The wound comes from well-meaning people. “Well, it wasn’t that far along.” “You can always have another child.” “Lots of people go through this.”
Miscarriage is a tragedy that so many people misunderstand. They are not quite sure how to console a friend or relative who has suffered this loss.
While there are no magic formulas, there is one fundamental truth that needs to stay front and center: a miscarriage is the loss of a child who is just as real and has just as much value as any other child of any age. A woman who has a miscarriage is a parent who has lost a child, as is the father of the child as well.
In a society which continues to have a legal and cultural blind spot for the unborn, many suffer from the illusion that miscarriage doesn’t grieve a parent as much as the loss of, well, a “real child.” And that is precisely what hurts so much. We can never console someone in grief if we imply, even remotely, that the person they lost wasn’t real.
Dr. Byron Calhoun, President of the American Association of Pro-life Ob-Gyns, has observed that prior to 1970, the loss of a child before or during birth was often treated in medical literature as a “non-event,” but that now there is a growing awareness of the grief associated with such loss. In fact, Dr. Calhoun has developed a hospice program for unborn children.
As the medical community advances in sensitivity and understanding of these points, so must we all. Our love, our compassion, our sharing in the grief of such losses, can bring healing to the parents who have suffered miscarriage. The naming of these children who have died is one significant way of acknowledging their reality. The counting of these children matters too, so that if a parent is asked how many children he/she has, the child who died before birth is counted as one of them.
I recall the first pro-life billboard that we set up in 1990 here in our community of Staten Island, New York. It depicted a developing unborn child. One of the first phone calls I received about it was from a woman who had lost a child by miscarriage. “I can’t tell you how consoling your billboard is to me. Thank you.” That was all she said.
Perhaps the reason it was consoling was that someone was saying publicly what she knew privately: that was a real child. The life of that child matters, no matter how short it was. The death of that child matters, no matter how many may not cry. And the love I have for that child matters, even if nobody else knows.
Lord, comfort all parents who grieve the loss of their children of any age. Take them into Your loving arms, and give us strength until the day You give them back to us in heaven. Amen.