We met her last autumn in that tiny Goodwill, among the shelves of books that no one had a use for any longer. She began silently passing books to our girls that she thought they'd like. She noticed our nine year old's current fascination with weather, and located a few on hurricanes.
I left my husband with the girls as I browsed past the books and into the clothing racks. I found a few peasant skirts I fancied with elastic waistbands I could alter to fit.
Within a few minutes he came over to me with eyes intense. "Come here. We need to pray for this woman, together."
She shared with us that just a few months earlier her only child, a son only a few months old, had died tragically in an accident. He had choked on something at day care while she was at work. Her tired face and eyes said that it felt like yesterday. Still so fresh and raw.
We listened. We grieved with her. We encouraged. And we lifted her up. We prayed together, there in the private back corner of a Goodwill.
We exchanged information, that I regretfully lost pretty quickly, and we haven't seen her again.
One week and four days since our fifth daughter, Jane Malise, was born to heaven.
And on the very day that marked the one year anniversary of the death of her baby boy.
This was beyond coincidence. This was Providence.
She started out the conversation in the cold grocery parking lot. "Aren't you the woman from Goodwill?"
I laughed yes. We hugged. She smiled through tears and blurted out the significance of today. I said I was so glad to see her today then. I didn't hesitate and vomited out more words to add to the grief pot.
"We lost a baby less than two weeks ago. Her name was Jane."
We hugged again. And this time she said how glad she was to see me today.
I explained that I couldn't have looked at her today with the heart I have now if this hadn't happened. She said she understood. Which was so dern good to hear and know that she meant it. She did understand.
I told her how angry and hurt I am today. Yes, terribly missing my baby. But more angry at ignorant people. I'm angry that people expect me to just move on.
I'm angry that out of the true goodness of their hearts they say things so extremely ridiculous and unknowingly hurtful to mothers who have lost a child to miscarriage. Things like this:
"It was God's plan... she obviously fulfilled her purpose... God was merciful to your family in protecting you from the burden of caring for a disabled child... at least you know she's in heaven and you'll see her again... at least you have kids already, you should be thankful for them... buck up, don't worry, y'all got a good track record, you'll have another... at least it wasn't one of your other children... at least you weren't much further along because that would have been harder... at least... at least... at least..."
I was shivering in the the parking lot tonight as we talked, but neither one of us wanted our conversation to end. We needed each other. We needed each other TODAY.
She held me as I sobbed my first real good sob since the day I saw Jane's precious little, lifeless body on the ultrasound screen. One week and four days ago since I lay there on the exam table bleeding my littlest one out on a sheet. One week and four days since no one thought to pass along that information to the lab tech in the next room who took my blood and asked happily, "Oh, you're pregnant! How far along are you? Is this your first?" I just looked at her a few seconds not knowing what to say, then said just louder than a whisper, "No mam, she's our fifth daughter." Because she was.
"I'll always wonder who she would have been!" I heard myself saying through broken sobs as this woman in the parking lot held me tighter.
She said simply, "Me too."
"I know it would have been different if I held her alive and knew her like you did your son..." I apologized.
"Grief is grief," she said.
Grief. Is. Grief.
She, this woman who held her living son, who fed him, played with him, laughed with him, soothed his tears, wiped his nose, video taped his first crawl...
She saw no difference in the devastation. She saw lives lost. She saw a mother's grief.
"We have to fall together," she said as she brought her hands toward one another, "or we'll fall apart.""What if you held the hand of a grieving mom who miscarried at 4 weeks, 6 weeks, 18 weeks or more? What if you never compared the loss of a 4-weeker to a 20-weeker? What if you never said anything that started with, "At least . . . " What if you didn't try to stifle her tears? What if you welcomed them? And matched her tears with your own? What if you held back any trite, easy answers that promised God's will and promised easy comfort? What if you just wrapped your arms around her the way Christ would? What if you made that meal, bought those flowers and wrote that card? What if you went to the hospital and sat in the waiting room for her, even if you wouldn't see her? Just because she is your friend. Just because that's what you do when someone is sick in the hospital or their child is dying. What if you called her child by name? What if you went to the service if they planned one? What if you helped her find a support group? What if you offered to go with her? What if you prayed constantly for that hole in her heart that will one day scab, one day scar, but will never fully heal? What if all your actions when dealing with loss of any kind, affirmed that fact that all life -- ALL LIFE -- is good, worthy of recognition and worthy of grief. What if you didn't just affirm to the world that all babies are valuable -- but you also affirmed to a bereaved mom that HER baby was irreplaceable, and would forever be missed? 'A person is a person, no matter how small.'"
Suffering transcends difference. The art of solidarity. Providence.
"There is a support group that a woman leads that I go to sometimes," she said. "She lost her 6 week old baby now 30 years ago, and she uses writing to heal; uses writing prompts to lead us, guide us, and help us through where we are at and so we can help others. Would you like to go with me?"
This woman in the parking lot? The same one from Goodwill? Yeah, she didn't know that I write. That I feel the most honest me when I write. That God pricks and heals my soul when I write. And that sometimes He graciously uses my writing to encourage others.
"I'd love to," I said, and smiled a good smile.
My husband had loaded all the groceries in the back of our van while we spoke. As we began to drive away she motioned for him to roll down his driver's window.
"Take care of her," my new friend said smiling, but with eyes that ran it deep.
He always does. Jane was his girl too.
You, mama-friend, you who have this wound similar,
Give yourself time. Allow yourself the sobs, and if you have other children, let them see you cry. Pray with them in that moment together. You have nothing to explain to people that don't understand. That's not your job. They don't have to understand or be okay with what you need. It doesn't matter if they seem irritated that you had to cancel that luncheon or lesson again. Or maybe they might. Maybe they'll be tender and say things like my husband was told tonight on the phone when he made calls for me, "Tell her to take all the time she needs; we'll be here." But either way- Just. Take. Time. And find someone or someones to "fall together" with. We must know we are not alone, that how we feel is not abnormal, and that there is hope in tomorrow.
Dear mama-friend who needs a voice today to bring a light of validation to your grief after miscarriage,
The truth of this life lost has been ascertained. Your story as that life's mother has been corroborated. Your grief has been found as something substantial and authentic. Your soul and body has been given the stamp of approval, the go ahead, the green light... to rest. and to bear. this. out. You are not alone.