Handling Miscarriage from a Christian Perspective (part two - for friends and family)


For the first part of these thoughts primarily focused on the couple enduring a miscarriage please click here.  For our own family's story, click on over here.


When Someone You Know Has a Miscarriage:

How we respond to the death of an unborn child, what we call a miscarriage (though I've never really liked that term), will show what we really believe as individuals, as a Church, and as a society about the dignity of the unborn person.  Do we ignore it?  Do we downplay it?  Do we get so uncomfortable that we neglect our opportunity to comfort someone we know whose heart is breaking?  It can be hard for those who have never been through the grief of losing a preborn child to know how best to respond when that tragedy occurs to someone they know.  But it is so important that there is a response, and a good one, if we are truly going to build a culture of life.  The following are some tangible ways that we can help those grieving a miscarriage:

What You Can Do:

•Say I'm sorry.  Say I'm praying for and thinking about you.  Say I'm here for you if you need me.  Above all, don't say nothing.

•  Send a card.  Catholic stores have some beautiful cards specifically for miscarriage but a simple sympathy card is fine, too.  They will remember it.  

•  Cook them dinner.  We do this when families have a baby and we do it when someone older dies, but it isn't often done for a miscarriage.  The mother will be drained physically and emotionally, dad is also grieving and possibly taking care of older children.  Providing them a meal that they don't have to prepare or think about is a huge help, especially if they have children.  Food is also a tangible way to show someone that we care and that we want to help and offer comfort. 

•  If they have other children, offer to take the kids to do something fun for a bit or to come babysit.  

•  If there are funeral or burial expenses, considering offering them a financial gift to help.  Do it anonymously if you are able.

•  If there is a funeral or service, be there.  It will mean so much to them and they will remember who was (and who wasn't) there.

•  Call them to express your sympathy.

•  Call them a few weeks later to tell them you're still thinking about and praying for them.

•  Let them cry.

•  Send flowers.  

•  If they have named the child, use the baby's name.  If they haven't, gently offer it as a suggestion. Often parents don't even realize they can still do that.

•  Have a Mass said for the baby.  

•  Pray a novena, light a candle at church, or go to Adoration for them.  And tell them.

•  Buy a plant or a certificate to a nursery to let them pick something out to plant in memory of the baby.

•  Be sensitive around holidays.  For some reason, grief seems to hit harder then.

•  Give them a Christmas ornament to hang in memory of the baby.  Or how about a nice frame to display an ultrasound picture if they have one?

Or both?

•  Remember the due date.  This can be a very difficult time for the couple.  Send a note or give a call to let them know that you haven't forgotten.

•  Remember the anniversary and check in with them.

•  Be sensitive if you are pregnant or have just had a baby.  Being around your baby may be healing (I remember wanting desperately to hold a baby) but it could also be too much for the grieving parents. 

•  Even if it's years or decades later, don't be afraid to bring up their loss.  I don't know any woman who has forgotten. 

What NOT to Do:

•  Don't avoid them.  Respect that they may need privacy but they also need you to acknowledge their loss.

•  Don't say nothing.  It's a common fear around grieving people that we will remind them of their loss if we bring it up.  They're already reminded all the time.  Bringing it up actually helps someone grieving to know that other people care and remember their pain.

•  Avoid complaining about your kids around them.  

•  Try not to take it personally if you are pregnant or have a baby and it is too hard for them to be around you for awhile.  Try not to be upset if they can't come to a baby shower for a while.

•  Don't try to help them "get over it."  The only way out of grief is through it.

•  DON'T say any variation of the following:
"At least you have other children"
"It was God's will."
"There must have been something wrong with the baby."
"They're better off now."
"It wasn't meant to be."
"When are you going to try again?"
"At least it was early"
Think before you speak and if in doubt just say you're sorry.


Again, I would love for you to add your thoughts in the comments.  
What did I miss or what would you change?  

15 comments

  1. One of the things a dear friend offered to me when I lost Oliver at 12w3d was her husband's research skills. I am so glad we accepted; he took the time to research our options in the Catholic church for a burial and funeral. I am also thankful that when I hemorrhaged after miscarrying that the nurse in the OB/GYN triage at the hospital was thoughtful enough to put me in a room far away from the sounds of laboring women. It seems like a small detail, but it was exactly what I needed.

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    1. What a gift from that friend! And I'm so glad that the nurse was compassionate in your situation. I don't know the protocol for most hospitals but I can't imagine how hard it would be if a woman who was miscarrying was put in the same wing as labor and delivery! I really really hope most hospitals recognize that.

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  2. Thank you for writing this...very beautiful.

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  3. So agree with your list of what not to say! "It was God's will" !! nah I don't think so, He doesn't work like that.

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  4. Great series, Mary - I think this is a topic that has been taboo for so long, and I'm glad it's something that gets discussed now. I don't think most people can truly grieve if they must do it entirely in private, and it's helpful for others to know how to respond. Prayers :)

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  5. Thank you so much. I was thinking about writing a post like this, but I feel like you've said everything I would say! I think the hardest thing is being ignored and not checked up on. I announced our miscarriage to friends and family and immediately got flooded by "I'm sorry" and "I'm praying for you" and a few offers of help...and then didn't hear from anyone again for several days. This is all so fresh for me (less than a week since losing my little one), but I just want people to check on me every day or every few days. I feel like they are all waiting for me to "get back to normal" and contact them. The silence is deafening.

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    1. Oh Mandi, my heart is breaking for you. I had no idea. I'll be praying for you and your family as you grieve. It is so hard and unless someone has been there, they often don't know how to respond and it can feel so lonely. He is so close to you right now and sees all your tears. I pray that Our Lady may bring you comfort and hold you close. May your precious little one intercede for your family and may you get to meet him or her someday in heaven.

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    2. I am so terribly sorry for your loss. God bless you. And what Mary said, too.

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  6. Another unfavorite comment: "It's Nature's way. You wouldn't want anything less than a perfect baby." I would have given my right arm and right leg for that baby to have lived, regardless of his or her condition. How the heck do they know what I want?

    One person, who really doesn't get much of anything about grieving, suggested that I take up a hobby, perhaps soap-carving, to get my mind off the baby. There are only a few things wrong with that.

    1. A hobby would not have done any good.
    2. I'm not good at carving, sculpting, or drawing.
    3. I dislike soap.

    Other than that, it was a wonderful idea. ;-)

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    1. SOAP carving? Is that even a thing? Sometimes people really don't get it and you just have to do your best to recognize the intent behind it, however thoughtless their words come across, you know? But really. Soap carving probably takes the cake as far as not helpful comments.

      I'm so sorry about the loss of your baby. And I agree about the health of the baby thing. That's also one of the reasons I dislike the whole "as long as it's healthy" thing when people ask about boy or girl. Because if it's not, then what? I'm sending him or her back?

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  7. Mary
    Your post is beautiful, caring and full of practical "tips." I can't add one thing to your do/don't list reg how others can handle losses around loved ones...but there is one thing that Moms and Dads can do in general and not necessarily in the aftermath of a miscarriage but in the years to come after a family has suffered a loss:

    I know life is difficult and crazy and hard and messy for large families and I'm not suggesting that Moms of large families walk on eggshells around Moms of smaller families. At all.
    But simply this: Lately ( and I know Moms of large families DO need this) there has been an abundance of posts out there on blogs and soc media around "practical inspirational ideas for Moms of large families." I totally get that the way a large fam works is different logistically than the way a smaller fam works. I'm 1 of 6 and Mom of 2, so I do get it. I also get that a blog is one';s own space to write and express what one feels and if I personally find some topic diffficult, uninteresting, etc, I am free to click away. I get that.

    BUT having "only" 2 and having several miscarriages, it's not as if 2 was our choice and yet I do feel that Catholic blogs ( not yours...pleas please don't feel this is directed at all to you, please) that there is a strong emphasis on life in large families and I also feel in "real life" in around catholic families the same thing rings true. It's almost as if it's a badge of honor to be whipped out that one Mom has been able to carry more babies full term than another Mom. I completely get that some Moms have many kids and have never had a miscarriage or had to handle infertility. I understnad that may be the case in many situations. It's been almost 15 years since my first miscarriage and I still find it surprising that Moms of large families talk flippantly about plans for even more babies and how crazy and nutty life is and how they need to constantly stock up on food, etc, etc and they seem to take it all for granted! Ok, maybe they don't ( take it for granted) and it;s kind of rude of me to suggest that they do, but from the POV of some one who mothers a smaller fam, this is one thing that I find esp disconcerting. Mothering a smaller fam is no easy feat, esp if the kids have spec needs, no grandparents left and there is volunteering in the community specifically because of a call to do so.
    Anyway, not intended to be a rant or vent at all...just my thoughts on this from one who has been there and from the perspective of one who can see both sides of the miscarriage/infertility issue. After dealing with misses and infertility. we are so blessed to have two healthy amazing kids who we are priviliged to HS as well.

    I'm in awe of how perfectly you summed up how to help an individual who has had a loss...this is a wonderful guide.....I hope you don't mind me offering the other points as "helps" down the road in years to come for a couple who has miscarried.
    Yes, that initial grief does wane and life does go on...it's just that the support and the awareness of where a Mom is in her journey and the losses the family has endured are always there, not just in the weeks and months afterward but always....

    Thanks Mary, for the share and for allowing me to express my thoughts in the combox...
    take care :) God bless

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    1. Thank you so much for writing all this, Chris. I am so sorry for your grief and the deaths of your babies and how often that has been made more painful by others. You are so right and I appreciate the reminder that we should be open to God's will no matter what that may be for our family and that there is no RIGHT size for a Catholic family. I don't think of us as a big family and sometimes I wonder if people see my youngest and wonder why I'm not pregnant again yet or when I will be. It's been made so clear to me how each child is such a gift and not a right to be demanded or expected and that having a very large family is a special calling and not something to just expect. And especially that God needs to be a part of all of that. I suppose I could try to have as many babies as humanly possible in order to "look the part" of homeschooling Catholic family but I know that's not what God wants from us. He wants relationship and openness to His will. The more I realize just how many people are struggling with infertility and miscarriage the more I realize what a gift each child is. I have no doubt I've made plenty of comments myself in the past that could have been hurtful to those around me without even realizing it and I now try hard to make sure I choose my words carefully. Even still, if I have ever said or written anything hurtful, I hope people know that I am sorry. We're all learning as we go in the life thing, right? Thank you again so much for sharing your thoughts!

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    2. Mary, I really appreciated both this post and the first one. But I also wanted to comment and say I think that these comments from you and Chris are also so valuable. There's no *right* way to have a Catholic family, and sometimes the size of a family can become the measure of how "Catholic" a couple is. I have heard other very faithful and holy Catholic moms of one or two children say they've experienced similar attitudes/judgments from others. It's obviously never appropriate to attempt to measure someone's Catholicity, faithfulness, or orthodoxy under any circumstances. Thanks for the reminder that grace-filled relationships and holiness in family life are what I should be striving for with my own family while praying for those things for other Catholic families, without trying to search out visual cues (like family size) on who's advancing more quickly! (If you know me, you know I'm on the SLOW track to sanctity!) Thanks again to both of you, Chris and Mary! God bless you and your families!

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  8. Thanks Mary, these posts have been very helpful to us this past week... Much love to yiu all

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