Advice for consoling parents suffering a miscarriage

A reader emailed to ask if I had any advice to give for consoling some friends of hers who had suffered a second miscarriage. I thought it was a good general question that I’ve not seen addressed anywhere and so thought I’d share my thoughts here as others may be wondering the same thing. I’d also like to invite readers who have had miscarriages to share anything that someone did for you that you would recommend or something you wish someone had done.

It is so hard to know what to say to someone who is grieving and especially who has lost a child to miscarriage. There are no public rituals of funeral and burial to help you through the grieving process and it is hard to talk about with people so it is easy to feel like you are alone in your grief. for me the blog really helped not only because I was able to write about it (here, and here, and here, and here) but because of the wonderful outpouring of prayers and sympathy and encouragement from my readers. I really felt like I was surrounded by people who cared and understood. In that respect I think the mass card is a great idea because it is a sign of their being a part of the Body of Christ, of being connected in prayer with the universal Church. I’d have loved to receive something like that. I’d encourage other friends and family members to send cards as well, if you know anyone in their family or circle of friends you can prod in that direction. Those little gestures mean so much and the cards themselves are a physical token with the child’s name that they can keep as a memento. I started to realize this fall that I really wanted something that I could touch or hold that was connected with my baby. Our faith is incarnational and we do so need to connect to spiritual realities through our senses. When you lose a baby so early it feels kind of abstract and almost as if it never happened. I wanted something to cling to.

For me one of the best things anyone did was to give me an object with Francis’ name on it. I blogged about that back in February. My sister’s roommate had made mugs for Dom and I when we were married and she made one when Bella was born and so having one for Francis really meant a lot to me. That’s very particular to our family, so I wouldn’t necessarily suggest going out and getting a mug; but perhaps there is a way of memorializing the children which would be appropriate for their family. Giving them some kind of token which they can associate with that baby or even planting a tree or a flowering bush in the baby’s honor. I’d think a small statue of Mary might be something I’d have appreciated. I’m not sure about something baby-themed such as a baby blanket or shoes. For some parents that might be a comfort, for others it might be too painful, I think it’s too hard to tell unless you know them really well.

You said they named both children. That would be one of my first recommendations for parents who’ve had a miscarriage. it is so important to acknowledge that these are immortals souls who are known to God and somehow, mysteriously have a place in his providential plan. I’d encourage them to pray for their children every day and even ask their intercession as the Church allows us to hope that God’s mercy extends to these innocents who died before they were born. We always add Francis to our evening prayers with Bella and Sophia. Saying that name out loud every night helps me to not feel like my child is forgotten. I also found great consolation enrolling Francis’ name in the book at the Shrine for Children who died unborn at the NY Church of the Holy Innocents website. I’d encourage them to do that. It is nice to know there’s a name physically written in a church in a book that sits where people go to pray. The website says: “Here, a candle is always lit in their memory. All day long people stop to pray. On the first Monday of every month, our 12:15pm Mass is celebrated in honor of these children and for the comfort of their families.” For me and I suspect most parents who have very early miscarriages the lack of a memorial or grave site to visit or any physical mementos, as I said before, is particularly hard.

One helpful word of advice that we were told was to expect to feel sadness not only on the anniversary of the miscarriage but also when the baby’s due date came around. Dom read something about someone whose wife started to feel blue without even being consciously aware of the date. When he told me it made sense and so I kind of knew to expect it, which helped when I started to feel blue. It helped to be able to memorialize that date on my blog and have support then. So if you know when that will be, you might be prepared to give some additional comfort and support at that time as well. Knowing someone else remembers and cares might be a great comfort.

Also, for me it helped just knowing how many other women have gone through this loss. I was surprised at how many people shared their stories with me and then I also started reading blogs and stumbling across miscarriage stories online. It helped me feel like I wasn’t alone. Being able to talk about it helped. If she isn’t a blog reader already,  she might take some comfort in the online community and you might help point her in that direction. The Catholic moms I know online are such a great group of loving women who support and encourage one another so beautifully. 

I know too that at the time Dom expressed how often people seem to ignore the father and focus on the mother’s loss and pain. It’s important for friends and family to remember that he is grieving too, not just the mother. I know for men it’s more complicated as well because in the early stages of pregnancy, before their wives begin to show its all rather abstract. It’s not that they don’t care but that they don’t have that physical connection. I know too that it is very hard for a husband to watch his wife suffer through pregnancy, childbirth or miscarriage because he feels so very helpless. So I’d especially love to hear from any fathers out there who have lost children: what have people done or said that helped you or what do you wish someone had done or said?

I can’t think of anything else right now, but I welcome any additional thoughts.

I’ll also pray for them as I pray every night for all parents who have lost children.

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