what i want you to know about giving advice after someone miscarries

What I Want You to Know is a series of reader submissions. It is an attempt to allow people to tell their personal stories, in the hopes of bringing greater compassion to the unique issues each of us face. If you would like to submit a story to this series, click here. Today’s guest posts is by Amy Kim.

“Today I will not should on myself.” – Brennan Manning

I first heard this line from Brennan Manning during a talk he gave years ago and thought it was brilliant. As I’ve been sharing with more and more people about my miscarriage, I’ve been mulling over what this means.

Many people, well-meaning and loving people, will respond in a number of ways.

Here are some things I’ve heard one too many times:

● You’re young and healthy! You’ll get pregnant again.
● It’ll happen. Don’t worry.
● Miscarriage is very common.
● My (fill in the blank) had multiple miscarriages and now she has healthy kids and is expecting one on the way!
● Something must have been defective with the baby, and maybe your body is just doing what it’s supposed to do.

Others will ask you a hundred and one questions, none of which you have answers for of course. Why did this happen? Did you do anything to cause it? Will it happen again? Will you start trying again? Are you worried? Why are you crying? Is something wrong?

I actually have a clever and snarky response to all of these and maybe one day I will share them with you.

It would be absolutely wonderful if there was always an explanation for the awful things that happen in our lives and the grief that follows.

And one of the most aggravating responses begins with this phrase: “You should...“

You should pray and read Scripture. You should go somewhere safe and quiet and really cry out to God. You should ask God what he wants you to learn from all of this. You should know that God loves you and has a plan for you. You should trust God.

And I probably should.

But all I want to do when I hear those words is rip my ears off and throw them at the person who had enough gall and stupidity to say them.

I remember a few months after my one of my close friends had miscarried, she shared some concerns with me about having to attend an upcoming bachelorette party where horseback-riding and wine tasting were just some of the items on the agenda. I remember stupidly responding by saying, “You should go! Babies are resilient; you should not feel like you have to put your life on hold every month. You should go, relax, and have fun with your girls. You deserve it.”

I count three “shoulds” in that response. What I deserved was a punch to the face, but my friend was gracious enough to let it go.

What I failed to understand was that my friend was still intensely grieving the loss of her baby. I had forgotten this conversation was taking place just a few weeks after her baby would have been born had she carried the baby to full-term. I did not realize how instead of feeling celebratory about her friend’s upcoming nuptials, she was carefully considering how she could best prepare her body in the very event a baby just might be growing in her womb after endless months of waiting, hoping and longing.

I had no idea.

All I could think about in that moment was I wanted my friend to be happy again. And so I think friends and loved ones do this – they share their platitudes and try to say something or relate in whatever way they can, hoping to make you feel better in the process, but most of the time you are left feeling worse, not better, and even more alone in your pain.

I am just beginning to learn that grieving is a long and arduous process. Some of the most comforting moments these last few months have been when people were simply present with me. They sat with me, listened to me, and mourned with me. I’m not Jewish, but I would imagine this is what sitting shiva looks like. Others would remind me that they were thinking of me and continuously praying for me and Kevin. These moments helped me to be honest when all I wanted to do was run and hide.

So for today, I will not should on myself. I am certain there are a million things I should be doing, but for now I will write and just be.

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