Monday, April 29, 2013

The Silent Loss

They call it the Silent Loss. The Invisible Death. You can go through it without a single person besides yourself having any idea it's happening. And no one can possibly warn you about how hard it will be until you experience it. Possibly we think it will be an easier loss because we've bought into the lies of our culture that tell us it's "just a fetus." That dehumanize what from the instant of conception is unequivocally life, and beautiful life at that. For many people, the minute the little stick turns pink, that child is a baby, a little life on the way, with cribs to plan for and maternity clothes to buy.

Perhaps since I've been so honest on this blog about our own story of miscarriage and infertility, I find myself often aware of people who have gone or are currently going through the loss of miscarriage. Just in this last month, my heart has been broken three times alongside friends who have shared this news. And you know what people say? It happens all the time. It's common. Which unintentionally, or possibly intentionally, communicates that we should recover quickly from it. Get on with our lives. But you know what I say? There is nothing common about death. Every loss is unique, every baby has the right to be mourned. There is no such thing as "getting on with" something when you've lost a child. That loss will always be a part of your story.

I daresay the stats would support that if you are reading this you fall in one or both of two categories: someone who has experienced miscarriage for yourself or someone who knows someone who has. And let me be frank: if you don't think you know someone, you do. That's where the whole invisible thing comes in. Someone in your life has been through this. And after 4 years of processing, reading, ranting, praying, talking, listening and hoping, I've come to some conclusions about this silent loss. I share them today to stand in grief with my friends who are currently going through this. I love you, God loves you and I wish with all my heart you didn't have to go through this.

(1) You are never ready for how hard it is going to be.  There is no other way to say it. It's death, it's not expected and it hurts a ton. It doesn't matter how "early on" you were nor should you let people tell you it should hurt less if you were "only" a certain number of weeks along. It's real and painful loss.

(2) You and your spouse will likely grieve it in very different ways and wanting said spouse to grieve the same way you do will only add conflict and pain to your grief. Let him or her grieve their way and try to move towards each other as best you can even if you can't understand the other's process.

(3) Don't try to "get over it." Accept that this loss. Just like if you have children who have lived, this little one will always be a part of your family's story. Ignoring it in the vain hope that I'd eventually stop being sad didn't work for me and I doubt it works for many people.

(4) Don't try to replace that baby. Sometimes when we lose a child we rush back into the "trying" phase again under the false expectation that another pregnancy will heal that pain or fill that void. That is a unique child you lost - no other child can or will ever replace him and you are setting yourself up for even more pain and confusion if you expect a pregnancy to solve your problems.

(5) Expect the due date to be a hard day. You may have lost your baby at 5, 12 or 20 weeks. No matter how early it was, that loss is valid and that due date will feel like a sucker punch.

(6) Know that social media will be a minefield. Seriously, you can't swing a cat on facebook without hitting a pregnancy announcement or a photo album of a wrinkly, red newborn. Some days it won't affect you and you may even be able to rejoice with your friends, other days you will feel like someone is dancing on your heart and shouting "look what we have that you don't!" Try not to take it personally, shut down the computer and go for a run. Or sing 80's music at the top of your lungs. You know, whatever works. 

(7) God's sovereignty is tricky and people who try to comfort you with it maybe don't have it right. People might say "she is in a better place" or "God must be causing this to teach you something." Um, yeah, that's not helpful. None of it. Do I believe that anyone who is already in eternity is categorically in a better place - sure, God's a pretty awesome being to be around. Is that a comfort when I want my baby in my arms? Not really for me. Maybe for some people, though I can't say. Is it true that God caused this to teach me a lesson? Nope. Is it true that God caused this to teach me a lesson? Nuh-uh. Is it true that God caused this to teach me a lesson? No freakin' way! Can you tell this was a particularly hard lesson for me to learn?  My God is not vindictive or manipulative. He is love, he is good, he is life abundant.

(8) Church is hard. It just is. Most churches seem like baby factories, pastors talk about being fruitful and multiplying (can we PLEASE talk about context with that one!) or quote passages about God closing or opening wombs and everyone on the playground asks intrusive questions about how many kids you have. And nobody talks about miscarriage in public. Ever. We church people don't know what to do with it when our whole lives we were told that babies are blessings and God wants to trust tons of them to us to raise. But what do we do when we don't have them- what does that do to our understanding of blessing and God's role in fertility? Boom. Yes, that was the sound of my head exploding. There are no quick answers here. Sovereignty is tricky and since about a bajillion books have been written about how it works, many of which differ in their conclusions, I will not attempt to write the final word on it here.

(9) You are not being punished. This didn't happen because you parented a first child wrong or because you didn't learn some lesson God wanted you to learn. God is good. Satan is not. God hates death. Satan loves it. Bottom line.

(10) Life's not fair. You can't expect to only go through a miscarriage once - it could happen again or it could be followed, like us, with years of unexplained infertility. And it's fruitless and petty to keep score with other people on who has had this whole thing the hardest or easiest. If you could, I'd be mad at every woman I saw in Target who had 4 kids trailing her. It is my firm belief that Satan is having a field day when it comes to the fertility question. Miscarriage, stillbirth, infertility, abortion, SIDS. None of those are from God. Not one. But trying to ask for fairness in the world is futile. We live in a broken world and no one, NOT ONE OF US, is guaranteed justice, fairness or freedom from pain while on this earth.  That is only reserved for eternity.

(11) Remember it. Some people get tattoos. Some have memorial services. I got a necklace with our daughter's would-be birthstone and wear it almost every day.  On the 4th anniversary of the miscarriage I named her because I could no longer bear to call her an 'it.' Not everyone needs to do this the same way- but if you choose to remember, you won't try to replace her. And if you don't try to replace her, you might actually find yourself starting to heal.

I could probably go on and on. If I'm totally honest here, I wish I hadn't learned these lessons or that I had learned them through research rather than through experience. I wish we hadn't gone through it. I'm certain that God has remained present and taught me amazing things as I have clung to him but I will never be, nor do I have to be to remain a God-honoring believer, thankful that it happened.

What I am thankful for is that I didn't stay silent. Oh, I did at first as many of you know. I hid it, I ignored it, I insulted my friends by not trusting them to love me in it. But eventually, I let people into it. Some of them didn't say the right things. Most of them did. We can't expect those around us to respond perfectly all the time. But we can risk letting them (maybe one person, maybe ten) know that we will not suffer our loss silently or, perhaps more importantly, alone.


  1. Saw my wife and I throughout this entire story. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Thanks for sharing and not being silent. I wish more people talked about loss...we all have so much to learn from each other. I'd like to eventually write one of these posts as well and just get it all out in a list form!

  3. I got one tattoo for our daughter Kayla. And I still need to get the second tattoo for Lola.

  4. We appreciate you not being silent and love ya'll dearly.

  5. Thank you Carolyn for writing this, it is helpful for pastors like me who have much to learn in caring for families who are going through this.

  6. Thank you for mining your pain, Carolyn, that others might learn from what otherwise was hidden. Long ago, a friend challenged me by asking why Christians so lamented abortion but were silent about miscarriage. Thank you for speaking, and please know I'm sorry for your loss!