10 ways to help a mom going through miscarriage or loss
We only have now: How a terminally ill child changes your perspective
The “Club” No One Wants to Talk About
5 Ways to Help Those Facing Tragedy and Grief

10 Ways to Help a Mom Going through Miscarriage or Loss

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10 Ways to help a hurting mom

Afraid of saying or doing the wrong thing after a friend loses a child?  You’re not alone.  I hear women often say, “I want to help, but I don’t know how.”  

Here are ten ways you can support a friend going through a loss or miscarriage:

1. Pray for her.

Do it daily. Put it on your calendar. Set your alarm. Add it to your daily list. Then let her know you’re praying.  It might not feel like those minutes will matter to her, but they do.

2. Follow her lead in the grieving process.

Don’t attempt to fix it, force it, or hurry her along. Grieving is a process that takes a lifetime.  There’s no fixing a giant tear in your heart.  When you call her, repeat these words to yourself: Listen. Don’t fix. Listen. Don’t fix.

3. Touch base regularly.

Call, text, email, stop by her house,  Don’t avoid her. Avoidance is what we do when we’re not sure what to do. Even worse, she will notice that you stopped contacting her and will wonder why.

4. Stand by her through horrible pain. 

Do # 3 and then keep doing it. Don’t abandon her for friends whose lives are easier or simpler. Listen to her questions.  Let her ask, Why me?  Don’t offer advice, platitudes, or stories of others who’ve gotten pregnant after going through loss.

5. Offer something you know you can give.

A cup of coffee, a meal, a walk, a babysitter. Then follow through with it.

6. Anticipate her needs.

Avoid the phrase: “Call me if you need something.” There are days so bad, she won’t have the energy to understand what she needs or who to call.  Have an idea of how you can help and then take the initiative.

7. Lessen the daily grind.

If there are recurring tasks you can take over, offer to do them. Walk the dog, pick up her kids from school, or take out her trash. Some tasks, like laundry and house cleaning, do require her permission (but are extremely valuable). She may be embarrassed for someone to deal with her dirty laundry or she may be holding on to certain memories related to the last shirt she wore while pregnant.

8. Save the date.

Set calendar events for anniversaries, birthdays, and holidays. Then send a note saying, Thinking of you and your sweet baby today.

9. Consider a memory gift.

Plant a tree or flowers that bloom every year. Buy a special item (jewelry, a Christmas ornament or candle) to remember her child.  Make a gift that is unique to her.  All these things go a long way in helping her remember she is loved.

10 Say I love you and I’m sorry and I know I cannot make things better, but will be here no matter what.

To all the hurting mamas, out there: We’re in this together.  You’re not alone.  Let’s wrap arms of love around each other.

xoxo

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We only have now: How a terminally ill child changes your perspective

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When my son was in the hospital,  I would wake up in the middle of the night and have no idea what time it was. Was it morning? 3 AM?  Midnight? It all seemed the same in the hospital.

Sometimes I roamed the halls when my son was sleeping so I could reorient my internal clock. But time seemed elusive in the hospital—the place was the same at 2 AM as it was at 2 PM—bright lights reflecting against white floors, nurses clutching charts and medicine. The only way I could track time was the appearance of a new nurse in my son’s room, nearly 12 hours after the first nurse had started her shift.

It was a place where the minutes dragged on endlessly, but the time with my son was slowly slipping through my fingers.  

We only have now, I realized as my son lay dying.

That’s the real truth of what hospitals teach us.

We try to pretend like we have all the time in the world for the people we love. But ask anyone who sits at the bedside of a terminally ill patient and they’ll tell you the truth.

Crisis brings us to a point of recognizing how little time we have.IMG_0005 - Version 2

“Too short, too short,” exclaimed the woman as she watched her husband of over seventy years pass away.

Her time with him had not been long enough.

Even though she had gotten more time with her husband than most of us will ever get with our loved ones, she could not understand where all the years had gone.

We only have now.

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But normal life lulls us into complacency, blind to the brevity of life. We work harder to get ahead, to make more, to do more, to get more, to prove ourselves.

We run this rat race of always putting off what’s most important.

We say,

When I retire…

When I have enough money…

When my kids are grown…

When I accomplish this goal…

But don’t ask the young woman with breast cancer or the couple with the dying child if they put off the important for later.

They know the secret to really living: We only have now.

When we’re faced with the tragedies of life, we realize something has to change, that we can’t go on living like we have all the time in the world.

We live differently when we have a sense of how brief our lives are.

When someone you love is terminally ill, the answer to how to our spend our time becomes  clear.

Invest in the people you love.

Say yes more often. Yes to interruptions.  Yes to messes.  Yes to something crazy.

The time for radical living isn’t for when you’ll have more time. It’s recognizing that you’ll never have enough time–and then doing something now.

It’s learning to prioritize your life in a way that values not what you accomplish, but how well you loved.

The parents sitting with their children in hospitals and kissing their foreheads know this too well.

They reach across the hospital bedsheets, touching their child’s hand, while there’s still time.

While they have now.

The “Club” No One Wants to Talk About

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Last year I met a woman whose husband was dying of cancer. Hospice had been called in. Her husband only had months left.

She told me how hard it was to watch someone die. I nodded in agreement.

It is hard.

She said that her husband’s pain was so bad, she didn’t want him to suffer anymore. She didn’t want him to die either, but she didn’t want him to live like this.

I nodded again.

“My husband had cancer too.”

Then I tell her the whole thing: How we really didn’t know if Sam would live or die. What it’s like to be a caregiver for someone with a serious illness. After going through cancer, we adopted a child with a genetic disease who would not live past his third birthday.

We talk about how hard it is to watch someone suffer, to grieve while the person is still alive.

“I can’t believe you’ve been through some of the same things I have,” she says.

Though we have never met before, there is an unspoken understanding: We are both part of the “club” that no one wants to join.

I never knew about the club before we went through Sam’s illness, but after he was diagnosed, people who were survivors would approach us and say, “I went through cancer too.”

It was like a secret handshake.  It opened the door to deeper conversations.

That’s the thing about these clubs. Once you’re “in,”  you always know your people.

They are the ones nodding yes when the rest of the world looks at you confused. They are the ones holding your hand when everyone else goes on with their lives.

When we talked to them about chemotherapy, they nodded and told us how horrible it was. When we discussed our fear behind doctor’s appointments, they said things like, “I still feel afraid when I go in for my cancer checkup.”

I learned that this club wasn’t just for those going through cancer. It was for everyone going through something hard or life-changing—the things that label us and define us and ultimately make us who we are.

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When my son was diagnosed with Leigh’s Disease, I discovered we were part of a new club, “The Sick Kids Club.” I met other parents who worried about their child’s health, whose calendars were full of doctor appointments and who haggled with insurance companies over medical bills.

We lamented being part of this club. But we also knew that we had each other. We were not alone. God gave us someone else on this journey so we would not be afraid. Someone who understood my pain.

When my son died, we joined the “Parents Who Lost a Child Club.” We met other grieving parents who struggled with depression and guilt, who stumbled through each birthday and holiday, who learned how to find a new normal through their grief.

Though we wish we weren’t part of the club, we knew the connections sustained us through the worst of times.

These people become our cheerleaders, our advocates, our shoulders to cry on.

Because even though joining the club was the worst thing that happened to us, it was also the most life-changing.

Our shared pain opened doors to new relationships.

Our suffering gave us empathy. Made us less judgmental. More understanding.

Through our club we realized: This group is an unexpected gift in our time of need.

Some of my readers are here because you are part of the club too.  Though I can’t make it better, I want to tell you this:

I’m sorry you are in the club. I wish you didn’t have to be here. I wish I wasn’t in the club either. But if we’re going to go through this, then I’m glad for one thing–that we’re doing this together.

We are not alone. We can do hard things. Let’s turn our grief to good. Let’s help each other. Let’s make this our common goal: We will not let anybody walk this road alone.

I don’t lament being part of the club anymore. These are my people—the ones who know how hard and crazy this beautiful life can be.

We walk this road together. We live these holy moments.

 

 

Five Ways to Help Those Facing Tragedy and Grief

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I turn on the TV and tragedy is splashed all across the newsfeed.

After the sobering report of a child being dragged into the water by an alligator, the newscaster says, “Our prayers go out to them.”

But to those parents who’ve lost a child, who watched as their child disappeared into murky waters, do we know how to respond?

Do our prayers really go out to the ones who’ve witnessed the worst event of their life?

To the families who’ve lost a son or daughter this weekend, do we try to understand the ache of their parents’ broken hearts?

We can choose to weep with those who weep or we can turn off the news with detached silence and go on with our lives.

Because in the midst of horrendous tragedy, it’s easy to stand back paralyzed by what to do. It’s easy to nod our heads in agreement when they say, “Our prayers go out to you” and forget to utter a word.

I’m fallen and failed and have forgotten to offer prayers in tragedy too. Then I remember:

When my lips are silent, how can I expect that God will respond?

We make our choice with our silence or with our compassion.

This is true of any tragedy, whether it’s a mass murder a thousand miles away or a child who dies in our own community.

Loss is loss.

And love is love is love.

We speak love through our prayers. We speak love through our response to the hurting.

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As part of the “grief club,” I glimpse the struggles of the grief-stricken in our own community. My tragedy connects me with others who’ve lost a child, spouse, mother, or father.

Tragedy is the woman whose husband left her.

Tragedy is the spouse who died from Alzheimers.

Tragedy is the child who was hit by a car.

Tragedy is the man who loses his fight to cancer.

Tragedy is the woman who’s lost baby after baby.

I can either throw my hands in the air and do nothing or I can get down on my knees, head bowed, back bent, and call on the One who has always held the world in His hands.

The power to fight against tragedy is found in the One who lights stars and dashes waves on rocks, the One who spins planets and lights the sun.

When we don’t know what to do, we start with what we can do.

When we feel helpless, we start with our own brokenness.

We pray from the well of our own deep sorrows.

We connect our grief with theirs.

We pray from our living room couches and our dining room tables. We pray from our office desks piled with to-do lists and our playrooms cluttered with toys.

To weep with those who weep, we must love them through their pain until it becomes our own.

We begin with Love.

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How We Can Respond to Those Facing Tragedy or Loss

  1. Pray. Let them know you’re praying. Pray with them. Persist in prayer. Grief stretches on for years. Don’t give up.
  1. Provide help. Offer food. Mow their grass. Clean their house. Pick up groceries. A thousand things pile up when you are hurting. Do one thing.
  1. If you know this person well, then just show up. Sit with them and let them vent, cry, shout, rant or be silent. Don’t offer advice. Listen deeply.
  1. Continue to talk with them about their loved one. Bring up their name frequently in conversation. It’s on their mind. They will be relieved that someone remembered.
  1. Remember anniversaries, birthdays and other special events associated with their loved one. If they plan an event to remember their loved one, show up for it. Send cards saying, “We have not forgotten.” Do something special in honor of their loved one. Give money to a charity, release balloons, leave flowers on the grave, or send them a note. Begin with love. 

How we find love after loss

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“I would like to be adopted someday,” she says to me as we walk through a cow pasture in rural Mexico.

The girl, who lives in a group home with 25 other foster kids, hopes to be adopted by the house parents who started the home, but Mexico’s laws make adoption difficult. She is eight and has lived at the home for 7.5 years.

Although she has found her new family here, there is a sense of what she and the other children have lost.

This was not the way life was supposed to be.

Children shouldn’t have to be taken out of their homes. But, due to abuse, neglect and sometimes, a parent’s difficult choice, the children are removed from their home. Some of them end up here at the “little ranch.”

I am drawn to places where life is messy, where the work of Christ is being done in small and beautiful ways everyday. I’ve been to several of these places in the last few years, including a rescue home in Thailand through Destiny Rescue, to schools in Nicaragua through Food for the Hungry and now to “Ranchito con Esperanza” a foster group home in Mexico, where my husband’s brother and his wife work.

Getting outside of my own pain and immersing myself in the pain of others helps me realize that when we share our hurts together, we heal together.

This isn’t a formula for getting rid of pain, but it might be the first step in realizing that we all hurt in different ways and that we can love each other through the brokenness of life.P5294520P5294589P5294521

The kids play in the one hundred degree heat, kicking around a soccer ball and playing on the swing set. Even though some of these kids have suffered deep hurts, they smile and laugh. They act like kids.

The hearts might be broken in hidden places, but it is amazing how love fills in the cracks, like sand between stones.

Maybe this is the biggest gift of all: that after the hurt, we can still find joy.

That after loss, we can find love in unexpected places.

It may not be in the way we imagined. But it is still good.

Every person who works at this place—every houseparent, teacher and staff person who fills in the broken places in each child’s life is fulfilling a call to take care of the orphan, the lonely, the poor. Each other.

This is what Love does.

P5304641P5304639P5294527For the week I am there, I soak in their smiles, their questions, the way they draw me into their games.

Their hurt reminds me that we all live through incredible pain, yet we find our way home again. We find a new place of joy. We learn that the Father’s love is enough to heal us.

When I look into their eyes, I see that the world is broken in ways that I cannot fix.
They cannot fix my pain and I cannot fix theirs. 

But together we can fight against the hurt and the brokenness in our world. We can bring light to darkness.

Though we don’t know how, we find our way back to Love.

We recognize the sacred in the everyday.

We are made in God’s image.

We are loved by him.

We are never alone.

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{Many thanks to Noah and Katie for letting us visit the ranch and to all the staff who serve and love the children of Little Ranch of Hope.}

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