Losing an infant, or miscarrying brings with it a unique grief. All of the hopes and dreams of the future a parent wraps in a child. October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. Sadly, we seldom realize how many families are grieving until we become one. What’s worse, is we want to help, but can’t begin to know where to begin.
That’s hard. Real hard. There is no fixing a grieving heart.
We scramble for the right words—but deep down, we know that whatever we say is just not going to be enough. Still, want to ease their suffering.
What do you do? What do you say? How can you make a difference?
In 2008, we lost our youngest son at age 13. Our world shattered. Looking back, there were those who helped us immensely, probably never realizing how much their gestures mattered. I’ve listed what is and is not helpful. Some of these might surprise you.
Don’t confuse the amount of effort on your end, with the amount of impact.
What may seem insignificant on your end, can be enormous on the receiving end. While every family is different, and there’s an exception to every rule, if you follow these guidelines, you can be sure you are helping a family in mourning in the most meaningful way.
• Try to refrain from asking ambiguous questions or general offers to help.
Such as, “Is there anything I can do?” Or, “What can I do to help?” A grieving family only wants their baby back. It’s hard for them to see anything past that. You can be immensely helpful by just being attentive. Look for needs. The everyday chores that we normally do without giving much thought, suddenly becomes overwhelming.
• Don’t offer advice or explanations.
Platitudes like, “You can always have more children.” or “Be thankful for the children you have.” are extremely hurtful to the person who is grieving a loss. There are times when silence says more than words. This is that time. Sitting and crying alongside a family who is grieving is more comforting than anything you can find to say. You. Your presence is priceless.
When you ask, “How are you doing?” there is not a good answer. Grieving parents are just trying to keep breathing. So most often, the easiest fallback is simply, “I’m okay.” Not because they are, but because they just can’t express adequately how they really feel. So, instead of asking how they are, just let them know you have been thinking about them. Or let them know you’ve been praying for them and their family.
• Understand that grief is exhausting, both mentally and physically.
• There is no timeline for grief.
Yes, there are phases, or “stages” of grief but simply moving through the stages does not mean the person is done. Or “ready to move on.”
• Grieving well, is grieving deeply—not hiding or controlling grief.
Mourning is just the opposite. Allow them the freedom to feel sad, cry, and grieve their loss. Tears can be healing to a tattered heart.
Always remember, that not only have they lost a baby, they lost part of themselves, and the hope of what their future looked like as a family. The very best thing you can do for someone who is grieving is being there when they need to cry. Most of all, giving them the freedom to recover at their own pace.
This is a time, when it not only okay, not to be okay—but it is healthy to mourn.
The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18
Rhonda Robinson is a speaker and the author of Freefall: Holding Onto Faith When the Unthinkable Strikes, offering women spiritual wisdom to transform the darkness into a season of profound change and emerge with vision and purpose. Learn more at RhondaRobinson.tv
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