I seem to be in a responding mood as of late. I was perusing the Gospel Coalition posts when I came across a fantastic article on the Gospel Coalition website entitled, “How to Mourn With the Parents of Stillborn and Miscarried Children.” John Patton gives some great, simple advice on how to come alongside couples that go through the heartache and pain of a stillborn birth or a miscarriage.
His personal story is very similar, emotionally, to what Tina and I went through in 2012 with our son Jonas. Although he was taken from us very early, we still we completely blindsided when his heart failed to grow and he never sustained a consistent heartbeat before dying at 9 weeks. A vacuum had been created in our lives that took months to recover from, and we could tell that no one really knew what to say or what to do when we were around them.
As I processed these emotions, I wrote these 3 Do’s and 3 Don’ts on how to handle a miscarriage as a husband and father. It is often very easy for us husbands to play the tough guy card and we often get overlooked by ourselves and by others as needing to reflect and process the emotions of losing a child. I wrote this a couple months after the miscarriage and thought it would be good to share them here and add to Patton’s discussion.
1 ) DO – Be there
It’s too easy for husbands to be “the tough guy” and not be there. We want to continue working, since we can’t let sadness and pain effect our work and providing for our family. ”Why would I stop playing pickup basketball with my friends, or stop going out to shows or studying late at night,” we say. “Life doesn’t stop just because my baby died.”
This is false, macho masculinity. What we need to come to grips with is that when miscarriage happens, our wives’ needs us. Tina needed me. There were times I tried to justify doing other things so that I didn’t have to be around the sadness and emotions Tina was going through. That was sin, and something I needed to repent of. I needed to be there. I didn’t have to say anything special or have a pithy statement to make it all better (which I didn’t anyway), but she needed me to just be there.
In Job 2, we find Job wallowing in the misery of having his life completely destroyed and he is sitting in dust with sores and trying to soothe the sores with broken shards of pottery (lovely image, no?). His friends come to see him after this calamity as any good friends would do. They see him from afar, tear their robes, and, “sat with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his suffering was very great.” Everything after this was a miserable failure for Job’s friends, but this period of mourning was their shining moment. Sometimes when we are sad and in pain we just need our loved ones and friends to be there. Just be there, not say a word, and be a comfort because our suffering is “very great”.
2) DO – Buy her candy and flowers
I’m not saying these things are exactly what you should buy her, but you can help her through the pain by showing her you are thinking of her and the baby you lost. Get her a special necklace or ring or other memento to remember the baby. Get her flowers on your way home from work. Stop at the grocery store and buy her a mess pile of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups if she likes those. Show her that you care. I remember being so wrapped up in the sadness and my own struggles that Tina remarked a couple weeks afterwards, “You never even got me flowers.” I cried, because I had missed so many opportunities to show her I cared and I was thinking of her well-being. There is only so many times saying, “I’m sorry,” does any good. I needed to show her something tangible that this was affecting me and I wanted her to know I was sad and was sorry we were going through this.
3) DO – Talk to God and your wife
I can say that I at least got half of this right. The pages of the Psalms were my lament and my joy during this time. I cried along with the sons of Korah, “For my soul is full of troubles, and my life draws near to Sheol,” (Psalm 88:3), and found hope in the words of Jeremiah, “The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases, his mercies never come to an end,” (Lamentations 3:22). I poured out my soul in frustration, anger, sadness, pain, and heartache to my God, and he was kind and gracious to answer me in my trouble.
What I ignored was the one person who God gave me to talk to who could understand me the most besides the Lord. Not only did I need to be able to talk to Tina, but she needed me. Talking to your wife through a miscarriage is balm for your soul and it’s good for hers, as well. Talking to her will create moments of connection that can knit you together and will allow you to fulfill your God-given role as the shepherd of your wife.
“Few actually take the time to get down in the dirt, ashes, and blood and mourn with those who are suffering and in pain.”
1) DON’T – Distance yourself (physically and emotionally)
As some of the above DOs pointed out, it’s important to engage your wife. I so often missed this and choose to find something else to do than talk about it, and that meant not being near Tina and also not connecting emotionally with her. It’s too easy to check out, but its killer in the long run. As I said previously, be there.
2) DON’T – Say anything stupid (even if it’s true)
Remember Job’s friends? This is where it all fell apart for them. On the surface, some of the advice they give is good. However, they lost sight of Job’s suffering and railed on him. It’s too easy for Christians to lose sight of suffering and cover up their suffering in true statements that hold no value. They almost become throw off statement that release us from some sort of easy responsibility to spout a word of truth and move on. ”God is good,” and, “Everything happens for a reason,” are so often thrown out they seem as casual as a special hello reserved for those going through a difficult time. Few actually take the time to get down in the dirt, ashes, and blood and mourn with those who are suffering and in pain. We ignore Jesus’ words to, “mourn with those who are mourning,” and we bless them and move on without supplying for their need. James, brother of Jesus, would knock your lights out over that. Don’t, I repeat, don’t say a bunch of true things and think that you have done your duty to your wife. Don’t ask her to just have joy and ignore what she is going through. Get down in the nitty-gritty, admit the gravity of the loss, and zip your lip for a bit.
3) DON’T – Put on a happy face
This is just wrong. The last thing your wife needs in a time like this is for you to put on a mask and pretend that everything is “A-OK. Wipe that Osteen-esque smile of your face and face reality. You just lost a child. I’m not saying you have to walk around with a grimace of pain or sour scowl, but don’t let your countenance betray your heart and your soul. It’s insulting to your wife, your kids, your friends, your family, and it spurns the name of your God. Our Father does not wants us to come to him with a bunch of ceramic, glazed over fakery, but He desires us to approach him in humble authenticity, trusting HIS power to overcome our weaknesses and sufferings and to find rest in Him and in His goodness and grace through Jesus Christ.
Even after reading this again and processing the how I was feeling then, I still miss our son and pray I get to meet him some day. I am praying for you if this is something you are going through right now, and would be happy to hear any feedback or comments on this.