Ways the Church Can Love a Family Through Infant Loss
He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.Psalm 147:3
When I began thinking through my goals and dreams for this blog, one big dream was to use my platform so others could share their story! This isn’t a thing about me. This is a thing about making Jesus big and focusing on the amazing things He is doing. I dreamed that this place would be one where others could share their brokenness and how Jesus carried them through difficult seasons.
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.2 Corinthians 1:3
I think one of the most difficult things as a believer is to love people when we don’t necessarily understand or relate to their hurts or loss. We imagine how we would handle a situation and we expect them to respond the way we would imagine. Or, we do nothing and go about our lives because we are scared to admit we don’t know how to love during a delicate time. I asked Ember’s mom to share her journey and some practical ways the Church can love a family who has experienced loss. Here is their story…
“My husband and I got married in September of 2012 and I found out I was pregnant that November with our first baby. We were blissfully innocent to anything bad happening. I had some early spotting but after hearing the heart beat and things progressing normally didn’t think anything of it. Baby was due on my birthday! How exciting. We decided not to find out the gender and be surprised.
My mom came from Texas to Wisconsin to help throw me a baby shower and my dad happened to be a few hours away on a job (he travels for work) we had my baby shower on June 2nd, a Saturday. The next day my mom was going to head out after a late breakfast so I stayed home from church to be with her before she left. She asked me how the baby was and I realized I hadn’t felt it move in awhile so I drank some cold juice and went to lie down. After nothing she tried to listen for the heart but we weren’t too concerned because position could be weird. I decided to call my midwife and she had me drive into town so she could reassure me. After she couldn’t hear the heart beat she said, “let’s just go to the hospital I bet it’s just my Doppler or something.” We got an ultrasound and they were so quiet in the room I remember the sweet doctor looked me right in the eye, with tears in her eyes and said “I’m so sorry, there’s no heart beat”.
I remember the sweet doctor looked me right in the eye, with tears in her eyes and said “I’m so sorry, there’s no heart beat”
The room stood still and I threw my head into my husband’s arms and sobbed. I remember calling my mom (she had stayed at my apartment with my little brother and sister) and saying the “baby’s dead mom.” Looking back I’m so thankful to God that my mom was there when normally she was an 18 hour drive away. They told me I could go ahead and still have my homebirth but it could be weeks before my body realized the baby was dead and I just couldn’t fathom walking around knowing and waiting so we decided I’d be induced the next day. My body was no where near ready to have a baby and my mind for sure wasn’t, not to mention I was in a hospital after just assuming my whole life I would only have home births. My lovely midwife was with us the whole time. She knew a bereavement doula that she suggested come and talk to us about what to expect. The doula told us what the baby would look like and what changes might take place once my baby was born. My baby wasn’t born until the 5th. 3 days of being put into labor by all the methods. The baby was born and I just didn’t think I could see it. But my mom went right to the baby bed where the nurses were tending to baby and said it’s a girl! I knew, before I even knew who my husband was, that my first daughter would be Ember Rose. So I said “she’s Ember” shortly after my mom convinced me I should see her and so I did and I fell in love. We spent such a few short hours with her and leaving her body when I left the hospital was the most heart wrenching thing I’ve ever done, I asked the nurse if she could hold her until I was gone because it was so sad to think of her being all alone. I still cry thinking about it.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.Matthew 5:4
It’s now been 6 and a half years. I had a miscarriage about 8 months after Ember and then a few years later had my rainbow baby. A boy, Emerson. Just last year we had our happy little Felix baby. There are still days that the grief hits me but for the most part we have adjusted to life as loss parents. That feels like a betrayal at times because the sadness is what felt tangible to me, what kept her with me.
We never shy away from tell anyone about Ember and our other kids will grow up knowing they have a big sister that shaped the family that they are in. I’m convinced experiencing the death of my first babies set me up to love harder, appreciate more, and sympathize deeply. I’m always here to talk if anyone needs me. Love, Ember’s Mommy”
I asked Vanessa to share some ways the Church can love bigger during a time of loss. She said, “We were so blessed to have such a great community of people reaching out to us right after Ember died. It’s amazing, (albeit sad) the huge community you become a part of when you’ve experienced pregnancy/infant loss. I had so many friends that knew someone that had been in my place that reached out to me.”
Here are some ways that you can support a family through infant loss immediately following:
- Sending books, sharing your story, and praying for the family.
- Organizing a photographer to document their short time with their son or daughter was one of the biggest blessings for Vanessa and her husband. They have photos now to share with their other children and family.
- Give money – Vanessa mentioned that this felt weird to receive at the time, but they ended up using it to go on “healing-moon”. This was a getaway for just the two of them with no plans. Vanessa said, “we promised not to use our gps and we just drove. We needed to be away from our apartment that we had been planning to bring our baby home to and our town where everything had fresh, painful memories. I HIGHLY encourage loss families to take a few days, at least, and just love on each other (other kids too if it’s not your first).”
- If the baby is named little gifts with the baby’s name can be so special.
- Gift cards (not only for food but also ways to relax or for mom and dad to spend time together. Vanessa said that even people who weren’t necessarily close to them sent things that were personalized (blankets, jewelry etc).
Here are some ways you can love long term:
- Remembering birthdays or anniversaries. The first year has so many hard milestones. First Christmas without your baby, the due date your baby should have come, the anniversary of the day you found out you were pregnant etc. Remembering to send a card, text or call can be a huge way to show BIG LOVE for a family who will forever grieve a loss.
- Send pictures of signs or quotes with the baby’s name in it. This shows the family that their child isn’t lost but remembered.
It looks different because a mom has the initial constant physical reminder, bleeding/healing, milk production, cramps etc. For everyone else the world keeps spinning, for us it stops.
What NOT to Say to a Grieving Family:
Vanessa shared some great input for things to avoid saying that could be hurtful.
- “Heaven needed another angel” or “God needed her more”
- “You’ll have more” (it took me a while to conceive and then have a living baby but many don’t)
- “You can adopt”
- If you don’t know what to say just say, wholeheartedly, I’m so sorry you’re going through this.”
- The main thing is people are uncomfortable with death and grief in our culture. Don’t rush people, let them grieve how they need to. “It’s a two edged sword because people hurt me by saying the wrong thing and people hurt me by saying nothing at all and/or alienating me. Also my stillbirth was NOT the same as a miscarriage (I’ve had one of those too) and my stillbirth was NOT the same as a friend who’s baby died of SIDS. You can relate to people in your grief and loss but don’t compare.”
Vanessa shared, “I remember going to Babies R Us to buy an outfit for my dead baby to wear at her funeral… the clerk asked “how’s your day?” And it broke my heart. Obviously strangers don’t know what you’ve been through but be mindful, in the beginning especially, of your words. I try to say things like “wishing you peace and comfort this Mother’s Day” or “praying for the happy memories today as you remember” things like happy Mother’s Day we’re hard for me to hear when I obviously wasn’t happy.”
What is Especially Loving to Say
- If you want to tell me about baby __ I’d love to hear about him/her.
- Can I take you out to coffee on Tuesday?
- Your baby is so beautiful.
- I’m sorry you are experiencing this hurt. Life sometimes feels so unfair.
I have been personally convicted about being specific lately. It is easy to say “I am so sorry that happened. Let’s grab coffee sometime, I want to hear about it” but then you never actually take the next step to set it up. Taking that next step is the truest act of love and compassion you can have towards a family in need of love and support. It takes self-sacrifice and some times leaping out of your comfort zone! BUT, what does Christ require of us?
Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.Romans 12:15
Ways to Support the Dad After Infant Loss
I felt really impressed to ask Vanessa for ways that the Dad can be loved in this situation. And here is what she said, “I think people often look past dads because they don’t “physically” lose the baby, but they are experiencing their baby’s death AND watching their beloved wife go through one of the hardest things physically, mentally, and spiritually. My husband really stepped up and was my rock. It was helpful for him to have a few of his close guys friends to unload on so that he could be strong for me. I think having people bring us meals and the financial help was helpful for him too because he could focus on our grief and didn’t have to go to work that next day.”
I am sure it is hard for other guys to step in check on a friend during this time but, wow, look how important this is! We all have a part to play in loving a family through loss.
I just want to thank Vanessa for being so open and honest. She has been so great at sharing Ember’s story. I am in awe of the strength that she has found in Christ and how her husband and family have loved and supported her through this. Ember Rose, you sweet thing, are not forgotten and I cannot wait to meet you!!
Vanessa wanted to share this great resource if you wanted a little bit more information on how to love through loss. Comfort In, Dump Out
++Enjoy a free memory verse postcard that goes with this post –Hop Over Here ++