Saturday, October 15, 2011
A Person's a Person, No Matter How Small
October is National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. The 15th is specifically National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day.
Did you know that 1 in 4 suffers the loss of a child? More likely than not, the child(ren) of one of your loved ones is included in this day.
1 in 4 lose a child, and yet the American dialogue remains largely silent on the subject. I think that's one of the reasons that it's rather hard to cope with. I can't speak to losing a child I've carried to term, but at least in the case of miscarriage, there are no pictures. There are few to no pleasant memories. In early miscarriage, there's not even visible physical evidence of your child's existence. There are no funerals. There's just a void in your heart for the baby you loved the moment you knew of her existence. A void that only that child can fill. Though Matthew fills up my whole heart, there are still simultaneously 5 baby-shaped, whole-heart sized holes that are reserved for his siblings.
But the world keeps going. It's maddening. You want everything to stop so that you can process what just happened, but the rest of the world keeps going, without even knowing your child existed. I remember the night of my first miscarriage, we'd been in the hospital all day and I'd lost a ton of blood. I left weak and hungry, so we went to a restaurant. They asked us if it was "just the two of us" and I nearly lost my head with the realization that the answer was "yes" even though hours before, it had been "no." Miscarriage grief can be a very lonely, silent kind of pain. Most of the world answers it with, "Goodness, get over it already. It's not like it was a REAL baby," as though your child was not yet old or big enough to have caused you pain to lose. Or, "you can have another baby," as if a new baby could take that baby's place. Or "Maybe there was something wrong with that baby, so thank God He took the baby early." Or the ever-generic, "these things happen for a reason." Especially among people who claim to be pro-life, it blows my mind to hear them. Or, people just say nothing. No matter how early in their life they are born to heaven, he or she is still a real baby who has died. Empty arms and an empty cradle await the parents who were so anxious to meet their little one.
We were blessed. We had (have) an amazing circle of immediate friends and family, most of whom did NOT say those things. I heard them, but more often, the things we heard were supportive and life-affirming. But I also know that many are often at a loss of what to do or say to support their loved ones dealing with miscarriage.
Here are some suggestions:
Pray for them. Pray with them.
Recognize that their child has died. You would offer condolences to someone in the event of a lost parent, aunt or uncle, sibling, or sometimes even a pet. You might even offer flowers or a card. It's ok to do the same after a miscarriage. Having someone else acknowledge that you experienced a "REAL" loss, having that person acknowledge that your child really was here, did exist, and did matter is immensely comforting and healing.
Don't try to explain their child's death away
Don't try to compare it to any other kind of loss
Ask them if they want to talk about their child
Talk about their child with them--it's so comforting to have your "secret" child's life acknowledged by someone else. My goddaughter shares the name with one of my girls. Before naming her, my best friend called and asked if it was ok if they used the same name. Of course they didn't need my permission, but for them to acknowledge that my own was a real little person who died was amazing.
If the miscarriage is recent, offer to bring them a meal. Miscarriage can be physically painful, exhausting, or both. Bringing a meal is sensitive to the grieving mother's physical needs and again, lets her know that you recognize her loss as "real."
Cry with them
Recognize that some "milestones" might be hard, like Mother's (or Father's) Day, or their due date, or the anniversary of their miscarriage. Even if it's years after the fact, those days might be sensitive for them and that's ok.
If you don't know what to say, say "I'm sorry," or "I don't know what to say, but I'm here for you." Usually, we don't actually want or need to hear anything. We just need your love.
I know an overwhelming amount of my readers are among those 1 in 4. So I'm thinking of all of you today, mamas, and missing your babies right along with you.
A person's a person, no matter how small. They were here. They ARE loved. And Heaven is going to be one AMAZING reunion.
Say Their Names project.