Encouraging A Loved One Walking Through Grief
Original article written for The Well! An online community of women working to inspire and encourage other women. Here is the link for the original post:
Though this was written at Christmas time last year, with October coming (Infant and Pregnancy loss awareness month) I wanted to share it again. It holds timeless encouragement and helpful resources!
I remember the first Christmas after the loss of our third baby. It was only 3 weeks after that horrifying night. The sorrow and pain was still so fresh. Tears came often and the brokenness I felt in my chest was a close companion and yielded attacks of anxiety and moments of total fear and depression. We desperately wanted to be parents and our desire was met with two miscarriages in the first trimester. It was a year of heavy grief.
During that season, friends and family were intentional to let us know they were thinking and praying for us. In the early days of our loss, there were so many times my community asked what they could do for me. And if I am being 100% honest, I always said I was fine and I was moving forward just fine. But here is the thing: I expected so much from my people and yet I never gave them any indication that I needed their love and support. I needed their wisdom but did not want it. I was also angry at myself for not allowing the Lord to heal my heart. I struggled to read the Word and ask for healing and wisdom. I did not know what I was feeling or how to name my emotions. And I certainly didn’t know how to ask for help. Avoiding help and support in this way is the one thing I regret most.
There were many ways friends and family showed their support and I want to share few examples with you. These are ways my friends REALLY loved me well and helped change the course of my grief journey.
The first example took place shortly after our first miscarriage. A dear friend reached out and asked me in what way she could help me remember our babies. She wanted to buy something for me and she wanted me to pick out whatever I wanted. I ended up finding a necklace with a February birthstone and two hearts. The birthstone was for the month we lost them and the two hearts representing the two hearts that never started beating. It was a beautiful gift and I wore it every day during those first couple of years after our loss.
The second example came from a co-worker and friend I worked with while working at a pregnancy crisis clinic. She was skilled in cross stitch and embroidery and wanted to create something for me I could have in my home that would serve in remembrance of the two babies we lost in February. She created a beautiful piece of art with blueberry vines to remember the size our children were when I miscarried, their names and birthday.
The third example came a year after our first loss. By this time, we had gone through 3 miscarriages, a cross country move and a big surgery. We were living in a state where we knew no one, it was just a few months after our third loss and I felt so incredibly alone. Another dear friend came to visit for a weekend and at some point we snuck away to a coffee shop. During our time there, she put a gift bag in front of me and told me this was a gift to help me remember that I am not forgotten. That our babies were not forgotten. Inside the bag was the book, I Will Carry You by Angie Smith, a beautiful hand-written note and a beautiful ring with two little baby feet. When I saw the ring, I was immediately brought to tears knowing how much I longed to be touching those little feet but also how grateful I was to have a friend who sought me out and always let me know she was praying for me. On top of this gift, there had been countless texts and phone calls the year before. Messages encouraging me with scripture and prayers from a friend who was grieving with me. When the Lord puts it on your heart to encourage and comfort someone and that person turns away at you, it can be painful. You feel shut out and at times it keeps you from approaching them again. This friend was not one of those people. She pursued with a holy desire to shed light into the ugly, dark places I allowed myself to go.
Since I am speaking specifically to those of you who WANT to encourage and comfort someone, first I want to say THANK YOU! Thank you for having a heart to want to love your friends and family well. This time of year can be SOOO hard for many and having someone who wants them to know they are loved and seen can make a world of difference for them. The question I get asked most often by those who have a friend or sister walking through early pregnancy loss is, “how can I encourage them? What can I say that would make any difference to them?” So I wanted to share some practical ways you can reach out to your loved one and let them know they are remembered.
Say something. Say anything. Sometimes the hardest part about reaching out is being the first one to speak. If they are in the really early days of losing their baby, it’s possible that nothing you really say will make it better. But going first and telling them you love them and you are just so very sorry can make a big difference.
Sit with them. Go over to their house and sit with them. Hug them, hold their hand. Cry with them or sit in silence with them. Ask them if they want to share about their baby. For many women there are hopes and dreams that were created with nowhere to let those go. Ask them if they want to share any of those. Give them your time and the space to share whatever is on their hearts.
Bring over a meal. Often families (especially the women) who have experienced miscarriage don’t really know how you can help or what they even need during those first days and weeks. Experiencing a miscarriage is the same process that occurs during labor at full term. Their bodies will be exhausted, their emotions will be spent and will have little room to love their families well. Bring them a meal. Even if it’s frozen and it’s something they can use at a later date. Let them know that caring for their families in the way of meals is not a burden they need to carry. This can be a huge way to love someone well!
Ask about a due date or a birthday and then remember it. Friends, in my opinion, this is one of the most important ways you can come alongside your loved one. Ask them if there is a date they would like to remember, mark it somewhere you won’t forget and make a point to seek them out on that day. Send a text, a handwritten note, a small gift, SOMETHING to let them know you remember them and you remember their baby. One of the GREATEST fears mamas who have lost babies through early pregnancy loss is that their babies will be forgotten or won’t matter. Let them know they matter and they left an impression on your heart!
Encourage them. This was something I struggled to receive but now four years later know how important this is. Send them a text with a scripture that is on your heart or you are praying over them that day. Speak truth to them. Share with them WHY the Gospel matters during their season of grief. Do so with humility, love and grace. My friend Julia did this daily for two years during our losses and though it wasn’t something I recieved well during that time, looking back, it changed my life.
Let them grieve. Friend, if there is one thing I want you to take away from this it’s this: Each person grieves differently. The way you would walk through grief or maybe HAVE walked through it can be completely different than someone else. That is OK! Let them grieve the way they need to. Your job is not to change or correct but to come alongside them and support*.
Friends, grief is a messy thing to walk through and it’s even more so when someone feels they are walking through it alone. I would encourage you to seek out someone who might need encouragement and community. If you are looking for some really practical gifts that would help make your loved one feel seen and loved, Watch out for a Gift Guide coming later this week! Each item was carefully considered as a way to love and encourage someone walking through miscarriage. However, if you have someone who is grieving a different type of loss, I would still encourage you to take a look at the guide! Most of them are well rounded and make a beautiful gift!
*disclaimer: If someone you know is walking through grief and is harming themselves or someone else in any way, please reach out to a professional who would be able to intervene and help!