“Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2
“I have shewed you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak…” Acts 20:35
“Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love…” Romans 12:10
“Remember them…which suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the body.” Hebrews 13:3
As Christians, we are to follow the example of Christ by willingly serving others (Philippians 2:7). Our relationships in this life, both with other Christians and with the lost, are to be characterized by charity, kindness, brotherly love, and any of the other virtues that we would want bestowed upon us in our time of need (Luke 6:31). Sometimes, in our service through the ministries of the church, we look for ways to help behind the scenes. (Who puts up the seasonal decorations you see when you come in for services? Who cleans the nursery or the bathrooms? Who vacuums the hallways or changes the lightbulbs?) These areas of service are necessary and important to the work of the church, and those who do them should not be overlooked when we are giving out our thanks. Investing in others, however, will often require that our service literally become more hands-on! No matter what our insecurities or fears, we must reach out to offer support to those who are grieving loss.
The loss of a child is an emotional experience that often takes its toll in the physical world. Before I began this series, I asked several of my friends who have experienced this type of loss, what was done or could have been done to encourage them during their time of grief. The following suggestions come from those conversations, as well as my experience. Perhaps you know a mother who has recently suffered the loss of her child, whether in pregnancy or infancy. What are some practical ways that you can reach out to her?
- Speak to her! If you do not know what to say, tell her that you are praying for her, and then do it!! You may not know what else to say, but saying nothing should never be an option! (Do not, however, use this time to offer your advice or criticism about choices she may have made regarding pregnancy care, labor and delivery, co-sleeping, breastfeeding, vaccinations, medical care, funeral/memorial arrangements, etc. She needs your support, not your condemnation or condescention!)
- Give her a hug, and let her cry on your shoulder! (Yes, it may seem awkward if you are not already close friends; but she needs it, whether she tells you she does or not!)
- Sit by her in church. Put your arm around her and just be there.
- Go to the funeral or memorial service for her baby, should she choose to have a public one. If you cannot be present because of distance or other obligations, let her know that you are praying for her that day by making a quick phone call or sending a text, email, or private message through social media.
- Send her flowers and a card. (Better yet, deliver them yourself. Your physical presence will speak volumes!)
- If she has to spend time in the hospital, visit her and pray with her! If she is home, offer to sit with her for a few hours. Let her rest, while you attend to her every need!
- Make a meal and deliver it to her house. If you can, plan to stay, serve the meal, and clean up after. If you must deliver the food and leave, serve the meal in disposable dishes and provide paper plates, flatware, and napkins so that she does not have to wash dishes after her family is done eating.
- Go grocery shopping or run other errands for her.
- Gather some of her other friends and make a visit to her house. Clean up for her and do laundry! (If you are not comfortable just showing up on her doorstep, call first and schedule a time to come over.)
- If she has other children that are attending school, pick them up from school and then stay to help them with their homework while you send her to go take a nap. If she is homeschooling, take over for her for a day (or more, if you can). Let her have plenty of time to rest while you help the children!
- Offer to watch her other children for a few hours so that she and her husband can have some time alone to talk, cry, pray, and grieve. They may be trying to keep up their strong exterior for the sake of the children, but they need a chance to begin to work through their grief together.
- As time passes and she begins to return to “normal” life, call, text, or drop a note in the mail to her and let her know that you are still praying for her. (You never know when grief will overwhelm her and turn a perfectly normal day into a cloudy, gloomy mess. Your kind word and caring thought may come at just the perfect time! If the Lord brings her to your mind, it is probably for a reason. Don’t pass up the opportunity to be a blessing!)
- If she lost her baby during pregnancy, take note of her expected due date. If she lost her baby at birth or during infancy, take note of baby’s birth date. When her due date or baby’s first birthday nears, send her a card, take her out to lunch, buy her some of her favorite candy, make her cookies – do something that says, “I know this is a difficult time, but I am here for you!”
I began this series with the story of my second miscarriage. Though there were some very sad days during the months following that loss, I was ministered to by a few close friends and a very special group of girls: the teens in our youth group!! As my expected due date (the end of March 2014) drew closer and other ladies who were expecting along with me began having their babies, I once again struggled with waves of emotions. Our teen girls recognized my loss, realized my struggle, and reached out to minister to me! Each week of March, I was given at least one note or card telling me that they loved me and were praying for me. On the last Sunday of the month, they surprised me with an entire box of goodies. One of the girls had crocheted me a small pillow and blanket, which they included with some of my favorite candy and sodas, a Starbucks gift card, and a gift card for my husband and I to go out to eat at one of our favorite restaurants. I will never forget the kindness that they showed me! Their actions reflected the love of Christ to my hurting soul!
It has been said, “People won’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” Indeed, whether we are trying to edify another believer or win a lost friend to Christ, we must be willing to step outside our comfort zone and look for ways to show others we care by literally offering our hands, our feet, our mouths as vessels that Christ can use! I hope that this series has helped you and encouraged you to find ways to minister to mothers who are grieving by recognizing their loss, realizing their struggle, and reaching out to help them!