Caring for Yourself Mentally and Emotionally During and After Miscarriage
Sisters, today it is my honor to introduce you to one of my pastors at my church. My husband and I met Steve and Paula earlier this winter shortly after they arrived as a member of staff. He and his wife shared a bit about their life with my small group and I immediately knew I wanted to ask him to write on how to care for yourself mentally and emotionally during and after miscarriage. I am incredibly encouraged by both his testimony of a couple who walked this road years before and the wisdom God has granted him in his many years of pastoral ministry. I pray this post would be both an encouragement and a challenge as you walk through your own healing.
My name is Steve Jones. I am a pastor at Cornerstone Church in Ames involved in leadership development, equipping ministries, and marriage and family counseling. I recently came on staff at Cornerstone Church after nineteen years as pastor of The Well Covenant Church in Des Moines, Iowa. My wife and I have been married for 27 years and are blessed with four wonderful sons. Two are married and now in their careers. The two youngest are still in college. We look at our family and are still in amazement. For Paula and me, the gift of children truly is a miracle. This is where faith, hope and healing intersected for us when we faced the difficult loss of two miscarriages.
It all began with a two year period of infertility. We had it all planned out. We were going to get married, enjoy our first year of marriage, just the two of us, and then start having children. It was all simple. But not really. One month went by and then two. And then 6 months and a year. No pregnancy. We started reading books. We started taking temperatures. We tried everything. Another year went by.
At this point, we began to realize that kids don’t “just happen.” We began to check our hearts. We began to pray differently. “God, you truly are the giver of life.” We began to see things more clearly, realizing, this may never happen. And we had to ask ourselves if we would be okay with that? We began to see things from God’s perspective.
One day, we decided to trust God with the outcome - children or no children. We came to the point of release, and in that place of release, found peace. And to our amazement, in the very month I prayed, “God, I accept. I release this to you. I will be content with no children.” In that very month, the pregnancy test came back positive! We were pregnant! In our minds, our first son, Stephen, was a miracle. No doubt about it! We have never seen it differently. No mistakes with God. A gift, pure and simple. This view of our children changed everything for us. Of course, we realize God could have chosen differently and withheld children from us. This would have been a painful reality that many couples face. But we were finding faith and contentment in it all, and know God would have given us the grace to walk that path.
And why am I telling you this? What does this have to do with the pain and loss of miscarriage? The lessons God taught us during our time of infertility prepared us. Actually, nothing could have prepared us better - our ability to trust God, our understanding of God’s sovereignty in the giving of children, the joy and blessing of even one child was enough. We were content with none. God gave us one. That was enough. And then a second, Sam. Another miracle and blessing. God is good. A third pregnancy came, excitement, and then, a miscarriage. This was very hard. It always is. There were tears and questions. But finally, resolve in our hearts. “God, you are good. We trust you in this. We were content with none. And then you gave us one. And then two; two more than we ever thought we would have. We are sad but content. We trust you.”
A fourth pregnancy came and then a second miscarriage. We wondered if something was wrong. Maybe two sons was God’s choice for us. And at that point, we circled back to the simple truth we had been living by: God is in control of our children. Whatever he chooses to give us is more than we deserve. It is His grace to us. It was in this place of trust and contentment that we found our greatest source of spiritual and emotional care during our time of loss.
Over the years, Paula and I have met so many couples who have struggled with infertility and even childlessness. Our hearts are broken for the pain many experience in this area. We are very much aware that this could have been our reality, as well.
So, here are some of the common questions we get asked when it comes to our experience with infertility and the loss of a child through miscarriage:
What does it look like to care for yourself emotionally/mentally as you walk through this kind of grief?
- Paula and I could not have walk through this alone. We talked together, comforted one another, prayed together, trusted God together. As a couple, you have to talk. You have to communicate with each other. Its okay to grieve. Its okay to be angry. Its okay to express your feelings. Give each other this kind of safety and space. If you are a single parent, find a trusted family member or friend. Someone who can walk this path with you. You cannot do this alone.
- Pray and Scripture took on a deeper meaning to me. Times of crisis and pain seem to drive me to that quiet place with God. I often wonder how people walk on the path of pain and loss without God. Find that place. Let God speak words of life into your soul through His Word. As many before me, I found the Psalms to be life-giving during this time. So many of those prayers expressed the thoughts and prayers of my own heart.
- Journal. I don’t always journal, but in difficult times, I do. There is something spiritual and therapeutic when I express my thoughts on paper. I may never read them again, but in the moment, there is healing.
- One final thought on care. God designed the Body of Christ, the church, to be a primary place of care. Don’t retreat in your time of pain. Don’t hide. This is the time to connect even deeper in spiritual community. We shared our journey with close Christian friends and discovered that many had also walked this path. There was a kindred spirit. A sense of commonality. We were not alone. If you are not in a small group of believers who meet regularly for fellowship and encouragement, find a group. It is so important to your faith and spiritual life.
What truths can I lean on when I am struggling?
A verse we often leaned on was:
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths.” -Proverbs 3:5-6
So often we didn’t understand, but God continued to tells us, “Trust Me, even if you don’t understand.” Although the extraordinarily painful experiences of Job are difficult to understand, even for Job, I always found great comfort in his response to loss:
“At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship and said: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised” -Job 1:21-22
I read these verses often. They are an expression of trust in the sovereignty of God. Sometimes, in the midst of our pain and sorrow, when things don’t make sense, when we crave to understand “why”, its all we have. “God, sometimes you give, sometimes you don’t. Sometimes you take away. I don’t understand. My heart is filled with grief. But blessed be the name of the Lord.” This level of faith and trust in God’s sovereignty will keep our hearts from bitterness and cynicism; realizing and accepting God’s sovereignty over the circumstances and events of my life, to accomplish His plan and His purpose, for His glory.
I mentioned the Psalms. There are so many I would encourage you to read regularly:
Psalm 88 is a prayer of desperation
Psalm 80 is a prayer of restoration
Psalm 62 to find rest for your soul
Psalm 71 to give you hope
One final Scripture that has been instructive for me:
“But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.” -1 Timothy 6:6-8
Paul had so much taken away from him in this life. And yet, he found a way to be content. This is the secret to renewed hope, joy, and peace, even in our loss and pain. Can I trust God with my life? Is my ultimate joy found in Him?
Experiencing loss is deeply painful and never an easy path. If you are reading this blog, my heart goes out to you. I am praying that God will bring healing and hope to your soul as you trust in Him, pray hard, drink deeply from Scripture, process your pain with your spouse or a trusted friend, and experience the beauty and strength of the loving spiritual community Jesus provides in His church.