Today, October 15th, is National Miscarriage and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. If that isn’t enough of a mouthful, I’d like to throw in there infertility and child loss of any age. The idea behind this day is to bring awareness to a pain that many of us carry around with us with no outlet or way to bring healing. And to give a time and place to recognize the grief. This day is near and dear to my heart because Nate and I have five babies in heaven. Each loss was different, each one happened at different life stages, with different hopes and dreams attached and we reacted to each one differently. But all of them can be memorialized today. The currently accepted statistic that is used is that 1 in 3 pregnancies ends prematurely. That means that if all the women in this room only had one pregnancy, a third of them would be childless. Since most women have more than one pregnancy, this actually increases the chance that all of us have been impacted by child loss or at a minimum know someone who has.
I have two goals for today, two things I’m going to ask of you.
– The first is that we as a church agree to be a safe place. This goes beyond just this one specific topic. The church is supposed to be a hospital. Hospitals have sick and needy people not healthy, happy, well put together people. The people at a hospital aren’t afraid to talk about a person’s hurts, pains, diseases and we shouldn’t be either. We need to be able to welcome those with tears in their eyes, those who are carrying a heavy burden and not make them feel like they don’t belong because they don’t have their act together today. Or tomorrow. Or don’t even know when they might. We need to tell them they are welcome just as they are and we need to be able to offer them hope. I don’t know all the ways that this looks, but one of them is that I’m up here talking to you today.
– The second goal is that we raise our awareness and get educated.
We need to stop avoiding tough subjects. We need to be aware that a large majority of us in this room and in our city are hurting from child loss. This is not a fun topic. People who haven’t dealt with it don’t want to talk about it and people who have don’t want to either. But they need to. Holding it in and pretending nothing is wrong is unhealthy. We need to be willing to reach out to those who are hurting even if it makes us uncomfortable, because they need us to.
As I wrote this, I considered putting in a list of the ways that people who have lost a child carry their grief, the lies they battle, and the things they go through but I decided it wasn’t necessary to make my point. The point I want to make is, they are hurting. We have made good strides in general in raising awareness of post-partum depression after birth, but this topic never even came up after our losses. I might not have admitted it at the time but I’m pretty certain looking back, and I’m sure Nate would agree, that I had post-partum at least twice or at a minimum just plain ol regular depression with some post traumatic stress thrown in. And after a loss, you have all the hormones with no baby to cuddle to help combat the negative feelings. There were no follow ups from my doctors, just “We’ll see you when you are ready to try again”. I needed someone to help me diagnose, but it just isn’t something we talk about or think about.
We need to stop putting a timeline on grief. Many people think that those who have experienced this loss should just “Get over it” or “Have another baby”. It has been ten years since our first loss and I can tell you, it still hurts and I HAVE had another baby or three. Child loss never goes away because it isn’t the natural order. Loss of a parent isn’t easy, but it is something you prepare yourself for. It is the way things are supposed to go. Losing a child hurts for the rest of your life because you aren’t supposed to outlive your kids.
Maybe we need to be more aware of our words. We place a lot of value in Texas on small talk and being able to have a conversation with anyone if they are out in public. But there are some things we should consider before saying even if we have good intentions. Sometimes, asking that young mom when she is going to start a family is painful, because they have already been trying. Sometimes telling a mom or dad of two that they have the most perfect little family hurts because they’ve just lost the third that they were hoping for. Also, some things might just need to be removed completely from our conversations. Things like “God needed another angel in heaven” is not only theologically incorrect but it is telling the person that God killed their baby for His need. And it doesn’t do anyone any good to tell them “It’s going to be ok.” Because for them, it will never be ok again. I’ve got a lot of others that I could list, but let’s just agree to think before we speak. If you really want a list, just google “things not to say to someone who just had a miscarriage” and you’ll get lots of hits.
After previewing this message, Pastor John wanted to know what he should say instead. I honestly don’t have a good answer for you. I love you, I’m sorry, and I’m praying for you are all great things to say. And not just right after, but a month later, when the due date would have been, at the anniversary, 10 years later. Ask them how they are doing, but only if you are willing to actually listen to their honest answer. Because otherwise, they are just going to say fine and move on. Ask the husband too and the grandparents. They have all lost the same thing. But maybe what is more important is to know that the grieving person most likely will not be ready to hear what you are saying anyway, and to try not take it personally. After one of our losses, I didn’t actually read the notes that people sent me on any form of communication until about a year later when I was working on a scrapbook. Doing something for the person is probably a much better way to show you care. However, at least in my case, you would find this a difficult task. Grieving people walk a fine line between never wanting to go in public and talk to anyone ever again to never wanting to be alone and needing to have something to do all the time. Often both feelings within minutes of each other or in the space of a conversation. Keeping myself busy was one of my ways of coping, so I turned down all offers for free meals and help with the kids. You probably need to know the person well enough to just show up and say “Here’s dinner for tonight” or “I’m going to clean your kitchen for you” or whatever you know they really do need. One of the bright memories I have is after one of my losses when my friends showed up with chocolate chip cookies and Dr. Pepper because they knew me and what I liked.
We need to offer hope. Most of the time, there is nothing tangible that can be done. We can’t bring back dead babies or revive lost dreams.
But we can validate.
We can let them know that there was a little person there who no one ever got to meet.
A beautiful child that we believe gets to go to heaven.
That we are sad too.
That this wasn’t God’s will.
That it is ok for them to grieve and to grieve for as long as they need to.
Many times, these are not the messages they get from the world. The world where abortion is a ‘right’ and the baby that you just lost is referred to the “articles of conception”. The world where you just became a statistic instead of a parent. The church needs to offer this message of hope. This is a great dichotomy of the Christian faith. We can have peace through the struggles and we can have joy through the pain. We need to empower those of us who have gone through the struggle and might be starting to see the world without tears again to be free to talk about tough subjects and be available to help others.
To wrap up, the two goals for today are that our church is a safe place for hurting people and that we be willing to become more educated and aware on tough topics.
(At this time, tea lights on communion table and regular prayer time)