I was asked this question on Facebook recently…
I am so lucky to have had 2 beautiful, healthy daughters since my miscarriage – but now I struggle with when to tell them about it. Any advice?
It made me stop in my tracks if I’m being honest, because so many memories flooded me all at once. Memories of my own three miscarriages. Memories of the two that happened when our girls were old enough to comprehend, yet because we hadn’t told them about the pregnancies, we also chose to keep the miscarriages from them initially. Memories of my mom driving over to pick them up in an attempt to shield them from what was happening. Memories of literally moments after they left an ambulance pulling up to my house and loading me inside, in unbearable pain and tears running down my face.
It’s a difficult question, and one I think we all struggle with. When do we tell our children about our pregnancy losses? And how do we tell them? I don’t think there’s a right or wrong answer, but I do think it’s an important conversation we should have among ourselves. It’s not a fun one of course, but it might just help make it that much easier for the next woman who has to share the same heartbreaking news.
I decided I wanted to reach out to a few of my friends who have experienced a pregnancy loss and who also have older children who have already been told. I wanted to see if they could share a little bit about how that conversation happened and any advice they could pass on. One friend responded immediately and said, “I did not handle it well. It was awful really. I think I was in shock.” My heart went out to her. Shock. Grieving. Hard conversations. Combine all three and you can understand how things could get messy. 😦 Her honesty just further convinced me that I needed to write this blog. I needed to start this discussion. What worked? What didn’t?
Personally, I wondered for a long time how to talk to my own daughters about our miscarriages. Every time we talked about pregnancies or babies, I felt like I was leaving my precious three in heaven out and I hated it, but I just didn’t know how to tell them. My oldest is especially sensitive and I was afraid she wouldn’t be able to handle it.
About four years ago though, my sister lost a baby at 16 weeks. They knew about the pregnancy, so of course, I had to tell them about the loss. They asked a lot of questions. We went to visit my sister. We sat with her, talked with her, cried with her. They handled it really well. In fact, it amazed me how they so innocently talked with her without the normal fears and filters adults have when we’re in the presence of someone grieving. They were so candid and gentle with her.
After we left though they expressed concern about how their aunt would ever get over something so painful. They were so worried about her. I wanted to assure them that while she would always feel some sadness, and would always miss her baby, she was in fact going to okay. I could see they didn’t fully understand how that was possible, so I decided to tell them that I had been through it too. At the time they were just 8 and 5 years old, so I kept the conversation very simple and didn’t add a lot of details. But at least we had a starting point.
As time went on, and really throughout natural conversations, I would open up a little bit more. Each time we talked about it, I allowed them to guide the conversation. I allowed their interest, curiosity and questions to determine just how much I shared. During one conversation I told them I didn’t just lose one baby, but three. Then during another conversation I talked to them about the timing of when we lost each baby, and why we hadn’t told them immediately. Another time they asked more questions about what happens when a baby dies. I explained in very limited details that sometimes the mom has a small surgery and other times the baby still needs to be born, but then I spent most of the time focusing on heaven and the beautiful truth that one glorious day, all the moms and dads and brothers and sisters would get to meet those babies in heaven! ❤ Each time I tried to keep it simple and age appropriate.
Very recently, while working on The Isaiah Project in fact, we talked about the names of the babies for the first time. I lost all three of mine in the first trimester, so we never knew for sure what the sex of the baby was. But each time, I had a gut feeling very early on, and each time my husband and I already had a front runner name, so I explained that while we didn’t know for sure if they were boys or girls, in my heart, those are their names.
Here’s my friend Marilyn’s story about talking with her daughter.
Our seven year old daughter was the first person my husband and I told about our pregnancy. She had been an only child for a while, and we wanted to honor her by telling her first. Our sweet girl took to the news and was over the moon excited to have “a baby of our own.” She wanted to know everything about how the baby was growing and go with us to the first doctor’s appointment.
At the doctor’s office we did an ultrasound and saw the baby on the screen, but thankfully my daughter didn’t comprehend the conversation between the doctor, my husband, and I. She was oblivious to the entire conversation about miscarriage. Later at home when she asked what was going on and why we were upset, we had to tell her. We explained to her that the baby had stopped growing and had gone to be with Jesus. It was the simplest and truest way I could think for her to understand it. My girl immediately offered me comfort, suggesting that we watch a movie and “cuddle snuggle.”
That evening and many that followed, her own feelings came to surface at bedtime. Having been busy all day, the quiet of the evening brought clarity and the ability to express her own sadness and disappointment. She talked about how she missed the baby and that seeing other babies made her sad. Every night I spent extra time talking with her and praying with her. We discussed that life on this side of heaven isn’t perfect, but that one day all will be made right when we’re with Jesus.
Because our daughter had known about the baby and had already fallen madly in love, losing her sibling caused great pain. I was trying to cope with my own grief after I miscarried and nothing prepared me for seeing her grieve, too. I did my best to talk with her anytime she needed to talk out her feelings and gave her the extra love and comfort she needed. Every moment in between, I prayed for healing. As time passed, her grief came less frequently. She talked about the baby a little less. She even went over to a friend and sat looking at her baby. Something she had avoided for months with the loss of our own. Now she speaks with hope that God will bless us with another. Right now I’m thankful that He guided us through.
I love how open and honest she was with her daughter..on her daughter’s timing. I, too, found the best approach was to be open and look for opportunities to bring it up naturally. I tried my best to answer briefly and simply allow them to ask questions or direct the conversation. Your own children may just want to know a little bit at first, and that’s okay. Over time, just keep building on that conversation as they seem ready for more information, or as they express curiosity about their sibling. I will say, my girls handled each conversation beautifully. They did really well. And I think it’s so important for my children to start building coping skills while they are young. We live in an imperfect world and life can be so hard. As they encounter difficult things in their own lives, I want them to remember stories of my own pain and how I found the strength and the faith to get through it.
Was there anything different you found helpful in telling your own children? I would love for you to share what helped you.