In this post: Comfort for child loss is often found in knowing that you are not alone. With pregnancy and infant loss affecting 1 out of every 4 women, there are others who can relate to and support you. And ultimately, Christ is the Wonderful Counselor. There are also groups and organizations available to both provide support and be a listening ear.
Comfort for Parents of Child Loss: You are not alone
When my first miscarriage occurred, I was in shock. We had barely even told anyone that I was pregnant, but I had already pictured our lives in my head. We discussed names, room decor, parenting values, rules, dreams for him or her, and so on. I was completely attached and utterly in love. I turned to those closest to me who I had already shared our news with, but not all of them understood.
There are an abundance of difficult parts to losing a child, but one of them was when I had friends stop talking to me. This became even worse later when our daughter died. One example was when my closest friend showed up to the funeral after ignoring my calls for weeks because she was upset my parents needed to stay with us on a date she was wanting to. I believed that seeing her there must have meant that the lack of phone calls was some sort of misunderstanding, except when I wrapped my arms around her she turned her head away and wouldn’t hug me back instead. Or actually talk to me. At my daughter’s funeral. Yes, that actually happened. And that, almost 8 years ago, was the last time I ever saw her or heard from her after we had been inseparable for years.
I had a falling out with another close friend after we were pregnant at the same. My baby was born 8 weeks early and died hours after her birth. Up to this point, we had compared pregnancies with the different appointments, measuring growth, and discussing kicks (and lack of sleep!). I prayed every day for the health of her and her baby and pregnancy; the last thing I would want is for her to experience loss. But even if my grief hadn’t made me ultra-sensitive, I still think I would have had the same hard time hearing her tell me every detail of her pregnancy, along with making jokes about how much caffeine and wine she was consuming because she “wasn’t going to let a baby change her lifestyle.” I thought our decade-plus long friendship could withstand me being vulnerable and sharing how that was affecting me and my depression, but I was proven wrong. We have since reconnected, but we have never talked about that moment or my daughter since. And I’m not sure we ever will.
Another friend was going around to our church telling people not to talk to me about our loss because she thought that would help. Instead it made people avoid us altogether. We learned to test the waters by hinting at what we had gone through or reference our daughter’s name to see what reaction we would get, and would end up disappointed when someone would either walk away or change the subject quickly.
In talking with others who have experienced the loss of a child, I learned that these behaviors and changes in friendships is unfortunately not uncommon.
I observed that people I knew seemed to either give us trite platitudes, like “You’ll have another” (like that child was easily replaceable) or “they’re in a better place” (while true, this de-emphasizes the loss), or they would ignore us and our loss completely. I also found myself withdrawing from some social situations as women in them used their time together to vent or complain about their kids, often joking about how they were ready to sell or give them away or that they’re lucky they didn’t strangle them. Not amusing to me. I understand the need to vent, but that isn’t the scene for someone who would give anything for what these women were complaining about.
Grief can feel like abandonment. Grief compounds when feelings of isolation are added to the loss.Grief compounds when feelings of isolation are added to the loss. #childloss Click To Tweet
But then I had other people randomly reaching out to me to share their story of loss. As more and more shared their story, I was in shock for another reason. I couldn’t believe the sheer number of women who had a miscarriage, or other child loss story. I soon learned that child loss affects 1 out of every 4 women. This statistic surprised me because of how few many times I had heard about it.
In talking with others, I saw all the women who had never shared their story. This was one reason I felt prompted to write a public note on social media a couple of weeks after our miscarriage to grieve out loud. I never judged anyone’s choice to grieve privately by any means, but I couldn’t help but be troubled by the recurring theme that the majority felt they couldn’t talk about it openly because that was a social taboo. And to be honest, another reason was because my isolation left me feeling like I needed to scream for someone to talk with about my losses. I was desperate, looking for someone willing to be uncomfortable with me in my grief.
Hearing about my child loss allowed some to give themselves permission to talk about their own, even if it is in a whisper. And while every story is different, we share a common core. It was like joining a club that we wish the membership was zero. For some people it was a club they were choosing to remain anonymous, but for others, like me, it became about choosing to grieve out loud. And in doing so, after some time, God has given me the ability to advocate for others in their grief. I look forward to introducing some of their stories here in the weeks to come.
Finding others who understand what you’re going through reminds you that you’re not alone. Just like your grief work will require you to adjust to your new reality, your other relationships will too. You may find that some friendships will come to the end of their season, but many will strengthen or form new bonds. Don’t write off a friendship because it gets uncomfortable, not every one will experience what I went through with some of mine. Many people care, but aren’t sure how to help you or how to even ask. Some even say those clichés because they can’t think of anything better.
Don’t be afraid to let others know what you need from them, even if it’s to say “Hey, I really don’t feel like talking, but I want to know that you’re there in case that changes. Can you bring over a book or something and just sit in the same room as me?” or “I need to hear you say my child’s name so that I know they’re not forgotten.” Many are afraid of making you hurt more, so they think it’s better to say nothing at all, not realizing that the silence is deafening.
Another way to help with the feelings of isolation to realize that you aren’t alone is to find groups where you can talk about what you’ve been through and what you’re feeling now. My husband and I joined a group that met monthly. The first meeting, I was hoping that my husband would say he didn’t want to go to give myself an excuse to bail. I dreaded it. But we went anyway. And then we found ourselves wishing that it met more than once a month because we couldn’t wait to be with others who knew what this grief was like and for the ability to say our daughter’s name without anyone visibly tensing up. These became “our people.” The people who cried with me, acknowledged our experiences, and helped us adjust to our new normal.Finding others who understand what you're going through reminds you that you're not alone. #childloss Click To Tweet
Wonderful Counselor, Prince of Peace, and Comforter
My first Christmas season after losing a child was incredibly difficult. I found myself realizing that my life could be split into two sections: B.C. and A.D. Okay, no, I’m not that old; this time is means B.C. as Before Child-loss and A.D. for After Death. The versions of me that are not the same since losing my babies. Normally the one to decorate for Christmas the day after Thanksgiving, I no longer wanted to even see the lights, stockings, or tree. It was hard to exude cheer when I struggled to have joy.
But something changed. While my new perspective often made normal situations seem unbearable, it also deepened my understanding of many verses in Scripture. With the Advent of Christ’s birth being celebrated, words like “Wonderful Counselor” and “Prince of Peace” took on a new meaning, as well as the Holy Spirit being described as our “Comforter.”
This is exactly what I needed.
I’m a big believer in the help that you can receive through counseling. My own degrees in Psychology are with a specialty in counseling. But after my daughter’s death, I had a hard time connecting the things I know with how I was feeling. My mental health was taking a beating and I needed help. Through this, I learned that I actually had PTSD (Did you know that it isn’t just for combat veterans?). The trauma of her death had affected me even more than I realized and I needed a Counselor to help me through it.
However your grief is affecting you, YOU need a Counselor as well. You could need a clinical counselor in the mental health field too, but I’m actually referring to how God wants to meet your need. Isaiah 9:6 (ESV) foretold of Jesus’ coming in this way,
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
I don’t know if it’s just my generation, but I feel like everyone has an opinion about everything and gives their unsolicited opinion frequently. But it seems to happen even more often when a child is involved. You hear opinions about names, birth plans, feedings, sleep schedules, and more even before the baby is born.
You’d think this would stop when a baby passes away, but you still hear everyone’s opinion anyway. I’ve personally been told when others think I should stop talking about them, when I should be “over it,” when to try again for more children, and even that they weren’t “really” my children. Yep. (Hmm…I wonder what would have happened if someone were to say the same to them about their children who lived?)
Others’ advice has the potential to leave us feeling sad, angry, defeated, disappointed, and alone. But God is the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6, ESV).
Spending time in God’s Word made me see Isaiah 9:6 come true. He is truly the Wonderful Counselor, providing guidance on how we should act, even in our grief. I found comfort in knowing that even Jesus wept (John 11:35) or that David was honest about his anger, guilt, and even shame. It was through this that I was able to find peace with the Prince of Peace.
Keep in mind that this doesn’t mean that there aren’t people who can help you in your grief. Just that God will never fail you. My healing truly began when I connected the practical steps from my therapist to God’s guidance in His Word.Looking for God to advise my steps helped me to grieve as I needed to, not how others wanted. #childloss Click To Tweet
There are also groups and organizations available to both provide support and be a listening ear. Two groups I recommend are Share and GriefShare.
Share is based out of Missouri, but there are local chapters throughout the United States and Canada. This link will help you find your local group. Share is focused on Pregnancy and Infant Loss Support specifically, which is why it was exactly what we needed. It is not faith-based, although you are not discouraged from talking about it as it relates to your grief journey. While Share groups will have volunteers heading each local group, it is led by the attendees. Each person gets a chance to talk, if they want it, and can even lead the discussion based on their experiences of the previous month.
GriefShare is a support group for those grieving the death of a family member or friend, which meets throughout the United States, Canada, and several other countries. Some people who have experienced child loss have a hard time with this group because it isn’t specific to the grief of losing a child. It can be hard for some, for example, comparing the loss of a grandparent who you’ve had a lifetime to share beautiful memories, hopes, and dreams with, to the death of a child. One happens out of the natural order of things. Are they both painful for the person experiencing the loss? Yes. Are they the same? No.
Please understand that I’m not trying to downplay any loss, but they are very different from each other. My Dad passed away earlier this year and one thing I was surprised by was how different the grief is. If that isn’t a trigger for you, then I would encourage you to look for a group local to you. You can find a group close to you at this link. GriefShare has volunteers leading their 13-week program with videos, discussion, and a participant workbook to guide you through your grieving process. It is usually offered in churches and is non-denominational, although welcome to anyone to attend.
GriefShare also has various helpful seminars that you can attend. Because the holidays are a difficult time that can be another grief trigger, one of their seminars is on Surviving the Holidays. Click here to find a Surviving the Holidays seminar close to you.
It is common for parents grieving the loss of a child to feel isolated, but you are not alone. There are many others who relate to you and offer support. Most importantly, Christ is the Wonderful Counselor who will give you guidance and peace. And take advantage of other resources available to you, like Share and GriefShare.