A year before my little bundle of joy was born, I had a miscarriage at 14 weeks. To say it was devastating is an understatement. I remember screaming as the doctor told me those unforgettable words: there is no heartbeat. I went through the induction, delivery and subsequent D&C procedures like a zombie.
I did not want to feel anything. I just wanted to get it over and done with. The heartache that would follow in the days after the miscarriage was indescribable. It did not help that I did not know any other person who could relate to what I was going through. According to the Kubler-Ross model of grief, there are five stages of grief: denial, bargaining, anger, depression and acceptance. I experienced everything except acceptance. How was I supposed to accept that my little one was gone forever? The most difficult part of the journey were the few hours I would spend alone. The dark clouds would suffocate my heart. I struggled to get out of bed. A few friends would come over. Some openly told me that they did not know what to say to me. I appreciated that at that time. Others tried to comfort but their words were like adding salt to an injury. They only made things worse.
As I look back at that period, I realized that there are few people who know what to do in the presence of a grieving friend, especially a friend who has had a miscarriage. I do not consider myself an expert but my experience taught me a few things:
A woman who has had a miscarriage needs company.
It sounds simple, right? That’s because it is simple. Forget the complicated clichés and their relatives. Forget the books, the quotes and inspirational quotes. Just show up with a hunky or tissue. Unfortunately, our world is teaching us to be more and more detached from one another but we remain relational regardless of how fast the latest phone we have invented can process data. Grief is slow, it eats into time. It crawls through the corridors like a stranger and makes itself comfortable. It is the mannerless visitor who shows up, leaves a pile of dishes in the sink, eats all the ice cream and then complains about the flavor of juice in the fridge.. By the time it leaves, there is a trail of disaster in its wake. Good company does not cure grief, it halves the space it occupies. Good company stands up to grief in subtle ways: a warm hug, a cup of tea, cleaning up, mindlessly watching cheesy movies.
A woman who has had a miscarriage needs time off.
The last time I checked, there are hardly any organizations in this country that recognize that a woman who has had a miscarriage needs more than a week off. In some organizations, a woman who has had a miscarriage is expected to get right back to work. If you are the boss of a friend who has had a miscarriage, grant her some time off. Check up on her from time to time. Leave the project she did not complete and the missed deadlines out of the conversations. Sometimes, all a woman needs is someone who will randomly text and ask her how she is doing.
A woman who has had a miscarriage does not need the rumors
Unfortunately, the misconceptions about miscarriages are pervasive in society. A woman who has had several miscarriages becomes an easy target for misguided notions. Ill-informed colleagues, neighbours or in-laws can easily fall for the temptation to speculate about the cause of her miscarriage. Some of the most common misconceptions about miscarriages are:
- She is cursed
- She has had many abortions
- She is paying for her sins.
Sticks and stones break the bones. Words spoken carelessly break the heart. The last thing a woman who has had a miscarriage needs is expertise that is based on reading tea leaves. If you must say something to such a woman, encourage her or pray for her.
A woman who has had a miscarriage needs to look good
I remember looking at myself in the mirror and getting shocked by the image that was staring back at me. My eyes were hollow and tired. My hair was a mess. For days, I could not even gather the strength to comb my hair. A friend sees such a need and walks in with her make up kit. Do what you can to help your friend look good: make her hair or get someone who can, paint her nails or get someone who can, trim her eye brows, get her some jewellery or shoes. These things will not take away the pain but they will serve as a reminder of all that is good and beautiful in this life.
Corazon Achieng is a reader who writes. She writes when she is not running after her little girl. She has a blog, https://corazonachieng.wordpress.com/blog/ where she writes about faith, motherhood and life.