December 19, 2013

Ministering Through Miscarriage

When I wrote about the Henry owls, a sweet reader shared with me about a friend who was expecting a little boy this Christmas.  Baby M had Down Syndrome.  Earlier this week she wrote again and shared that he had passed away before his birth.  She was seeking advice about how to minister to her friend in this time of mourning.  

When we had our miscarriage in 2010 we knew the Lord had a purpose in it.  We prayed and we waited.  It wasn't long until we saw God's plan.  I had been praying for some time for the Lord to enlarge my ministry.  And He has used our loss to do that many fold.  Rarely does a week pass that I do not receive an email from someone who has suffered the loss of a child or who is ministering to someone who has. And then there are the many people we have known or met in person who are dealing with the loss of a child.  It has been such a blessing to be able to reach out to so many women through this commonality.  And it gives purpose to something that was painful.  I have had the blessing of walking with my Christian sisters and leading them closer to Christ.  And I have had the blessing of leading the lost to a saving knowledge of Jesus.    

For a long time I have wanted to write a post sharing some things that may be helpful to those who are dealing with loss or ministering to someone who has suffered a loss.  It's just one of those many things I have never quite gotten around to.  However, yesterday I pretty much wrote the post in my reply to this email so I thought I would share some of it here.  I am eliminating names to protect the privacy of this hurting family. 

Today my heart is incredibly heavy as I think of your friends.  Thank you for sharing with me!  I had to face a hard time this morning and it was good to remember that no matter how hard, I get the blessing of holding my sweet son through whatever trial he may face in his future.  Not every parent is so blessed.

We choose to focus on the blessings of having a child with Down Syndrome.  But there is a very stinky side to it.  And the loss is definitely a stinky side.  I don't mention it much because I want Ds to have a different face.  But the real matter is that many children with Ds die every day, either before birth or as young babies and children because of complications from their disability.  

In 2010 we suffered the loss of our 8th child.  It was one of those times when we knew without a doubt that God had a plan.  We couldn't even begin to understand it as we mourned someone we had fallen deeply in love with.  But within months of the smoke clearing, God's plan became very clear.  I had been praying for a greater ministry and He put it right in my lap.  In those years I have been blessed time and again by the ability to minister to women through miscarriage and the loss of their children.  Some were our Christian sisters who needed comforting and others were lost women who I had the blessing of leading to salvation.  In all of that God has clearly confirmed to us what we knew all along, that in loss He has many blessings!
1.  Know there is a purpose, even if we can't imagine what it is

I know it doesn't look that way right now, especially to your precious friends.  But God will do something wonderful.  You did not mention what the cause of baby M's death was, but perhaps if nothing else it is the goodness that he will not have to endure some of the difficult and painful procedures we have seen babies go through as part of their Down Syndrome.  We have a little friend who is Addison's age and is preparing for her third open heart surgery.  She has also undergone gi surgery and has a feeding tube to nourish her.  We have another young friend who has Ds.  She was born, BORN, with Leukemia.  

I do not mean to say that it would be any comfort to say Max is better off dead, as some would imply.  But to say, maybe God wanted Max to live for eternity.  And someone had to carry him for that to happen.  And perhaps his suffering would have been too great.  So the Lord, in His infinite mercy and wisdom, allowed him to come to heaven now.  Doctors estimate that the majority of pregnancies in which a child has Ds end in miscarriage prior to 12 weeks of pregnancy.  But perhaps God wanted M's parents to have the joy of knowing him for as long as possible before he needed to go home with Jesus.  For me, knowing that there is a child waiting for me someday, gives me a focus on heaven that I never had before.  Perhaps, the Lord needed your friends to understand a parents love for a child with special  needs in order to minister in the world of special needs.  I believe God allows these things to happen for many, many different reasons.  And I can not begin to ascertain the why in this case.  I can only speculate and encourage you and your friends to consider those things for themselves.  And to do so with the acceptance that God's plan may never be clear this side of heaven. But perhaps, that in seeking the possibility of God's plan, your friends may find comfort and purpose for something that seems too sad to bear.  For me, focusing on God's plan is always the key to coming through trials victorious!

2.  Don't be afraid to speak your heart in a loving but clear manner

Additionally, in helping your friend through this time, I suggest being very bold with her.  We often tap dance around hurting people because we don't want to hurt them more.  But we are most useful when we speak frankly.  Say, "Friend, I want to help you and be of the most comfort to you.  How can I do that?"  She will need to cry.  She will try to fight it.  But it is a very important and necessary part of the healing process.  Everyone likes to do that in their own way.  Ask her plainly.  Does she want you to sit with her while she shares her burden?  Does she want you to keep everyone away so she can have time alone to cry and mourn?  The sadness will come and it will come again.  But each time it will last less and be less violent than it is now.  Today I can honestly say I no longer cry for our baby.  I do think about him.  But I never cry anymore.  If someone had told me that in 2010, I never would have believed them.  

3.  Create a keepsake

When we lost our baby, one of the hardest things for me was thinking of all that he would never be a part of.  My kids did something beautiful and wonderful that helped all of us through the healing process.  Each of my kids has a memory box that contains things like their ID bracelet from the hospital, their footprints, first birthday balloon, seashells from their first time at the beach etc... My oldest daughter painted a wooden jewelry box and put a music box in it.  We filled it with things that represented all those firsts that were so hard.  For his first Christmas a tiny ornament, for his first birthday a candle, the first day of home school had a kindergarten pencil, a shell, a tiny book... you get the idea.  The last thing to go in was a tiny white Bible, part of our church tradition.  Even today, once and again, I hear that music box playing and will find one of the kids sitting on my bed fingering the items from his box.  We will talk about Gussie and the wonderfullness of God's plan.  I also like that it gives Elisabeth (who was only 2 at the time) and Carmella (who was not yet born) a way to know their brother.  Since then we have given boxes to other mothers who have suffered the loss of a child.  Sometimes it is a premade box.  And sometimes we hand decorated an unfinished box.  It just depends on the mom.  They have filled it with their own memories and some have come back to tell me how much healing it brought to them.  
4.  Acknowledge their baby

I think you are right that it is a good idea to give the Henry owl for Christmas as you originally planned.  For one thing, it gives the parents something tangible to hold and squeeze in those time that they are missing their son.  If they do not desire to keep it, they may find comfort in seeking out a baby through their local children's hospital who has Ds.  Many people will try to avoid the topic of their baby at Christmas, feeling it will make them sad.  But they will be thinking about it anyway.  Knowing that you loved their son will bring them joy.  On my birthday after our loss my special friend gave me a willow tree angel holding a baby.  She explained how it made her think of me and our baby.  It made me cry like crazy.  It made me so HAPPY.  Today I see it every day.  And not only does it remind me of what is in store for me in heaven, but it reminds me of how God used this loss to give me a special friend who had only been a mere acquaintance before.  Incidentally, this friend ended up losing a child and I was able to help her through that time.    

5.  Find a way to remember

One of the things that we were blessed by as a family was adopting a child through World Vision with the same birth date as our son.  That may be a suggestion for your friends.  We found great comfort in knowing we could do something specifically to help another child.  

6.  Plant a tree  

In that first year we all needed a place to be with our Gussie.  So we planted a tree in the back yard.  We planted a garden of white flowers around it.  I can not begin to tell you how many times we would find our children there or how many hours I sat there myself just talking to the Lord.  Today it is now just a garden.  It still reminds us of someone we love.  But not in a mournful way.  Just in a, "I can't wait to hold his hand in Heaven" way.  

7.  Music soothes the hurting soul

There was certain music that really ministered to our hearts during those months following.  We compiled them into a play list.  One day, as we were taking a meal to a friend who has just had a miscarriage, my daughter burned it to a CD.  She wrote months later about what a blessing it was to her.  Since then, I often burned a CD for ladies who are going through a loss.

8.  Good Reading

There are two books I routinely share with women who are dealing with loss.  These are two beautiful Godly women who I came to know through blogging.  Angie Smith's I Will Carry You and Lynette Kraft In His Faithfulness, He Afflicted Me.  Again, ladies have come back to me and not only told me how these books helped them but that they passed them on to other women who were dealing with loss.

9.  A gift Basket

I was looking to order some herbs when I came across this beautiful gift basket at Earth Mama Angel Baby.  I tucked it away and forgot about it until I was putting this post together.  I like the way the store owner states what we often forget.  Women who suffered miscarriage are postpartum moms, too.  And they need care and comforting.  I think this basket would be a wonderful gift for a mom who is recovering from miscarriage.

This is in no way an exhaustive list.  You may find some things particularly helpful and other things completely useless.  But hopefully there is something that will minister to your hearts or allow you to minister to someone else.  I know there are many readers out there who have experience in this area.  I would love if you would take time to share here ideas that you feel would be helpful to other readers.  If you comment through Google+ please copy and paste your comment directly into the comment section of this post.  That way future readers will have all your suggestions compiled into one place.
Love to each of you.  May the Lord bring you comfort in your loss and give you strength and courage to reach those who are hurting.


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