Infant loss is a complex form of both loss and grief. It is also frequent, affecting 1 in 4 pregnancies. However, very few of us feel equipped with the “right words” to say when someone we love experiences miscarriage.
Let me be the first to say—there will never be a response to miscarriage that feels “enough,” because there is no quick fix or silver lining to the injustice of death and fractured dreams. I’ll be honest: even though I’ve experienced infant loss personally and currently walk alongside thousands of loss moms through my work with Hope Again Collective, I still have moments where I’m frozen in a loss for words when I hear someone I love has had a miscarriage.
This is common. In an effort to avoid saying the wrong thing to someone who has experienced miscarriage, a lot of people resort to silence. They don’t want to say the wrong thing, so they just say nothing. This approach can be well-intentioned. But for the moms and dads grieving the death of their unborn baby, silence from loved ones adds to the cold, isolating grieving process of infant loss.
So what can you do instead? Say something. A grieving parent does not need you to explain why their baby died, they do not need you to provide theological reasoning, or suggest a silver lining to their pain. They simply long for what every grieving heart needs: the ministry of presence and a reminder that God is with them as they walk through the valley of the shadow of death.
Here are some of the most helpful phrases I heard after my miscarriage:
- I’m so sorry this happened.
- Your baby’s life matters.
- You are not to blame.
- I am here to listen to whatever you’d like to share.
- I love you as much as I always have.
On the contrary, hearing these things after my baby died was unhelpful:
- Everything happens for a reason.
- God needed another angel.
- At least you know you can get pregnant.
- Thankfully you’re young and have time to try again.
- This must have been God’s plan.
When I don’t know what to say to a grieving parent, I default to what Jesus did when he was faced with personal grief: he wept. The example Jesus sets for us in John 11 is the precedent for the instruction Paul would give us later: to weep with those who weep (Romans 12:15).
When entering the home of his close friend, who was now dead, Jesus did not stay silent. Jesus did not approach Mary and Martha with silver linings suggesting reasons why their brother had died. Jesus didn’t say “Be glad you had so many years with him before he died.” And even though Jesus held the power to bring Lazarus back to life (and later did), Jesus brought the balm the grieving family needed most: the ministry of presence.
Jesus went, Jesus comforted, and Jesus wept. If someone you love is walking through the complex loss of miscarriage or stillbirth, you don’t need firsthand experience with infant loss. Just follow the roadmap of Jesus: go, comfort, and weep.
Rachel shares more encouragement in her devotional series Finding Jesus in Grief: Hope after Infant Loss and Miscarriage, and through her jewelry line, Hope Again Collective.
About the Author
Rachel Lohman is the mom of two toddlers and founder of Hope Again Collective. She lives outside of Los Angeles where she helps lead a bilingual church, The Bridge Chino, alongside her husband, Mark.