Prayer After A Miscarriage
Finding Healing After Miscarriage
February 22, 2016
A friend of mine just told me that she recently had a miscarriage, and she asked a few questions about my experience after I miscarried a baby four years ago.
Her questions got me thinking about what my family and I went through at that time and the resources that helped us through it.
I wanted to share these ideas in case they might help any readers who are grieving a miscarriage.
Four years ago my husband and I went to an ultrasound appointment and we found out that our 12-week-old baby’s heart was no longer beating. We were shocked, especially because up until that point in the pregnancy I had had nausea, which I had assumed was a good sign of the baby’s health.
We drove home with such deep sadness in our hearts, not knowing what to think or how to react to this news.
We had a wonderful doctor who was very sensitive and kind, and she had explained that medically-speaking, between 10-25% of pregnancies end in miscarriage, and that doctors normally cannot pinpoint what causes one to occur, but emotionally I was at such a loss as to how to deal with the pain I felt.
The few months that followed were a rollercoaster of emotions, but looking back on that time I see that God gave us some very special blessings and resources that helped us to get through our loss and to gain many spiritual fruits from it.So often, miscarriage is a cross that people bear privately, which is understandable, but that fact can also be detrimental in the sense that if someone experiences a miscarriage for the first time, they may not know what to think or expect because no one has ever talked to them about the experience before.
With the hope of helping anyone who is grieving a miscarried baby, whether the baby passed away recently or years ago, here are five things that helped my family and me, and that I hope will help to bring consolation and healing to others:
Grieve the loss
This may seem obvious, but often doctors and nurses do not treat a miscarriage as the loss of a baby, so people may attempt to stifle the emotions they feel because “it happens to a lot of people,” or “it’s just tissue.
” Well, miscarriage does happen often, but it is a real loss, and when a miscarriage occurs it is a human life that has been cut short, so, if you or someone you know has experienced a miscarriage, please recognize it for the loss that it is.
Without this recognition, the loss cannot be grieved, and additional problems can arise.
After my miscarriage, I was trying to pretend everything was fine for our 2 ½-year-old son because I didn’t want to upset him. Well, he suddenly started acting out, a lot, and waking up every night for no apparent reason.
A priest friend of ours suggested that we talk to our son about the baby and what had happened, and when we did that he took it so well. He really understood, and he was sad, but he was also happy that his baby sister was in heaven.
Sometimes I think children grieve better than adults because they don’t stifle their emotions, they have purer hearts, and stronger faith. I learned a lot from our son about how to view the situation with eyes of faith.
Talk to someone
It can be very helpful to talk with a friend, especially someone who has experienced a miscarriage, but if you don’t know someone who has, there are other options. There are support groups available, and you can go here to find a group in your area (this website also has a 24/7 grief support counselor on call).
You may also want to consider seeing a counselor if you are having a difficult time coping. I did all three of these things and the combination helped immensely.
As a counselor, I know the therapeutic value of friendship, support groups and individual therapy, but when I was grieving the death of our baby I learned about their therapeutic value first-hand.
Have a burial service if possible
The Archdiocese where we were living at the time had a burial service once a month for anyone who had recently lost a baby in miscarriage or stillbirth. The priest at the service gave a beautiful homily and I still treasure many of the things he said, but one comment in particular stood out to me.
Looking around at all of the parents and family members present he said, “One day you will look back on your life and the life of your family and you will see that you were blessed in ways that would not have been possible had it not been for your baby interceding for you in heaven.” This was very consoling to us, to think that our child was praying for us, and there is theological support for it as well.
(For further reading, see The Hope of Salvation for Infants who Die Without Being Baptized, which was prepared by the International Theological Commission, and was approved by Pope Benedict in 2005.)
Name your baby
There is a beautiful part in the book Heaven is for Real by Todd Burpo where little Colton explains to his mother, who has never told him that she miscarried a baby before he was born, that he met his big sister in heaven and that she was so happy to see him that she couldn’t stop hugging him. He then tells his mother, emphatically, “you need to name her Mommy, she doesn’t have a name!”
When I tell people that we named our baby Bridget, they ask if we had found out the sex of the baby. While we had not found out through an ultrasound, we know in our hearts that the baby was a girl. When you name your baby it is easier to ask for their intercession, which leads me to the next suggestion.
Ask your child to intercede
Ask your child to intercede for you and your family, often, and especially in times of greatest need. This is something I try to do on a daily basis, and it has been a powerful aid in my life.
A good priest encouraged me to do this one day, when I had a particularly difficult issue to work out, and the problem resolved itself very quickly.
Ever since then, I have not failed to ask our little Bridget to pray for me when I face a challenging situation.As you grieve the loss of your baby, turn to God and ask for his help. Grieving takes time, and in some way, it never really “ends.
” There will be sadness about the loss well after the miscarriage has occurred, because when a baby passes away before birth you not only experience the loss of a beautiful infant, you experience the loss of a member of your family, of a child and a sibling who is no longer here on earth, and you will grieve the loss of the whole potential life that child would have led, so in a way, you will experience the loss for the rest of your life. That being said, with time, you will be able to find joy in the thought of your child, and in the hope of meeting your son or daughter in heaven one day, where:
“Eye has not seen, and ear has not heard . . . what God has prepared for those who love him.” (1Cor. 2:9)
Common Prayers – Service after a Miscarriage or Stillbirth
A general Service of Prayer celebrated at the time of loss or thereafter, but especially when the priest is called to attend to a miscarriage or stillbirth.
P: Blessed is our God, always, now and ever and unto ages of ages.
R: Amen. O Heavenly King, the Comforter, the Spirit of Truth, Who art everywhere and fillest all things; Treasury of Blessings and Giver of Life: Come and abide in us and cleanse us from every impurity, and save our souls, O Good One.
Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal, have mercy on us.Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal, have mercy on us.
Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal, have mercy on us.
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.
O Most Holy Trinity, have mercy on us. O Lord, cleanse us from our sins. O Master, pardon our transgressions. O Holy One, visit and heal our infirmities, for Thy Name’s sake.
Lord. have mercy. Lord have mercy. Lord have mercy.
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.
Our Father, Who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name; Thy Kingdom come; Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
P: For Thine is the Kingdom, and the power, and the glory, of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages.
THE GREAT LITANY
P: In peace let us pray to the Lord.
R: Lord, have mercy.
P: For the servants of God, [NN.], who have suffered the repose of a child during pregnancy, and for their family and friends, that they may be comforted, let us pray to the Lord.
R: Lord, have mercy.
P: That the Lord God, from the goodness of His heart, will have mercy on His servants, and pardon their every sin, granting to them healing and comfort of soul and body, let us pray to the Lord.
R: Lord, have mercy.
P: That the Lord God will not turn away His face from His suffering servants, but will receive the prayers we now offer for them, let us pray to the Lord.
R: Lord, have mercy.
P: That He will heal every illness and grief by the visitation of the Holy Spirit, let us pray to the Lord.
R: Lord, have mercy.
P: That He will quickly deliver the handmaid of God [N.] from every pain and affliction, raising her from weakness and infirmity by the almighty word of God, let us pray to the Lord.
R: Lord, have mercy.
P: That the merciful Lord will hear the cries of His unworthy servants as He heard the cries of the Canaanite woman, and that He will heal and console His suffering servants, let us pray to the Lord.
R: Lord, have mercy.
P: That He will receive the infant [N.], who by His ineffable providence has been taken from his/her mother’s womb and will grant him/her life everlasting, let us pray to the Lord.
R: Lord, have mercy.
P: For our deliverance from all affliction, wrath, danger, and necessity, let us pray to the
R: Lord, have mercy.
P: Help us, save us, have mercy on us, and keep us, O God, by Thy grace.
R: Lord, have mercy.
P: Commemorating our most holy, most pure, most blessed and glorious Lady, the Theotokos and ever-Virgin Mary, with all the Saints, let us commend ourselves and each other, and all our lives unto Christ our God.
R: To Thee, O Lord.
P: O Lord our God! Thy power is incomparable! Thy glory is incomprehensible! Thy mercy is immeasurable! Thy love for mankind is inexpressible! Look down upon us, O Master, and impart the riches of Thy mercy and Thy compassion unto us and unto those who pray with us. For unto Thee are due all glory, honor, and worship: to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages.
PRAYERS OF INTERCESSION
P: Let us pray to the Lord.
R: Lord have mercy.
P: O Master, Lord our God, Who was born of the holy Theotokos and ever-Virgin Mary, and as a child was laid in a manger: In Thy great mercy be merciful to this, Thy handmaid [N.] who has miscarried the child who was conceived in her.
Forgive all her voluntary or involuntary offenses, and protect her from all the machinations of the devil. Heal her suffering, and in Thy love for mankind grant health and strength to her body and soul.
Guard her with a radiant Angel from every assault of the invisible demons and from every illness and malady, and deliver her from all that may afflict her womb. O Thou, Who accepts the innocence of infancy into
Thy Kingdom, comfort the mind of Thy handmaid and bring her peace.
Therefore, with fear we cry and say: Look down from heaven and strengthen Thy handmaid [N.] who has miscarried of the child conceived in her. Have mercy on her and bless her, through the intercession of Thine undefiled Mother and of all Thy Saints.
P: Let us pray to the Lord.
R: Lord have mercy.
P: O Lord, Thou hast spoken through Thy Prophet Isaiah, saying, “For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in that which I create, for behold, I create in Jerusalem a rejoicing, and in her people joy.
I will rejoice in Jerusalem and be glad in my people; no more shall be heard in it the sound of weeping and the cry of distress. No more shall there be in it an infant that lives but a few days” [Isaiah 65:17-19, 20a].
Do Thou, the same Lord and God, Who on that day will give no cause to mourn the loss of a child, be present with us this day as we gather with sadness to seek Thy comfort and mourn the loss of this child [N.], known to Thy handmaid who carried him/her, to his/her father, who generated him/her, and to us, Thy faithful People.
Thou hast spoken through Thy Prophet Jeremiah, saying, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you” [Jeremiah 1:5]. For which cause we bless Thee, O God of compassion, the consolation of the afflicted. Thou knowest the name and age of every person, even from his and her mother’s womb.
Knowing the depths of our hearts, accept our sorrow as we grieve the loss of this child, and comfort us with the promise of the joy of Thy eternal Kingdom.Help us to grow in confidence in Thy sustaining presence at this moment and in the days to come, through the prayers of Thy most pure Mother, the Theotokos and ever-Virgin Mary, and of all Thy Saints. For Thou art a merciful God, and unto Thee we ascribe glory, to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and unto ages of ages.
P: Let us pray to the Lord.
R: Lord, have mercy.
P: O merciful Lord, falling down before Thy great and inscrutable providence, which is both merciful and just: We confess our weakness and infirmity, not knowing what to ask of Thee. For Thou alone knowest our true needs. Thou lovest us more than we ourselves know how to love.
Help us to discern our true needs, which are concealed from us. We dare not ask either a cross or consolation. We can only wait on Thee. Our hearts are open to Thee. Visit us and help us. Cast us down and raise us up. In silence we contemplate Thy holy will and inscrutable ways.
We offer ourselves to Thee in sacrifice, and we place all our trust in Thee. We have no desire but to fulfill Thy holy will. We believe, O Lord; help our unbelief! Let not our faith fail, nor our hope weaken, nor our love grow cold. Wipe away our tears of sorrow, granting us instead tears of joy.
Heal our weakness and infirmity. Forgive our transgressions, voluntary and involuntary. Receive the infant [N.
] into Thy kingdom and have mercy on us, through the mercy and compassion and love for mankind of Thine only-begotten Son, with whom Thou are blessed, together with Thine all-holy, good and life-creating Spirit, now and ever, and unto ages of ages.
R: Father, bless.
P: Christ our true God, the Existing One, is blessed, always, now and ever, and unto ages of ages.
R: Amen. Preserve, O God, the Holy Orthodox Faith and Orthodox Christians, unto ages of ages.
P: Most holy Theotokos, save us.
R: More honorable than the Cherubim, and more glorious beyond compare than the Seraphim: without defilement you gave birth to God the Word. True Theotokos, we magnify you.
P: Glory to Thee, O Christ, our God and our hope, glory to Thee.
R: Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen.
Lord have mercy. Lord have mercy. Lord have mercy.
P: May Christ our true God, through the prayers of His most pure Mother; of the holy, glorious, and all-laudable Apostles; of Saint [N.
, the patron of the unbaptized infant]; of Saint [N.
], whose memory be celebrate on this day; of the holy and righteous ancestors of God, Joachim and Anna; and of all the Saints: have mercy on us and save us, for He is good and lovest mankind.
P: Let us pray to the Lord.
R: Lord, have mercy.
P: O Lord, Who guards Thy children in this life and prepares for those who have departed from us in their innocence a haven in the radiant angelic realm in the heavenly mansions: Do Thou, the same Master, Christ our God, receive in peace the soul of Thy child [N.
], for Thou has said, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the Kingdom of heaven.” For unto Thee is due all glory, honor and worship, together with Thy Father, Who is from everlasting, and Thine all-holy, good and life-creating Spirit, now and ever.
and unto ages of ages.
Memory eternal! Memory eternal! Memory eternal!
His/her soul shall dwell with the blessed!
GLORY TO GOD FOR ALL THINGS!
Approved for use by the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America
After a Miscarriage
Last summer, when I was round with my second child, perpetually devouring ice cubes as Natalie somersaulted in my womb, a friend came to visit. I had heard that she’d recently had a miscarriage, but she hadn’t yet told me herself.
And I was afraid — in the way that everyone seems to be — of what I would say and how I would say it. I hoped that I could somehow be present to her, that my ever-expanding belly would not create a chasm between us.
As I drove to the airport, I wondered how she might bring it up, or if I should, and if I did, how I would. Despite my healthy pregnancy, the shadow of grief covered most of that year — we’d lost three friends in eight months, all under the age of 30.
In our tiny church, five women conceived and announced their pregnancies, but only three of us would bring the babies to term. Death was all around us, and yet I found myself tongue tied when my friend climbed into the car beside me.
After telling me a little bit about her flight, she mentioned the miscarriage, and then she said something I’ll never forget. She said, “After my miscarriage, I realized that I needed to tell my story in the same way that women needed to share the stories of the birth of their children.”
As much as she needed to tell her story, there were some that weren’t ready to hear it. And it troubled her that so many people who knew about the miscarriage chose to say nothing. An awkward silence does seem to surround those who grieve this kind of loss — even if they are brave enough to be open about it.
In The Eldest Child by Maeve Brennan, she describes a mother grappling with the death of her 3-day-old infant:
At the time he died, she said that she would never get used to it, and what she meant by that was that as long as she lived she would never accept what had happened in the mechanical subdued way the rest of them had accepted it…. They behaved as though what had happened was finished, as though some ordinary event had taken place and come to an end in a natural way. There had not been an ordinary event, and it had not come to and end.
What Not To Say
In the Old Testament Book of Job, after everything is taken from him in a heartbeat — his children, his riches, his health — his friends all step in to offer words of consolation, and each friend is more unhelpful than the last, until Job finally says, “How long will you torment me, and break me in pieces with words?” (Job 19:2)
Couples who suffer a miscarriage often also suffer from their friends’ inability to grasp the magnitude of what has happened. Job’s friends, they might say insensitive things “You’ll have other children one day,” or “There was probably something wrong with the baby.”
These statements minimize the bond the parents had with the baby growing in its mother’s belly — a child that they were just beginning to know but may have already come to love deeply.
In a letter to his friend after the death of his mother, Phillip Brooks wrote, “People bring us well-meant but miserable consolations when they tell us what time will do to help our grief.
We do not want to lose our grief, because our grief is bound up with our love.”
After a miscarriage couples struggle through unanswerable questions. Why would God allow them to conceive only to allow the baby to die? Why hope when life is so fragile? Or “What did I do wrong?”
All these questions, the guilt and blame, and the feelings of divine betrayal that might be connected with a miscarriage only highlight the essential wrongness of what has happened. There are no answers to these questions, because we were not created for death, sickness or sin.
No matter how often we wrestle through these things on earth, some stubborn holy streak in us clings to the memory of Eden. A Jewish friend recently told me that in her tradition, there are no prayers for the death of a child, because this kind of thing is not supposed to happen.Maeve Brennan describes this grieving mother, struggling with those who tell her the death was God’s will:
When she spoke for any length of time they always silenced her by telling her it was God’s will.
She had accepted God’s will all her life without argument, and she was not arguing now, but she knew that what had happened was not finished and she was sure that it was not God’s will that she not be left in this bewilderment….
All she wanted to do was say how she felt, but they mentioned God’s will as if they were slamming a door between her and some territory that was forbidden to her.
Naming the Child
The friend I mentioned at the beginning of this article found healing as she grappled with the concrete details of her loss.
She and her husband requested that they be allowed to take their tiny baby home from the hospital, they named their child, built a casket for him, and as a family, buried him at a monastery.
Their two young girls helped sprinkle dirt on the casket, and perhaps because of this, they know in a very real way that they have a sibling in heaven that they will one day see again.
Even if a couple can’t identify exactly when a miscarriage occurred, making a burial impossible, the act of naming the child is a powerful way to bring to light the reality of that child’s existence.
Naming is a holy thing — it was the first act that God trusted Adam with — and Adam’s first opportunity to be God-. I have heard that there is an Eskimo legend that a newborn baby cries because it has not yet been given a name.
We all ache to be fully known, to become who we were meant to be, and a name can be our first guidepost along the way.
Naming a miscarried baby not only makes the loss more concrete — it also allows the parents to bond with their child, to claim her and to prepare for reunion with her — even as they offer her back to the one who is Life.
Maeve Brennan concludes her passage about the grieving mother this way:She was much calmer than she had been, and she no longer feared that she would lose sight of the shape that had drifted, she noticed, much further away while she slept. He was traveling a long way but she would watch him.
She was his mother, and it was all she could do for him now…. She was weak, and the world was very shaky, but the light of other days shone steadily and showed the truth.
She was no longer bewildered, and the next time Martin came to stand hopefully beside her bed, she smiled at him and spoke to him in her ordinary voice.
Copyright 2007 Jenny Schroedel. All rights reserved.
Reprinted by permission of the author from Four Centuries of Jewish Women’s Spirituality: A Sourcebook (Beacon Press).
Conceiving a child did not come easily to me. Neither did the words to convey my frustration, despair, and uncertainty to those who might have helped. But stories have been a source of strength and nourishment to me since I was a little girl.
I devoured the books of the Brothers Grimm and Andrew Lang hills of chocolate chip cookies. Myths of the Greek gods and goddesses were more substantial, roasted meat with gravy. In later years, I began to feast on the tales of my biblical ancestors.
When my life has presented a problem or paradox, I have sought a solution in close study of the sacred text.
I learned to do this by studying the midrash, collections of rabbinic interpretations and parables which aim to clarify particular aspects of the Tanakh [Bible]. One of my teachers, Judah Goldin, explained that when the rabbis found something in the text that disturbed them, from a grammatical deviation to a perplexing character flaw, they responded with a midrash.
A Miscarriage Creates a Sense of Imbalance
When I lost my first pregnancy after trying to conceive for a prolonged period of time, my sense of living harmoniously with Nature was sufficiently disturbed to impel me to make a midrash in response. This midrash would be a hybrid creature, part story, part ritual.
Nobody I knew well had ever lost a baby. I had heard horror stories of friends of friends and their pregnancies-turned-nightmares, but these were remote occurrences. When Death came to our household, my husband and I had only each other. Our parents (the grandparents-to-be) seemed puzzled and overwhelmed by this tragic break from the norm.
They wanted to help, but how could they give us a live child? While I was in the hospital recovering from the laparotomy that removed the Fallopian tube where the pregnancy had been trapped, phone calls and visitors kept coming.
But when I was finally settled once more at home, I looked at my husband, Steve, and asked: What do we do now? How do we start to live again?
A Miscarriage is a Death
What nobody could tell us was that we had experienced the real death of a potential being.
We were grieving, but we could not put words to it; we could not invite people over to sit shiva [the intense mourning that occurs during the first seven days after the death of a close relative] for our dead baby.Then I remembered all those disgusting dead-baby jokes I used to hear in fifth grade. Humor fills the vacuum caused by taboo. Talking about and mourning for the death of an abstract being, one that was never held or touched, was taboo in our society and in Judaism.
This was intolerable to me. I had to find a way to mark this death or I would be grieving for the rest of my life. In the works of Elizabeth Kubler-Ross I discovered the notion that one’s own experience with Death is the instructor to follow. I would look into my tradition to find what to do. I remembered the story of Hannah and Peninnah in the First Book of Samuel.
Studying the Story of Hannah
Hannah was the favorite wife of Elkanah, but she was unable to bear him any children. Peninnah, her co-wife, less favored, bore one healthy child after the other. Through much suffering, deliberation, humiliation, and prayer, Hannah was finally blessed with a son whom she named Samuel.
Here was my model. Hannah had lost hope and self-esteem. She even displayed symptoms of severe depression: She stopped eating and wept constantly (I Samuel 1:7-8). This indicated how deeply she was mourning for the child she might never have.
Hannah I was paralyzed-by infertility and by my recent pregnancy loss. The rabbis considered Hannah the paradigm of heartfelt prayer and unceasing faith.
Therefore, I would consider her story to be a kind of prayer, an inspiration to survive this overwhelming period of loss and despair that was facing me.
Accordingly, in the year following my pregnancy loss, I sat down daily with the story of Hannah and studied it from every possible angle. Each day I read another verse and pondered it.
Then I read commentaries on the story, mostly in Pesikta Rabbati, to see what the rabbis thought about Hannah and her rival, Peninnah. Finally I wrote a new version of the story, a synthesis of the original text, its commentaries, and my identification with Hannah through the experience of infertility.
The ritual of studying Hannah’s story became a Kaddish [prayer in praise of God recited daily by mourners] that I said each day for my dead child. In this way I was able to live through the loss instead of being consumed by it. Incidentally, my husband’s response was quite different.Whereas I turned inward to find strength and renewed faith by studying texts, he used activity to overcome the loss and became a Jewish Big Brother. One year after the death, we created a joint ritual. [This ritual is described in Penina V. Adelman, “Playing House: The Birth of a Ritual,” Reconstructionist, January-February 1989.
] Before this could happen, however, we needed to do some individual preparation.
The more I studied, the more convinced I became that there was a ritual hidden there if I could only see it. However, this ritual lived between the lines of Hebrew text. No older wise woman was going to teach the ritual to me. Thus, part of the interpretive process would be uncovering this ritual for infertility.
My need to look into the sacred texts of my tradition in search of solace and hope echoed my desire to look life straight in the eye again after losing my baby and to find meaning in the experience. Magical thinking led me to believe that by studying Hannah intensely I would ingest some of her strength and that this strength was contained in the very letters of her story.
Similar reasoning often lies behind the activity of Torah study.
The wachnact, or “night of watching” before a brit milah [circumcision] when there is communal study all night long to protect the newborn from the Angel of Death, is a folk custom that illustrates the notion of study as a form of Jewish worship–just as Torah readings in the synagogue during the week, on the Sabbath and [on] holidays do.
In addition, the tefillin [phylacteries] and mezuzah [parchment scrolls in containers placed on doorposts in a Jewish home], which contain Hebrew prayers, may be seen as types of amulets protecting those who use them. Thus, I believed that the study of Hannah’s story might protect me from further loss and offer some guidance in becoming a mother.
Ritual Grows From Hannah’s Silent Prayer
Hannah’s silent prayer became the basis of the ritual. It represented the silence of all those who had experienced such losses and could find no place within Judaism to mark them.
By studying Hannah and identifying with her, I became another link on a chain of women who had had difficulty in conceiving or had lost children.
This chain included all the matriarchs and extended back as far as Lilith (Adam’s first wife, who was condemned to lose all her babies as they were born because she refused to submit to Adam’s will). In this ritual, giving voice to the silence would be my goal.I first sang and told the story of Hannah in my Rosh Chodesh [the beginning of a new Jewish month] group composed of women only, a safe forum for the initial public exposure of my experience.
Then on the one-year anniversary of the pregnancy loss, I performed the story as the haftarah [prophetic reading] on the first day of Rosh Hashanah, the time when Hannah’s story is traditionally read.
Presenting my midrash in public before a group of men and women meant the experience was no longer my burden and my husband’s alone. At last, I understood my compulsion to develop a ritual where there had been none.
Ritual places personal experience in the public realm where it may be witnessed, dealt with, and shared.
The loss of a child, potential or real, becomes bearable when the person sitting to your right and the person sitting to your left experience it with you and can say, “Finally I understand.”
Pronounced: KAH-dish, Origin: Hebrew, usually referring to the Mourner’s Kaddish, the Jewish prayer recited in memory of the dead.
Pronunced: TORE-uh, Origin: Hebrew, the Five Books of Moses.
Empower your Jewish discovery, daily
Recruiting a Pregnancy Prayer Support Team
The book of Nehemiah is quite amazing. Nehemiah was a man of God who served as the cupbearer to the Persian King Artaxerxes I. He heard about ruins in Jerusalem and asked the king if he could return there and oversee repairs to the broken down city wall. Jerusalem had been his home at one time and he cared deeply for the people still living there.
The king allowed him to go and gave him everything he needed to complete the work. Nehemiah recruited the people of Jerusalem to help build the wall and assigned everyone a task.
Unfortunately, there were many people in the surrounding cities that didn’t want Nehemiah and the people of Jerusalem to succeed. And back then, being against something a city or group of people were doing meant threat of physical violence.
Nehemiah spent much time in prayer (see Chapter 1 of the book) but also took special precautions to avoid the worse.
What about pregnancy?
This is something we can apply to our pregnancies as well.
While we don’t have physical enemies coming after us with sword and shield, we do have spiritual enemies who come only to steal, kill and destroy.
“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rules, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”
The enemy wants nothing more to steal our joy, kill our children, and destroy our hope
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”
But Jesus came that we may have LIFE. It’s no coincidence that God says “Be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:28).
We must be aware of this life and death fight
And this is where we can use Nehemiah to help us. Nehemiah did three very important things:
- He prayed – over and over
- He maximized their safety by telling half the people to work and half the people to stand guard (Nehemiah 4:13-18)
- He made a plan to gather and fight together if and when necessary (Nehemiah 4:19-20)
“The work is extensive and spread out, and we are widely separated from each other along the wall. Whenever you hear the sound of the trumpet, join us there. Our God will fight for us!”
We can do the same in our pregnancy journey. Don’t let the enemy get a foothold. Be prepared with a team of fighters at your side.
- Pray – a TON
- Invite your friends to stand with you in prayer – Don’t wait until something goes wrong. Ask as soon as you consider trying to conceive, tell them when you’re pregnant, and keep them apprised of your pregnancy throughout.
- Make a plan and use it. Sound the trumpet! Call or email your army to fight with you if anything goes wrong, and especially to praise with you when things go right.
Why is this so important?
We must build an army from the beginning because the enemy is there lying to us from the very beginning. When we’re trying to conceive, he’ll plant all types of lies in our heads about the potential outcome of this attempt.
He’ll remind us of our loss at every turn and urge us to reconsider continuing to try. If we don’t conceive month after month, he’ll tell us that something’s wrong with our body and we’ll never get pregnant.
He’s a liar! We need a team to help ward him off with an abundance of prayer.
Then, when conception does happen, there’s that enemy again – telling us what could go wrong, when it might go wrong, and all the ways we could make it go wrong. We’re second-guessing our every meal, activity, and thought. Why would we ever want to go through this without a support team covering us in prayer?Lastly – IF we do have another miscarriage, wouldn’t we want a team of friends and family right there and ready to support us through another loss? IF I start to bleed early on, I want to say “Please pray for me, I’m bleeding” not “So, I’m pregnant but I’m bleeding, so can you be praying for me?” Why put my friends through the roller-coaster of seeing “I’m pregnant” and then immediately bursting their bubble with the unknown but clear possibility. I don’t know about you, but telling someone I’ve lost the baby is hard enough without adding to it the potential of telling them I was pregnant, but now I’m not. Why not just give them the story while it’s occurring rather than after the fact?
If you don’t have a group of people that can pray with you – let me! Send me a quick note to ask for prayers; I’d love to pray with you through this season.
4 Ways to Support Fathers after Miscarriage
- Adriel BookerAuthor
- 2018Oct 26
Every year in the USA alone, a staggering one million women experience pregnancy loss.
As many as one in four known pregnancies end in miscarriage, and researchers believe the statistic to be much higher if chemical pregnancies are factored in (miscarriages that happen before a pregnancy test has confirmed the pregnancy).
It’s such a common occurrence that you’d think navigating pregnancy loss would be something we’re well versed in. Yet as common as it is, miscarriage is still often whispered about behind closed doors.
The advent of social media has given platform to bereaved parents who are becoming more emboldened to share their loss and grief, but scrolling through or Instagram makes it clear it’s still mostly the women talking. It begs the question: what about the men? If miscarriage impacts fathers, too, then how are we to support them and give place for their experiences?
Miscarriage is not a “women’s problem”
“I was thirty-nine years old when we experienced our first miscarriage, and I had no idea how to deal with it,” my husband shared in Grace Scarlett's letter to grieving dads. “I can’t recall ever hearing much about pregnancy loss before we experienced ours, and can’t remember a single conversation I had with another man about this kind of grief.
We discuss other important issues at the pub with our friends, at church, on social media, on the news, and at work, but miscarriage still feels taboo among men somehow it’s a secret women’s problem that we simply need to help them ‘deal’ with as quietly as possible so that no one gets embarrassed or uncomfortable.
It’s easy to get the impression that a loss this is inconsequential and small.”
Historically miscarriage has been thought of as a women’s issue.
And while it does impact women in significant ways that don’t apply to men, by exclusively categorizing it as a women’s issue we can inadvertently perpetuate the idea that miscarriage is an insignificant event that men aren’t allowed to grieve. Leaving them the conversation not only reinforces the stigma around pregnancy loss but bolsters the faulty notion that “men don’t cry.”
To be clear, miscarriage is a women’s issue. But miscarriage is also a men’s issue. A family issue. A human issue. And men—just as women—need to be given permission to recognize their loss and process their grief in their own way.
Here are four ways to support dads after pregnancy loss:It’s often said that men and women grieve differently, and while this may have truth to it due to cultural conditioning and other factors, it’s more accurate to say that each person grieves differently.
Grief can be expressed through anger, sorrow, confusion, despondency, depression, anxiety, feelings of guilt or shame, and any other number of emotions. Some people find solace in sharing openly and widely; others prefer solitude to journal or reflect.
Some are demonstrative; others are quieter in their grief. We can validate the experiences of men in our lives by honoring their grief experience without trying to shape it to fit our personal or cultural or religious expectations.
Don’t assume he doesn’t want to talk about it, and don’t be intimidated by a fear of saying the wrong thing. Reach out and help him know his loss matters.
2. Affirm that there’s no “right” way to grieve
Make sure he knows he has the freedom to process his grief in the way that most makes sense to him. His grieving process doesn’t need to look the same as his wife’s; nor does it need to look the same as his friend’s.
Invite him to share his grief by asking open-ended questions and then be gracious when he chooses to respond (or not). Never underestimate the power of an invitation to be honest about how he’s doing, especially if you hold a special place in his life, such as a close relative, friend, or his pastor.
When observing his grief process, take care to never accuse him of “not grieving enough” or “not caring enough” or any other “enough” statements.
3. Support him emotionally, practically, and spiritually
Ask him how he’s doing. Encourage him to take the time to grieve that he needs. Do something to let him know he’s on your mind—something as simple as a coffee and donut or a small gift delivered to his workplace. Include his name in cards and text messages. Invite him for a day out to do something he enjoys.
Offer to watch the kids so he can have time alone or quality time with his wife. Pray for him. Drop a meal by. Remember him on important days such as Father’s Day. (Find a cheat sheet with more practical ideas here.
) If you are his wife, make sure he feels supported by you in his grief by attending to your marriage even while walking through your own pain.
4. Encourage him to give his baby identity
Because miscarriage can feel so abstract to a man who’s not involved in physically growing the baby within his own body, he may appreciate something to help make the loss more tangible.
Consider gently offering ways he can give his baby identity and create an experiential memory around their life.
This might mean naming the baby, writing a letter to the baby, releasing balloons or a lantern in a goodbye ceremony, writing a song or a poem to honor the baby, or planting a garden in the baby’s memory.
Adriel Booker is a writer and speaker in Sydney, Australia where she co-leads a non-profit with her husband as well as an online community for bereaved parents.
She’s the author of Grace Scarlett: Grieving with Hope after Miscarriage and Loss. Find Adriel on her website or @adrielbooker on , , or Instagram.
Download her free guide to journaling through grief after pregnancy loss.
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