There are many articles, blogs and emails that come across my desk. Periodically, there’s something that really stands out from the rest. This week, I read a blog post that not only touched my heart, but challenged my perceptions. And I think it’ll do the same for you.
Rachel Lewis is a Christian blogger who writes about life from a transparent and straight forward perspective. She’s painfully honest about her struggle to have children, including enduring the loss of four babies. She shares comments from well-meaning individuals while grieving her miscarriages. It exposes how pro-lifers often treat the value of a child lost to miscarriage different from one lost to abortion.
Here are some of the mixed messages Rachel encountered:
- “An aborted baby deserves to be grieved. A miscarried one deserves to be gotten over. And quickly.”
- “An aborted baby was killed against God’s design. A miscarried baby fulfilled God’s plans.”
- “An aborted baby could never be replaced. A miscarried baby can always be replaced — ‘Don’t worry; your time will come again. You’ll have more.’”
I questioned myself. Have I ever been guilty of such sentiments? At one time or another, I suspect we’ve all probably said or thought something similar. Although we have good intentions, we can still be misguided and not realize the full impact of our words. So it’s necessary for us to be purposeful in changing our perspective.
- Don’t make any distinction between how lives are lost or how far into pregnancy tragedy strikes. — Our sadness over a lost life shouldn’t change from miscarriage to abortion. To minimize the loss, simply because it wasn’t a “choice”, means we’re dehumanizing the baby. Instead, we must affirm the baby’s personhood. Miscarriage is the tragic and untimely death of a loved member of the family. No matter what the stage of pregnancy, the pain and grief of the parents’ loss is real and the same. It’s imperative that we acknowledge this is the loss of a child. Comments meant to reassure, like, “At least you know you can get pregnant,” actually come across as diminishing the baby’s existence and the family’s grief for this child’s life. This baby is irreplaceable and has an identity of his or her own.
- Be there and be supportive. — Miscarriage can often be a silent loss, particularly if the parents haven’t yet shared the news about the pregnancy. If you’re within the circle of family and friends who’re aware of a loss by miscarriage, you may feel unsure about what your role should be. As you would with any other death, first and foremost, be present and available. Be willing to be that listening ear and a shoulder to cry on for the mother or father. Show your support by sending a card with a personal note, making a phone call or visiting. If you’re able, commit a tangible act of kindness by providing a meal, taking care of housework or babysitting other children. Treat this death as you would the passing of an already-born child. It’s comforting to the family to know that you also grieve for their baby.
- Validate the baby’s life. — This is one of the most essential things we can do for parents grieving the loss of a child by miscarriage. We should treat the situation as we would any other life. Often the child will be given a name. Use that name when speaking with the family. When counting the number of children, include the child who was miscarried. Some parent may be unsure whether or not they should do this, so you’ll often see gratitude on their faces. This recognizes the special and unique place in the family that this child will forever hold. In some cases, there may be a private memorial, allowing the family to have closure. Encourage the parents to find their own special way to commemorate and honor their son or daughter’s life. Some may choose to plant a tree, others may put together a memory box, or they may write a letter to their child. Also, remember the date of the loss and the due date, as those will be emotional days when the family will be thankful to know of your support.
As a parent and grandparent, I know firsthand the love that exists for our children, even before they’re born. My wife and I are the parents of four sons and we’ve been blessed with four grandchildren, although two are already in heaven. During Thanksgiving 2012, we lost identical twin grandsons, Levi Timothy and Zachary Christian, to miscarriage.
I remember the deep pain and mourning. It still continues. It didn’t matter that we never had a chance to meet them. Levi and Zachary forever hold a special place in our hearts. To commemorate their brief time with us, I ordered two hand-glazed blue pots for our deck. The blue is for the boys, the dripping glazing symbolizes our tears and the white flowers we plant each year signify eternal life in heaven. Each Christmas our son and his wife hang the blue booties pictured above, a gift from Grandma and Grandpa, on their tree as a loving reminder that the boys are cherished.
Their lives continue to have profound meaning. They serve as a reminder of the significance of all unborn life. And we’re thankful that one day we’ll meet them in eternity. I pray for anyone who’s lost a child, to feel reassured of the value of that life, no matter how brief. And may we all commit to using words and actions that’ll demonstrate to family members that we cherish the precious gift of life.
In memory of all innocent human life,