A little over ten years ago, my wife miscarried with our second child. Ever since then, God in his kind providence has provided opportunity after opportunity for my wife and I to minister to other couples who have experienced this unique loss. As common as this kind of loss is, it is stunning how many well-meaning people have no idea how to best care for those who have lost an unborn baby. Here are a few tips for those interested in knowing helpful ways to care for a couple who have just experienced this loss.
1) Embrace the seriousness of this loss. The natural instinct of so many is to try and lessen the impact of the loss. The most common approach to accomplish this is to say things like, “Well, you know this is very common” or “At least you were very early in your pregnancy.” These comments are meant to be helpful, but unfortunately what they typically do is diminish the seriousness of a loss like this. The best way to care for a woman who has experienced a miscarriage is to recognize the seriousness of the loss and the legitimate sorrow she should be feeling.
2) Encourage both husband and wife to grieve. Moments after my wife and I found out we had lost the baby, my father (a family doctor)sat us down and explained to us how important it was that we grieved over this loss. That sounded strange to me because the child had not be born yet. We had not known the child like our other. But my father explained how important it was that we still talked about who the child would have acted like and who the child would have looked like. He urged us to be sad over the loss and that we should grieve over the loss of this child just like any other major loss in our life. It was freeing that someone told us it was OK, even good to take time to grieve. That was essential for us to deal with the loss and move forward from it.
3) Instruct the husband how to care for his wife. Husbands can lack discernment in knowing how to care for their wives. There are 2 important roles a husband must play. First, instruct a husband to be patient towards his wife’s adjustment to this loss. A woman not only has the loss to deal with, but a woman cannot escape all the physical signs of this loss. Many women have to have a medical procedure called a DNC that helps remove the remains of the baby that may not pass on its own. Women also have the hormonal changes that begin with pregnancy which takes time to change back when the body rejects the fetus. Second, urge a husband to allow his wife to see him grieve. I failed at this as I was trying to be strong for my wife, but what my wife really needed was to know I too was sad over the loss.
4) Affirm the Sovereignty of God in this loss. We rarely get answers to the questions wrapped up in a loss as this, but we should always take the eyes of a Christian couple and fix them upon Christ and remind them that God is both sovereign and good in the midst of this loss. God has good and maturing purposes for them both in this suffering and just like in any loss, we must trust in the perfect plan of our sovereign God who comforts his people when we are afflicted. Read to the couple helpful passages from Scripture that affirm this truth (2 Cor. 1:3-7; James 1:2-4; Psalm 46; Psalm 139).
5) Prepare them for future ministry opportunities. In the uniqueness of this loss, God uses it to uniquely qualify a couple to later be that needed sympathetic voice to another couple who will walk through a similar pain. The best people to care for those who have experienced a miscarriage are others who have experienced it. God has time and time again reminded my wife and I of this. Remind that hurting couple you seek to minister to that God may very well be preparing them for the same opportunity one day.
Pastors, guard from try to dismiss the seriousness of this loss. It is real, painful, and will require focused time to grieve and work through this loss. Sometimes the best thing to do is to sit with the couple, weep with those who weep, share your regret, and affirm this loss has not changed the good and kind God who formed each of us in our mother’s womb and numbered our days (and our children) before there was but one (Ps. 139:13-16).