If you have ever been pregnant, you know the feeling of protecting the miracle growing inside of you. You know how your mind is filled with constant thoughts of the little baby you are carrying. But what happens when that baby doesn’t make it to meet you in the world? When protecting your child isn’t possible? When your biggest fear comes true?
The truth is that miscarriage just happens. The world keeps moving and you feel at a stand still not ready to move or wanting to. You do not know how to act, how to process this kind of loss, or how to share the news of losing the baby you never got to meet, especially with those who never knew you were pregnant.
Leaning Into God
As Christians, we trust God, the Author of life, to bring a life into being and to bring a life back home to Him in heaven. We trust His timing and His goodness. But we do not always understand, and that can be hard to grapple with.
During a miscarriage, everything changes so quickly and the anticipation and hopes for your baby slip through your fingers before you ever held them. There is no meeting, no memories, nor knowledge of the personality of God’s little masterpiece. To put it simply: your heart is broken.
How can the truths of the Catholic Faith and our personal relationship with Jesus further help us process and cope? But above all, how can it help us honor our children that graced our lives for such a time?
Coping After Miscarriage
It is okay to grieve!
The presence of faith does not mean the absence of grief. The holiness of a person can help cope, but should not be quantified by our grief.
Jesus knew Lazarus would be raised from the dead, yet He still wept. Mary, the embodiment of trust in the Lord, mourned at foot of the Cross. Mary Magdalene and the disciples had faith in Jesus enough to give up their lives and follow Him, yet felt a sense of lost hope before the Resurrection. Even with knowledge of Jesus, the trust of Mary, and the faith of the Apostles, Scripture shows us grief still exists.
Further, Scripture shows that God comforts us in our suffering. “He is close to the broken hearted.” He does not shy away from our pain, but enters into it with us and even takes it upon His shoulders. He doesn’t say move on, pick yourself up. Instead He holds us tenderly, meeting us in our pain, and He guides us closer to Him and to our salvation. So grieve, my sister. It will bring you healing.
Mourn as you mourn.
Take off work or work a ton, eat ice cream or watch a movie, take a deep breath or cry.
Self-care is important, but it may look different for everyone. Be true to you and give yourself time to be sad or process this as you need. Acknowledging your feelings and processing them in a way that is natural for you is important.
When we found out we were going to miscarry, I remember being confused and praying the doctor was wrong. I was up all night. I woke my husband and for no reason at all, asked him if we could sleep upside down on the bed. I do not know what it was—if my world seemed upside down—but for some reason it gave me some sense of brief peace although it held no rational value.
Mourning does not need to make sense. It is your process to grieve and heal.
Cling to your spouse and family.
This is a loss that no one will feel in the same way as you and your spouse. It is easy to be distant from your spouse during this time. But as humans, we need community, especially when we encounter hardships.
A priest encouraged us to say our wedding vows to one another. This was not only incredibly profound for us, but brought us unity and healing as a couple. We vowed to stand by each other in joys and suffering, good times and bad. We knew our faithful Father would stand by us too.
Connect with local parish or hospital.
Meet with a priest, religious, faithful mentor, or join a grief group. You are not alone. There are people available to process your loss with you and people who are going through similar pain.
Never blame yourself.
This has nothing to do with anything you did!
It is easy to go through your mind and try to pinpoint what you could have done differently to help your child. This can be a damaging practice. It is particularly harmful and futile in this situation because this is not your fault and completely out of your control.
Put your hope in Jesus and the truths of our Faith.
God is Good, Jesus overcame the grave, Heaven is real, and the Lord’s plans are perfect.
Turn to Scripture time and time again see how God takes care of His people.
Honoring Your Baby
In any unexpected death, the worst feeling is that you cannot stop it, you cannot protect the person you love.
Now that they are gone, how do you honor this unrepeatable miracle?
I have heard many mothers who struggle with the feeling that they did not do right by their child. Women feel guilty, knowing their baby’s worth but having no outlet to honor that reality. Women grieve while sitting in the bathroom with the remains of their child in the toilet, refusing to flush because it does not feel dignified. Women sit on strainers with hopes to gather any remains of their child so they can bury them. Women wishing they had resources and options for proceeding with the knowledge they will lose their child.
Thousands of women are facing this every day and wondering what they can do to honor their child.
The Church has steps it needs to take to minister to women who have lost babies. But there are so many beautiful aspects of our Faith that allow us to honor our children that we should embrace.
Here are some tangible ideas.
Name your baby.
There is power and importance in a name. God is the Author of life, but gave us the authority to name our children.
In the Bible, names hold so much weight. Jesus changes names of his apostles, Zachariah gets his voice back when he proclaims his child’s name, and names are constantly used to tie people together, to show to which family someone belongs. There is intimacy in knowing someone by name, in God calling us by name, and in speaking a name.
We named our child Olive Magdalene. We did not know what people would think of naming our baby, especially since we did not know the gender. But it gave us an intimacy with our baby we could not have anticipated—specifically an intimacy in prayer. As Catholics, we believe anyone in Heaven is a saint whether canonized or not. They are close to Jesus and therefore have powerful prayers. We can communicate with them; we can ask our child for prayers.
If you are familiar with St. Therese of Lisieux, you know the holiness of her entire family. All of them yearned for Heaven so vocally and passionately. What you may not remember is the family also consisted of four children that Zelie Martin miscarried. They are acknowledged by the family and in The Story of a Soul. Therese even asked her siblings in Heaven for prayers. I think the reality of Heaven and the desire for it by the Martin children stems in part from the openness of their other sibling by their parents.
Naming your child allows us to make them an intricate part of our family life and a special saint watching over you. St. Olive, pray for us!
Have an intimate service to honor your baby.
It can be helpful to have concrete rituals or ceremonies to recognize a life lost and the pain of that loss. As husband and wife, have a simple prayer service or invite a priest to your home to lead you. Here is a prayer after miscarriage and a blessing on parents.
Do something tangible that you can see in your everyday life.
As Catholics, we use tangible sacramentals to encounter our Faith: holy water, incense, bells, candles, etc. None of these are necessary, but they add to our faith experience. Tangible representations or reminders of the life you carried can be a helpful way to honor them.
Plant a tree, buy a piece of artwork, buy a memorial stone, buy a necklace, start a new practice, or volunteer.
I never wanted a day to go by where I would not acknowledge the life God gave me. I wanted to have daily reminders, not of the loss, but of the baby we had in Heaven with Jesus. I had a memorial stone made by an artist and was given a beautiful painting of angel holding a baby from my sister. Both are great reminders of our child, Jesus’ saint.
Don’t be afraid to say you have a baby in Heaven.
There was a sting every time someone would ask, “Do you have kids?” and I would reply, “No.” It made me want to say, “I haven’t forgotten you I am just trying to keep this conversation comfortable.”
But you can empower others, evangelize about the value of every life, and be a witness to others suffering if you are open.
This is the most important step for grief, honoring your child, and changing the way miscarriage is handled currently.
Miscarriage happens in 20% of pregnancies. The frequency makes it no less devastating to a family and is even more reason we need to talk. Talking about miscarriage is surprisingly difficult for many reasons.
There is a feeling that you do not have the right to grieve. You do not want people to think you are looking for pity. You know others have gone through worse in life. Perhaps you do not want to scare others who are starting a family.
There is a sentiment that you weren’t really a mom or a parent because you never got to raise the child. There are so many reasons you feel you shouldn’t say anything. But you also feel the life should not be ignored, especially as Catholics and as a mother. Do not avoid talking out of fear or discomfort. We need to talk about miscarriage, as women and as Christians.
Conversation is necessary for women to process stress and to cope. When we open a dialogue, not only does vulnerability free ourselves and allow us to heal, but it gives others room to heal as well. After I became vocal about my miscarriage not only did I start to heal, but I felt that I was honoring the little babe. The more I talked, the more I was overwhelmed by how many women came forward to share their experience of miscarriage.
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The Hope After Miscarriage
Where there is darkness and sadness, grace abounds and love overcomes!
When Jesus ascended to Heaven, the Apostles thought, “Who will guides us now? Who will lead us? What are we to do?”
But Jesus didn’t leave them. He still exists in the world in unexpected but daily ways.
With eyes open, you will see the way Jesus protects your little one. You will feel His tender hand. People can call you crazy, but like the Apostles, no one can shake the conviction that comes with an encounter with Jesus.
My husband and I had a miscarriage a week before we were to leave on a road trip. Days leading up to the trip, God kept giving us glimpses of His goodness. From the first day we found out we were pregnant, we were drawn to the name Olive for no explainable reason. We kept asking one another what happened on the Mount of Olives throughout the pregnancy, but never took the initiative to open our Bibles.
During this time, I was reading Jesus: A Pilgrimage by James Martin. On the day we lost the baby, I read about the Ascension of Jesus which happened on the Mount of Olives and felt God’s closeness to us. But He did not stop loving on us. Every day of our road trip, we unintentionally saw the word Olive in the most unexpected places. The conviction and grace that these signs gave us sustained us. Exactly a year after we miscarried, God graced us with the birth of our daughter Faith, a few days late, but right on time.
I have friends who have similar stories of God showing them His tender love in unexplainable ways after they miscarried. If you keep your eyes open, you will see Him holding you and your child tenderly.
As much as I wanted to meet our child, see their little face a tiny toes, teach them the alphabet, take on sleepless nights and watch them grow, I cannot help but think the first thing the little babe saw when they opened their eyes was the face of Jesus. I cannot help but think they will spend entirety of their existence in a place with the fullness of love, joy, and peace. I cannot help but dream about us one day being reunited and meeting for the first time. As Zelie Martin said, “We will see our children up above!”
If you have experienced miscarriage, know that we are praying for you. What has helped you in your grieving process?Healing After Miscarriage #BISblog // Click To Tweet
Written by an anonymous daughter of God, wife, and mother who is daily learning to be His!