What not to say when you don’t know what to say

What NOT to Say When you Don’t Know What to Say

A little tough love from a grieving mother on how NOT to comfort someone mourning a miscarriage

A miscarriage is one of the most painful things a woman can experience. As I have grown through this painful process of miscarriage, I’ve had many people come up to me and say some of the most rude, insensitive and painful things that I am convinced that they have no idea that their comments are not at all comforting.

Because there were so many inappropriate comments, it made me think that this has been the norm and it is how people attempt to comfort those who are mourning.

Initially, I would stand in shock as people attempting to console me would say some of the most horrific things. While listening to their stories, advice, fears and questions, I’d quietly say to myself, “How can you possibly think that what you’re sharing is appropriate for me to hear…right now? How can you ask me such a personal question while I’m still in the throes of a devastating loss?  You do realize my baby has died?”

I felt like I had just been emotionally assaulted. (And I had).  It felt like satan was using the people I loved…the people that love me…to literally gut-punch me over and over again every day since we lost the baby.  The sad part about it is our loved ones have no idea that they were hurting me/us. At the time I couldn’t find the strength or courage to say anything.  I couldn’t even stop them from talking. Instead, all I could do was let go as the tears fell down my cheeks.

So, I wondered, “Why are so many people utterly oblivious as to how their comments and questions could affect someone in my situation?”

Honestly, the whole experience after the miscarriage was a real trip. As I cried in my husband’s arms, I said, “Someone has to say something. How can they not know that they are hurting me? It’s bad enough that I endured this loss, but now this! I can’t take any more of this!”

A friend said to me, “That’s why you just shouldn’t say anything. Just keep your personal business to yourself and you won’t have to deal with that”.

“Really? That just can’t be the answer. Don’t tell anybody you’re pregnant, and then you won’t have to deal with this.” I said. “The answer has to be EDUCATE! Someone has to tell the truth here. This is just out of order and it must be addressed so that an adjustment can be made.”

As with everything I grow through, I look for the lessons. My lesson here is that there is clearly a lack of honest, candid discussion on the subject and the resulting ignorance causes far more harm than good.

No one wants to tell the truth. No one wants to offend. No one wants to stand up for themselves and say what needs to be said so that we all can heal…until today!

So, please allow me to be the one to bring the wisdom. If not for myself, for all of the women who will follow me with the same tragic story and then have her pain compounded by the ignorance and insensitivity shown by those closest to her and who really mean her no harm.

This experience has shown me 2 things quite clearly:

  1. In times like these, many of us just honestly and sincerely don’t know what to say.
  2. There are a lot of women who have endured a loss, some even many years ago, and they still are longing to be healed.

So, I’ve compiled a list of the comments, questions and unsolicited advice that was given to me in the 1st 7 days following my miscarriage.  Buckle up. Here we go.

Don’t advise a pregnant woman to be afraid to share God’s good news.

“Next time wait until you are 3 or 4 months before you tell anyone.” They’d say.

After we miscarried, this was the advice we received from countless people. While it was well-intentioned, it is fear-based advice. (If this advice is found in the word of God, please do share the scripture reference.)

Sharing the news of a pregnancy is a very personal decision. When my husband and I were deciding whether or not to share our news we asked ourselves why women don’t share their news earlier. We learned that the most common reason is the fear of miscarriage.

For us, we decided to not fear the worst, but to believe for and expect the best. After all, God had just healed my body. I was no longer taking the 6 medicines that I had been prescribed for the last decade. We were not only celebrating our new addition but we were celebrating God’s miraculous healing. It was our hope that those we told would agree with us and pray with us for a successful pregnancy and birth.

Yes having to share the news of our loss was difficult, but the word says that we overcome by the word of our testimony.  What made it most difficult was not the loss itself, but it was how everyone else responded; which is why I decided to write this article.

Don’t tell a pregnant woman you’ve had a miscarriage.

It’s is never relevant for a pregnant woman to know that you’ve had one or more miscarriages. As I was sharing my news, I had some friends tell me that they had miscarriages before being able to successfully give birth.

I was left with the thought, “Why did she tell me that?”  My next thought was “That won’t be my testimony!” But at the same time, in my imagination, scenes began to play of me hearing from my doctor that we had lost the baby. That visualization would have never been there had my, albeit well-meaning, ‘friends’ not shared their miscarriage stories with me. It was honestly the furthest thing from my mind.

So, remember that you are planting seeds with your words. Your pregnant loved one may have never even considered the fact that she could miscarry. But sharing your loss gives her something to be concerned about unnecessarily.

Don’t make the miscarriage her fault.

“Next time take it easy. Don’t do so much. Were you taking your prenatal vitamins? Were you eating enough and drinking enough water? Were you lifting and pushing things that were heavy? “

When you say things like that you are implying that had she done those things she wouldn’t have lost her baby. Basically you are saying that her behavior caused the miscarriage and that could be the furthest from the truth.

The most common cause of early miscarriage is chromosomal abnormalities. How could that ever be her fault? So don’t heap that guilt onto her already grieving heart.

There are lifestyle choices that can result in miscarriage as well like smoking, drug use, malnutrition, excessive caffeine and exposure to radiation or toxic substance. These can cause genetic mal-formalities that often result in early miscarriage. But the vast majority of miscarriages do not fall into this category.

Don’t share infertility stories with a pregnant woman or a grieving mother.

Don’t tell her how many times you were unsuccessful at getting pregnant or staying pregnant. Your story of infertility doesn’t comfort her. If anything, it makes her uncomfortable because she feels for you and what you had to endure, but she is torn because she knows that it is not in her best interest to listen to what you are sharing.

 

Keep in mind, your story paints a picture in her mind of tragedy, struggle, difficulty and even impossibility. That may not be her path at all. But our minds are so powerful that if she meditates continually on the mere thought of your difficulty, it could cause terrible challenges for her and her unborn baby.

You know how animals can smell fear? Well that’s because our bodies secrete enzymes into our bloodstream when we are in fear. Those enzymes can cause emotional difficulties for the unborn baby well into mature adulthood.

Just ask any woman who was abused during pregnancy, if it impacted the emotional development of her child and she’ll tell you it most certainly did.

So, don’t be the source of her fear-filled imagination. Only speak life to her.  She needs to be fed faith and not fear.

Hearing those stories forced me to go into deep prayer, meditation and confession to renew my mind to the fact that God’s will is for me to conceive and deliver healthy babies and I will expect nothing less.

Don’t tell a grieving mother about your multiple miscarriages.
A mother who has suffered through a miscarriage is in a fragile space emotionally. If she wants to try again to conceive, hearing stories of women suffering through 4, 5 and 6 miscarriages will just make her more anxious and fearful. Even if your end result was a healthy baby, she need not know there were 3 babies lost beforehand. That is not comforting to grieving Mom.
Don’t be the one who plants seeds of fear. 
Most of the women who shared this type of account with me, just wanted me to know that I wasn’t alone.
However, in the moment, it just made me wonder if that would be my testimony. It also made me question who I would become after so much loss and sadness. That is not the impression that they intended to leave with me, I’m sure. But that’s what it did nonetheless.
Again, I had to go into prayer and confession to get those thoughts from replaying themselves in my mind. I had to remind myself that it is God’s will for me to be fruitful and multiply. And that every woman in the bible who wanted to have children, did; even into their old age. I have nothing to fear. I only believe!
Don’t share miscarriages horror stories.
Don’t share how painful your miscarriage was or how you had to deliver your child at 5 or 6 months. And especially don’t tell her how you held your deceased child after delivering it stillborn.
Even if, in the end, you were finally able to deliver a healthy baby, no grieving mother with hopes of trying to get pregnant again wants the thought of that planted in her mind. That is not at all comforting…it is disturbing.
This happened to me more than once and I am still working to uproot those images from my mind.
Don’t ask invasive questions.

“Was it a boy or a girl? Did you have to deliver it vaginally? Did I come out in the toilet?”

Can you imagine the shock and hurt that she would feel to have to relive whatever dreadful experience she has endured, simply to satisfy your curiosity?

For me, it was like pulling off a scab that was already healing the pain.  Your questions reopen the wound and cause her to have to heal, not only from the loss, but now she has to recover from your comments, and dare I say…your incredible insensitivity.

Don’t tell her that you are afraid for her.

You were afraid that she told people too soon. You are afraid because of her age, her health history, her family history, her ability to carry children in the future! You are just afraid for her!

For whatever reason you are afraid, own the fact that those are your fears and perhaps not hers at all.

Don’t pass your fears onto her. Remember that fear has torment.

A miscarriage is one of the most painful things a woman can experience. Women who have just miscarried are incredibly fragile emotionally. It can often take years for a mother to heal from this type of loss. After all, her child has died.

Deal with your own fears with the Word of God…and allow God to heal you without bringing her into it.

Don’t curse the mother or child with your words.

Remember that women were created to be incubators. Whatever you deposit within a woman, she incubates and produces a result based on what was put in her. So don’t deposit something in a woman’s heart that could develop into a stronghold that works against her. That’s not love.

Also bear in mind this is a devastating time for her and her family and you don’t know what pain the mother had to go through or is still going through (both physical and emotional).

Most people don’t know that it could take a woman’s body 10 days to complete the process of mis-carrying a baby. She may still be in the midst of the process. So be sensitive to that and speak life only.

Don’t assume that she intends to give up on the hopes of having a baby.

Your insistence that she not give up may be unwarranted.  Instead, just remind her that she is loved and God will give her the desires of her heart. That’s what the Word says.

Don’t show her pictures of your newborn baby. 

She’s happy for you and soon she will be able to celebrate with you, but realize that this is an extremely sensitive and difficult time for her. Have a little compassion. Timing is everything. Give her time to get stronger so that she can celebrate with you earnestly.

Don’t give her any advice; just give her your love.  

“Next time don’t tell anyone until its safe…3 or 4 months.”   “Next time, get more rest.” Next time take it easy.” “Next time…Next time…Next time.”  If you plan to start your sentence with “Next time”…please don’t.

Don’t offer any advice. At this time, it’s not helpful nor is it comforting. Just remind her that you love her and you are praying for her and the family. That’s really all she wants and needs to hear.

How I Learned to Guard My Heart

At first I would just stand there in shock and listen to their stories, advice, fears and the like. But I got to a point where I would already be prepared to hear something awful when someone would call or if I saw someone who had heard our sad news. Whether they were going to say something rude or not, I was ready to defend my heart.

At the same time I was conflicted because I knew that my attitude was not at all ‘Godly’. I was ready to lash out in anger and tell them – “What makes you think that’s comforting for me? Or, do you really think that’s an appropriate question? That’s just none of your business! Just leave me alone, please!”

I knew that they meant well and clearly they didn’t know any better. Perhaps they just didn’t know what else to say.

But I also knew I had to begin to protect my heart. The word says that our hearts are good ground and I couldn’t afford to allow thorns and thistles to be planted in me, especially knowing that I wanted to immediately try again to get pregnant. I had to both guard and keep the ground that is my heart. So I had to figure out a way to get the message across that I can’t afford to listen to any more nonsense and say it in love.

I learned that it’s ok to stop people mid-sentence if necessary. As soon as they begin, “I’m sorry for your loss but let me tell you what happened to me…”

I interrupt them and say, “NO!  I’m sorry but I can’t hear that right now. I can’t hear about multiple miscarriages, I can’t hear about anything negative even if it has a positive outcome, I just can’t go there. And I can’t answer any of your questions. Please understand. I love you and we both thank you for your prayers.”

I see the shock on their faces and perhaps they are offended, but I know that I have said it in love and I have to just leave it at that. That’s my way of guarding and protecting my heart.  Hopefully at some point they will understand.  And I’ll be stronger soon enough.

The Second Very Important Thing I Realized.

There was a reason why so many women, often the ones who had endured miscarriage themselves, were the ones who were the most insensitive. Those were the same women who shared the most disturbing stories of loss that, quite frankly, should never be shared with a woman in the throes of a miscarriage.

It dawned on me that hearing of my loss gave them permission to finally share their pain. Perhaps they too are still longing to heal from their own loss.

Enduring a miscarriage is difficult for everyone. But one thing that people don’t realize is that once a woman finds herself in a better place emotionally, she seldom has anyone to share the details of her harrowing experience with.

There needs to be a safe place for mourning mothers to vent their stories of loss with the understanding that they are purging it for CLOSURE!

There must be a place and a process that helps those women heal once and for all.  So, I decided to create one inside of Our New Empowerment Community and Private Social Network: The Wisdom Sister Circle. Get on the mailing list for updates.

Words of Comfort

Here are some of the things people said to me/us that were comforting and truly helped to build my/our faith. Often it was them speaking the actual Words of God that made all the difference. Perhaps you can take note and speak these words of life should the opportunity to comfort another grieving mother ever present itself.

1)     Keep believing. You will see the end of your faith… Trust God and only believe!

2)     He who began a good work in you will complete it!

3)     You’re womb is blessed.

4)     A delay is not a denial.

5)     Children are gifts from God and he will restore.

6)     I believe God that you’ll have double for your trouble

7)     I/we love you and we’re praying for you and your family.

8)     Get back on that horse…lol! 🙂

9)     God loves you and all of his promises are Yes and Amen!

10)    All is well!

11)    Give her (them) a hug and say nothing at all.

12)    I’m here for you if you need me.

13)    Tell me what you need me to do.

14)    Don’t hesitate to call if you just need someone to listen, I’ll make time for you.

15)    To let me know I wasn’t alone, one woman whispered to me – “Now we both have babies in heaven. We’ll see them again.” That was the most comforting thing anyone said to me and I was grateful for that.

 

I pray that both my candor and transparency help you provide more love, support and comfort for any grieving women/families in your life in the future.

In love,
Q

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