The room was sterile and there were a million signatures needed from me. With every one, I wept. In hours, everything had changed – where I was once growing love and dreams and hope, I would be scraped and raw and empty. A tender, elderly woman with paper wrinkled hands, knuckles jutting, brought an angel hand-crafted from a hankie as part of a volunteer team. As simple as it was, it remains still in my mind a tender example of the power of the simplest gestures when a heart is hurting.
And that is what we remember.
Days passed. My body began to heal, life required normalcy. Returning to work, I’ll never forget one friend’s gesture who sent a pot of delicate flowers to me in my classroom knowing that’s where the next hurdle of moving on with life would be. In the handwriting I can still picture, a simple tag extended from the soil, “In memory of Baby French.” I cried again, but this time tears that fell from finally being understood. My baby would not be forgotten. Another friend, without asking, poured her heart out to me in a card and included a CD of carefully selected songs sharing that these were the ones she herself had needed through various points of her own grief.
Too many times, women feel this sort of loss must be mourned alone. Others around us are silent, so we feel we must be also. It’s as if because they don’t know what to say, they don’t say anything. It doesn’t have to be that way. For me, it didn’t matter what was said, I just needed to know those who loved me were sad with me. Because when they didn’t move on without me, when we didn’t stay silent alone, an extraordinary camaraderie was possible. When friends and acquaintances chose to surround me with their tears and gestures, there became a unique bond through this tender comfort.
It will always hurt, three children later, I know this well, but it doesn’t have to be lonely. I’ve been on the side of losing a baby and experienced the unique beauty of friends who grieve with me; and now, unfortunately, I also now know the vulnerability of being on the other side. However, while I know full well how awkward attempts at comfort are, what I know even more is how important it is to not stay silent.
I reached out to other women who had miscarried and asked them to share their experiences. What emerged was not only a beautiful testimony of the power of friendship, but insight on how to be a better friend myself.
My sister validated my feelings of loss by noting that an entire lifetime of hopes and dreams was lost even if the actual lifespan was extremely short.
Someone bought me a Willow Tree figurine called Angel of Mine to remind me that our baby would not be forgotten.
When I miscarried, my mom spent the day with us and talked about her own miscarriage, and told me that it was not my fault, there was nothing I could have done to avoid it, and that my baby was in heaven.
My best friend sent someone to my house with oils. She told me how much she loved my baby and was sad, too.
A dear friend of mine sent me a small teddy bear and a note sharing her love and prayers.
Friends brought meals; one of them took me out to shop and the spa.
Around the 1 year mark after I miscarried, a dear friend realized it was nearing the sad anniversary. She pointed it out and asked me if there was something she could do with me to help remember and honor my baby. We ended up going to Hallmark and picking out an angel figurine. I needed that physical acknowledgement that my baby really had existed and his/her life mattered.
My neighbor sent me wind chimes with a note that read, “we are sorry for your loss and hope you can think of him when the wind blows.”
My husband got me a birthstone charm for the month our baby would have been born.
People asked what they could do for US. They included my husband and acknowledged that he was grieving the loss too.
A dear friend reminded me constantly that it wasn’t my fault. She always remembered the date and would reach out to me, even called my babies by the name I had given them.
My friends remembered my baby’s due date. They allowed me to grieve, not avoiding me, but really truly being there for me when needed. They comforted me by helping care for my other kids, giving meals, and not forgetting about us a week or two after our loss.
An honest, “I don’t know what to say, but my heart hurts for you” goes a long way.
As a church care group, we make sure meals are sent, but also pay for the couple to have a getaway as it would be really important for them to have time away to recover from the loss.
When a close friend of mine recently had a stillbirth, the Lord laid Psalm 147:3-4 on my heart which says, “He heals the broken-hearted and binds up their wounds. He determines the number of stars and calls them by name.” I purchased her a star necklace with the above verse attached. A star could even be registered in the name of the child, as a tangible reminder that that loss is not forgotten.
When women who have experienced loss shared their grief, they became a testimony, a sister who could come alongside me, wrap their arms around me, feel my pain, cry until we have no more tears, encourage me through the trauma and endless heartache. That is what I will take from this; that is what I promise to do for my sisters going forward.