tumbling down when a marital crisis exploded into our lives.
If you have experienced a loss of a child, I grieve with you. Share a comment below, as you are able. I’d love to pray for you and encourage you. Don’t walk this path alone. We are meant to come alongside each other to help carry the grief.
If you need help, please reach out. I promise to listen without judgment and help you take the next step.