I was twenty-one, a year into marriage, when those two pink lines first appeared. We rejoiced at the precious life entrusted to us. But soon after, I started bleeding and eventually miscarried in a crowded airport bathroom waiting to board a plane for Houston. I will never forget the excruciating emotional turmoil as I was forced to experience such a sacred moment in that crowded, public, and dirty place. Every person in that terminal felt like an intruder in my moment of raw grief.
Having hardly any friends who were married, let alone pregnant, I felt alone and confused. Luckily, our life was busy at the time, so I suppressed most of my emotions and moved on with an attitude of "better luck next time, I guess."
A couple years later, after losing two more babies, emotions weren't so easy to suppress. Aware of the power of God to sustain life, miscarrying shipwrecked my faith. My attempts to reconcile the promises of God with my current circumstances kept me stuck wrestling with Him for some time. Though I am forever grateful for the testing of my faith, I remember the haunting discord of circumstances crashing against truth like it was yesterday.
Miscarriage is the membership card to a club you never asked to be in; a union of women sporting badges of infertility, stillbirth, miscarriage, and abortion. Women who share your emotions, questions, crisis of faith, and isolation; women whose desire to be a parent has been abruptly interrupted by suffering. As a member of that club, here are six exhortations for walking through this challenging season.
1. Welcome grief.
Grief occurs when something valuable is lost forever. If you have miscarried, grief is an appropriate emotion. Not only that, your grief glorifies God. It communicates to the world that life is valuable from conception and worth mourning when lost.
Depending on how fresh your loss is, make space for grief. Set aside thirty to sixty minutes a day to be alone. The pain of miscarriage attacks unexpectedly. The announcement of a coworker's pregnancy or cleaning out the cabinets to find extra pregnancy tests can usher in waves of emotions at the worst times. Having set aside time in advance makes space for these moments to steal away and cry. Crying is good for your soul in times of mourning; don't try to avoid it. Welcome it.
2. Wrestle well.
For me, knowing God to be in control of life and death made coming to Him in the aftermath of a miscarriage hard. I saw Him as rightfully sovereign over my circumstances and therefore partly responsible for my pain. For the first time in my walk with God, I approached Him hesitantly, bracing myself for more pain.
Having walked with God for many years at that point, I didn't question the truth of the Bible because I regularly experienced the reality of it and the God it spoke of. I knew too much to walk away. But I didn't really know how to move forward either. What did prayer look like when I didn't trust that God's intentions were good? How could I read the Word when my experience now brought doubt instead of confirmation?
Wrestling through your faith, doubts, and fears takes time and courage. There are no shortcuts through Peniel, the place Jacob wrestled with God ( Gen. 32:24-32). Like Jacob, to move forward we must face our fears, alone with God. Still looking for another way? You can forge ahead with a facade of faith over your fearful, doubting heart or you can refuse to move at all, but both require a hardened heart.
When your faith is tested by miscarriage, wrestle well. What do I mean by that? I mean three things: Wrestle with humility, wrestle with honesty, wrestle with patience.
- Wrestle with humility. While God bids us to come to Him with boldness and freedom, He is still God and therefore to be feared. God is not on trial here. Sinners like us deserve one thing from Him (eternal death and judgment), and if we know Him, He has spared us. We have no right to act as a judge to God. But we can come to Him with questions because we don't understand. Don't bring accusations to God; bring questions to Him.
- Wrestle with honesty. Please, let us be people who believe the truth over our feelings and experiences. But in seasons of grief, I don't think it's helpful to push down feelings and forcibly speak in Bible quotes. Talk honestly with God about how you feel, the doubts you have about His promises, the anger you have about friends who are pregnant, etc.
But beware, not all honesty is rightly motivated. There is an honesty that seeks distance from God ("I feel betrayed by you, God! I'm done with this faith thing!"), and there is an honesty that seeks nearness to Him ("I feel betrayed by you, God! I don't know how to move toward you, but if you can show me how I'll try."). Be honest with God, but do so in hopes to be reconciled with Him, not further away from Him. Let the Psalms lead the way as you learn how to draw near to God in honesty and faith.
- Wrestle with patience. If you are going to ask God questions, leave space for His answers. Your prayer life cannot be all talking and no listening if you expect to hear His still small voice ( 1 Kings 19:9-14). Learn the discipline of waiting on God. Create moments of active waiting through solitude and silence. Read through the Psalms and pay attention to how the psalmists wait on God. Be patient and listen.
3. Help others help you.
One surprising part of grief is realizing that you often have to help your loved ones help you. We assume our friends and family will know what we need and say the right things instinctively. But most of the time the compassion of others spills out in clueless and clumsy ways. Be prepared to tell your friends what you need, what to say, what not to say, how to help, and what is unhelpful.
"Can you call me on Thursday afternoons for a while? That's when I miscarried and those days are harder than usual. I think it would help to have someone to talk to."
"Please don't tell me how God is going to use this for good. It makes me feel like I should stop being sad and should move on. Instead, can you ask me how my walk with God is? Can you ask if I am humbly wrestling with Him through this?"
"It's okay that you don't know what to say. Honestly, I'd rather just have your company and not talk about this all the time. Can you come over today, and we can cook dinner together and talk about something different?"
Be willing to tell others what you need. That takes humility, but it will bless you and them.
4. Let isolation lead you to God.
Grief is isolating. For those who are married, a miscarriage can often create a chasm between spouses. Your husband won't understand why or how you feel, and that's okay. Honestly, no one will fully understand what you feel, because they have not housed this death in their body like you have. But instead of trying to fix this and make everyone understand, let that feeling of isolation lead you to the throne room of God. He understands loss and isolation in ways we never will.
5. Find a way to remember.
When someone dies, we do things to remember them. We keep pictures out to remind us or a favorite item of our loved ones. But when you lose your unborn child, you often don't have any tangible items. But you can make one. For our three, Jimmy painted a picture that stays in our kitchen where I can remember. I also keep a box of any mementos from those lives: pregnancy tests, ultrasound photos, wristbands from being in the hospital during my miscarriages, onesies I bought to surprise family with the news I was pregnant, etc. We lost our third baby near Christmas time, so we bought an ornament as a memorial. I still love getting it out every Christmas, even though it is bittersweet.
6. Stay in the Word.
Keep reading your Bible daily. Not necessarily for answers, but because nothing good comes apart from a clear view of God's unchanging character expressed through His inspired Word. If we will stay in the Word, even as we wrestle, it will revive us.
This is my comfort in my affliction, that Your word has revived me (Ps. 119:50).