How can I be an awesome friend in the face of tragedy?
*Disclaimer* --This is definitely an art and not a science, so don't take everything I say to be fool-proof.
In relation to my previous blog about miscarriage, a close writer-friend of mine, Katy, and I decided to collaborate on a blog that would help people know how to come alongside a friend who is grieving, especially as it relates to miscarriage. Miscarriage is such a "taboo" issue, rarely discussed and often misunderstood. Miscarraige seems to be hard for people who have never experienced it to imagine the child who died in the womb as a real child. It's usually difficult even for the "baby daddy" to "get it." In my experience and also for some friends, husbands just don't always feel the pain and loss to the same magnitude as their wife who went through the physical miscarriage. This can cause the grieving mother to feel especially isolated and like no one understands.
Furthermore, even close friends or family members who have miscarriages are difficult and nerve-wracking to approach because the grieving person is usually extra-sensitive. And by extra, I mean ridiculously, sometimes sensitive beyond understanding. Almost as if nothing said could be the right thing. (ummm, yes. I have been guilty of this!)
So in light of this tough topic, we wanted to share our experience with you about what helped us move through our grief. To read Katy's story with miscarriage, check out: her blog.
Here we go....top 8 things to help you come beside your friend in this time of deep grief:
1. Accept it, Embrace it.
In an effort to help most likely, people have said lots of things to me such as:
"You're SO young, you will have kids someday."
"You are such a great person, you deserve to have kids so I'm sure you will."
"You will eventually have kids, I'm sure it's just not the right time..."
The problem with those phrases is that they don't focus on the grief of THIS miscarriage and the tragedy it feels like. Depending on your friend and how they are grieving, they may not want to look FORWARD just yet. They may still be missing their baby and want you to meet them in that grief now.
People are so quick to want to pull you out of your grief! Although your tendency may be to make your friend laugh and talk about other things like the promising future (which usually at this moment doesn't feel so promising), your friend may be in a place where she needs you to enter into her grief and not offer advice moving forward.
It's always best to ask her if she wants to talk about the miscarriage...it's real to her. It happened. And she needs to talk about it.
2. Bring food, bring flowers, bring Starbucks: just know that you aren't going to fix it.
Personally delivering food or flowers expresses that you aren't afraid to be around your grieving friend or acknowledge the loss of their baby as a real death.
After our first miscarriage, three people delivered beautiful blooming flowers and plants, and it reminded me that life is all around us, and it will eventually bloom.
After our second and third miscarriages, only one friend brought over flowers and a note. This made this friendship stand out as especially real and comforting.
I felt especially alone after losing multiple babies to miscarriage, and it seemed like less people cared each time. Even with something as simple as not receiving flowers or notes. When my dad asked what he could do, I asked him to send flowers. I didn't want to have to ask. But it still helped. It gave me something to look at and remember what I was dealing with. It's not something that if ignored, will simply disappear.
3. Be there. Go out or stay in, but be available.
This point piggybacks on the previous two. Your friend might want to talk about medical things. She may want to recount the whole story to you. This is a huge piece of the healing process.
*Listen to her. Don't be afraid to enter into the pain with your friend.
"Rejoice with those who rejoice. Mourn with those who mourn." Romans 12:15
4. Say something, say anything....just not anything.
Ask Ask Ask questions. She will tell you if she wants to talk about something else, but most people don't want to talk about the hard stuff and let you cry. This is so vital.
Say "I'm sorry." If you don't understand, just say, "I can't even imagine how hard this must be, but I'm here to listen and I'm so sorry."
It's really meaningful when friends and acquaintances even simply bring it up. It's a death- a loss that she needs acknowledged.
Now saying something, doesn't mean that it's okay to say just anything. As aforementioned, it's hard to hear people about the kids you will probably have some day. When the FUTURE is all people want to talk about, it's frustrating. Your friend my not be ready to move forward yet.
Avoid saying things like:
"It will happen, you have plenty of time to have kids." (Overly optimistic...this very well may not happen, and we just aren't promised tomorrow.)
or "That's why you shouldn't tell people until you're further along." (She probably already regrets this decision. It's in the past and will make her feel regret when she doesn't need more stress.)
If your friend is a believer, focus on the Lord and not other people or quick fixes. She doesn't want to hear about wives tales or what you or your friend tried/did to get or stay pregnant. (unless maybe you have walked where she is walking.)
2 Corinthians 4:18, "So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal."
5. No offense (don't be easily offended)
Your friend may not be willing to talk about it. She may not hold back anything, and it may get weird. She may be rude about other preggos or people with babies.
Don't take offense at what she says. As a sister in Christ, you may want to just ask if you can pray over her if you are sensing a huge and hurtful amount of hostility, but she may just not know how to deal with her raging emotions. Be there. Have your defenses down.
6. Encourage with truth and promises of scripture. (HUGE!)
Scripture is full of promises. We received a card in the mail from some friends who are so biblically rooted. It was full of scripture that PIERCED my heart like the Bible usually does, and I just read it and wept.
These are some of my favorites:
"Let your UNFAILING LOVE surround us, Lord, for our hope is in you alone." Psalm 33:22
"The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit." Psalm 34:18
“And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” – Phil 4:19
“These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change and though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea; though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains quake at its swelling pride. Selah. The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our stronghold. Selah. Psalm 46:1-3, 7
‘Do not fear, for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.’ Isaiah 41:10
I have set the Lord continually before me; because He is at my right hand, I shall not be moved. Psalm 16:8
Cast your burden on the Lord [releasing the weight of it] and He will sustain you; He will never allow the [consistently] righteous to be moved (made to slip, fall, or fail). Psalm 55:22 (Amplified)
He only is my Rock and my Salvation; He is my Defense and my Fortress, I shall not be moved. Psalm 62:6
Casting the whole of your care [all your anxieties, all your worries, all your concerns, once and for all] on Him, for He cares for you affectionately and cares about you watchfully. 1 Peter 5:7 (Amplified)
The Lord is good, a Strength and Stronghold in the day of trouble; He knows (recognizes, has knowledge of, and understands) those who take refuge and trust in Him. Nahum 1:7 (Amplified)
7. Pray for. Pray over.
She needs prayer warriors in her life. Be one.
James 5:16, "Therefore confess your sins to each other and PRAY for each other that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective."
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, "Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."
Romans 12:12 (one of my favorites) "Be Joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer."
8. Endure, Encourage, and Never give up.
Don't give up on her. The healing journey is long and daunting at times. It is to her, and it may be extremely hard for you to weather with her. Keep praying. Keep asking. Keep encouraging. Keep loving.
Blessings to you as you strive to serve and love your friends with the agape love of Christ.. And THANK YOU to all of my wonderful friends who have listened more than they probably cared to, and cared enough to make a difference. I am so thankful for you! I truly believe that I would not be where I am today without each of you. (corny, corny, corny. But true.)