A stillbirth. A miscarriage. There is a peculiar pain when you lose a child that you held, but never met.
What do you say? How do you go on?
If you know someone struggling after losing a child, first give them a hug. Sit, be, and cry with them. And after a "ministry of presence," here are some things to say at stillbirth or miscarriage.
You have permission to grieve.
Grieve. Death, at any age and under any circumstance, is tragic. God created us for life, and death is the wicked consequence of our broken world.
The death of a hoped for child is particularly painful. Your child is a person you have known but never met. You have held him or her in some way, but never looked into their eyes. There is a special grief in losing a child that you won’t come to know. It’s OK to grieve. Weep. Cry. (Matt. 2:18)
God created your child and she is beautiful.
We celebrate the person God made. At every stage of life, he does miraculous work. Your child is a person, not an “it,” a fetus , or tissue.
David referred to God’s exquisite work of “knitting” life in the womb, forming one’s “inward parts” (Ps. 139:13). For this he declares, “I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (Ps. 139:14).
Even in sadness, we praise God for his splendid work. Your child is beautiful.
You are great parents.
Nothing that has happened diminishes the love you have for your child. God has chosen you as mother and father for this child. Nothing changes that. You will always be his parents.
You will encounter self-doubt, shame, and blame. “Did I do something wrong?” “What if we would have done this or that?”
You have cared for this child. Loved him. Waited for him. Prayed for him. You prepared for his coming. You anticipated his birth and baptism. You have been and are great parents. This loss does not diminish your parenthood.
I don’t know.
You are bound to ask “Why?” And I’m prepared to answer, “I don’t know.”
There are things we cannot understand. Your mind will seek reasons. You will attempt to rationalize the loss. You will get angry and frustrated. This is part of the grief process, but you won’t find ultimate or satisfactory answers.
But “I don’t know” can lead us somewhere. In the face of the hidden and unknown - this is the place for faith. “I don’t know why, God. I don’t understand. But all I can do is trust you.”
This is the way of the cross. Good Friday is difficult to understand.
“Why a death?”
“Why a loss?”
“Why the blood and shame, cruelty and injustice?”
In the face of the unknown, we cling to Jesus, who himself journeyed to the difficult place, the mess of human life that is difficult to understand.
The last word is not death. We don’t end with the unknown.
Here is what we do know: Our God is a God of life. (Rev. 21:5)
The word resurrection means “to live again.” Resurrection is the wildest belief that Christians hold (I Cor. 15). We are honest about the pain of death, but we are bold in our assertion that God raises the dead.
We live in the hope that God will raise all things to new life. We entrust your child into the merciful hands of this God. We hope in his promise of new and everlasting life. We hope in a day when Jesus will raise you, and when he will raise your child. You will meet this person that you never got to know. More profound than that, you will both meet the Lord who created you, and who brought you back by his death and resurrection.
Share these words. And then hug, sit with, cry with, be with.