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We prayed for you, and God said “yes.” Only the size of a finger nail, but you have our hearts. You have a name. You have a loving home. You are loved.

One day, you’ll run and jump into my arms. I’ll tickle you, and you’ll squeal and turn away then come back for more. One day I’ll teach you how to swim, and your dad will teach you how to hit a hockey puck (yes, in Texas). We’ll cheer for you on the side lines and practice with you in the backyard. We’ll go camping and hiking and kayaking and all things outdoors.

On Christmas morning, we’ll announce that we’re expecting. We’ll have gifts hidden for your grandparents, and when they find them, they’ll explode with joy. Even though I’m an awkward hugger, I’ll grin and bear it because you’re worth it. It’ll be the best Christmas ever, even for this Scrooge of a mother. A mother. That’s what I am now. I haven’t met you yet, but I know you. I’m your mother.

Your nursery will have a nautical theme, gender neutral, even though I think you’re going to be a girl. We’ll wait and see. We can’t wait to meet you!

And just like that, you’re gone. But not just you—all the plans, the hopes, the dreams, the fantasies about coaching your little league teams, the joy.

On June 24, 2017, my husband and I were due to welcome our first baby into this world. Nature had different plans, though, and our hopes and dreams for Baby #1 were crushed the moment we heard the words, “I can’t find a heartbeat.”

The immense pain that followed cannot be described, so I won’t try. For months after our loss, my husband and I coasted along, moving to a bigger place that would no longer need decorating or a crib until over a year later. We continued going to church until we just couldn’t stand the thought of “going through the motions” anymore. We didn’t talk about names or hypothetical children or how we would announce to the family if we ever got pregnant again. The loss consumed us, especially me. 

The worst part of the miscarriage was obviously the pain that we’d endure until conceiving again (and then the fear of another miscarriage). A distant second had to be the loneliness. We had each other, and for that I’m grateful. And my husband was perfect, especially those first few weeks after we got the news. We didn’t tell many people at first. To be honest, sometimes I wish we hadn’t told anyone. Not because it’s anything to be ashamed of, and not because no one cared. But because no one knew how to show they cared in that particular situation. 

After we shared the news of our loss with close friends and family, we received numerous text messages expressing condolences and promises to pray for us. Though we were grateful for the kind messages and gestures, after a year of enduring on our own, we kind of resented those prayers. We had each other and no one else. God didn’t knock on our door and offer comfort or miraculous peace during our trial—even though countless people prayed for us.

In my post, 7 Ways to help a grieving person grieve, I alluded to the pain and loss I’m describing now. I wrote with hopes that my readers would feel more confident in comforting loved ones experiencing their own personal crises and loss. No one should be left alone to suffer pain the way we were, but I understand the conflict: if you don’t know how to relate, you think your best decision is to just let it be. The best thing you can do is to pray. I disagree.

“…The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results” (James 5:16, The Bible). What is righteous? Does a righteous person pray for the comfort of another and then offer none? This might offend some of you, and I’m not sorry about it, but pray…and then what? What’s supposed to happen when we pray that God will comfort someone in their time of need? Does God descend on us and suddenly make us feel better? I’m no theologian, and I’ve certainly struggled with my faith over the years, but I don’t think that’s how it works. It didn’t work that way in our time of need. Maybe Godcould take away all our pain with the snap of His fingers, but that doesn’t seem to be how He operates.

Most men and women who have never experienced the aftermath of a miscarriage firsthand have no idea how to comfort someone who has. So they pray. As nice as that sounds, it’s just not enough. So here are some ways to back up those prayers with action:

Reach out…often.

Phone calls are great. Texts are fine. Cards and letters are nice. Gifts aren’t necessary, in my opinion. Visits are okay, too, but use your best judgment. You don’t have to talk about the miscarriage all the time, but avoiding the subject can make the person feel isolated. So, let them know you’re there, check in occasionally, and don’t give up. Some people will want their space, and that’s okay. But don’t just assume; let them tell you they want to be alone. Then give them some space and check in again.

Acknowledge their pain.

In our case, no one knew how to address our situation, so no one said anything about it. When someone finally did, it was such a relief. Like all the air had just been let out of a balloon. I not only didn’t have to suppress my feelings or story for this person, but she also gave it a name: it’s not just a loss—it’s a miscarriage. And for that matter, it’s not just pain—it’s a broken heart. Some people try to make things better by comparing the pain associated with a miscarriage to the pain of someone who has delivered a stillborn or lost their baby in a car accident, but this does not take away any pain. Instead, it might add guilt and lead to resentment. Women who endure miscarriages are aware that their experience could have been worse. But their baby has still been taken away. Their plans and dreams and hopes of motherhood have still been destroyed. What’s more, they are likely wondering if they will conceive again, and if so, will they be subject to the same pain again? And again. And again. Unfortunately for some, the answer is yes. Just knowing that my pain was validated and accepted gave me the freedom to grieve without shame.

Invite them to do fun things.

Immediately following a miscarriage (or any significant loss), this would be inappropriate. Give at least a week, and after you’ve checked in occasionally and hopefully spent some time with your grieving friend, invite them out to see a funny movie or to a game night or out to dinner with friends. Hiking, shopping, working out, even running errands can be fun and distracting, not to mention therapeutic.

Don’t accidentally place blame.

Most miscarriages are unexplainable. Still, people wonder what went wrong. Did Mom drink? Smoke? Work out too intensely? Eat the wrong thing? Take a hot bath? Have too much stress? And the list could go on and on. Seriously, Mom is already going down that road. She’s already playing back every move since conception, trying to pinpoint what she might have done to cause the demise of her own baby. She’s also begging for forgiveness of her sins at this point and promising to be perfect if God will only give her another chance. Most miscarriages JUST HAPPEN. Don’t ever give a grieving mother reason to blame herself.

This is not an all-inclusive list by any means, but I think it’s a good start. For me, a miscarriage meant that my body failed. For the first time, it failed me; it failed my baby; it failed my husband; it failed my family. I felt weak, helpless, alone, afraid, and ashamed. I reached out to friends and family who had no idea how to help, so they prayed. Maybe in some situations, prayer and prayer alone is really all a person can do. But in many situations, I believe we have the power and the responsibility to be the answers to our own prayers.

On June 27, 2018, our pain was redeemed by the arrival of our son. Healthy, 7 lbs. 1 oz., 19 in. long, and a smug look on his face after his first bath, wrapped up under a heater with his hair combed nicely. Today, he is ONE. His brother or sister would have been two. Today, we choose not to dwell in the sorrows of our past, but to rejoice in another “yes.”