By Anna Kettle, Crosswalk.com
It was December 2017 when I first experienced a pregnancy loss. It was a slow miscarriage that took three scans and almost four weeks to ultimately confirm we had lost our baby. It was a horrific experience, but once I had got past the initial shock and disappointment of miscarriage, I reasoned that we would take a few months to heal and then try again.
Five months later, my husband Andy and I got pregnant again, and everything felt like it was finally falling into place. My son Ben was two and a half at the time, and it felt like the right time to extend our family. But my excitement was quickly shattered again when I suffered a second miscarriage.
I guess no one ever really expects a miscarriage until it happens to them - but I didn't expect it to happen twice in a row. After all, the only thing you ever hear from medical professionals after a loss is how it's very common and nothing to worry about. There's no reason why you won't go on to have a healthy pregnancy next time. Most people do. So, I wasn't prepared for this possibility. Experiencing two losses within a six-month period felt so unfair. I spent a lot of time in tears, and I had so many questions whirling in my head. What if something serious was wrong? What if it happened again? How many times were we willing to put ourselves through this? Suddenly nothing felt certain.
But soon afterward, we decided to try again. It took us seven months to conceive this time, so when we finally found out we were pregnant, we were ecstatic and felt so relieved.
Pregnancy after loss is never easy, but after a scan at 8.5 weeks confirmed that everything looked great, I finally relaxed a bit. We'd now passed the point at which my previous miscarriages happened, and there'd been no signs of bleeding at all. It was a year and a half later than we had planned, but we were finally going to have a sibling for our son!
Needless to say, the discovery of a 'missed' (or 'silent') miscarriage during our following scan hit me hard. Not only did this third miscarriage tip us into the category of "unexplained recurrent loss," but we didn't have any indication of anything being wrong at all. I couldn't quite believe what I was hearing, even though I was looking at the screen with my own eyes. Less than two weeks earlier, we had seen our baby with a healthy heartbeat, but now we were being ushered into a quiet side room by nurses and offered surgery options. We were both in total shock and couldn't quite take it in. How could this be happening to us again? The experience left me completely crushed. The baby I'd waited for so long for and then carried for almost three months was gone. And over the two years that have passed since then, I've been unable to get pregnant again.
Because of my experiences, people often ask me for advice on coping with the grief of a miscarriage. But the truth is that each miscarriage was so different – both physically (slow, early, and then silent) and emotionally. But while there is no "one size fits all" approach to grieving, I do think there are some key tools that can help – and one of them is prayer. So here are a few of my suggestions about how and what, to pray in the aftermath of miscarriage:
1. Start Small and Simple
In the aftermath of each of my pregnancy losses, I felt so overwhelmed by sadness that I often found it difficult to pray. I knew that I needed God's help to cope with what I was dealing with, but I didn't know what to say - even though I am a writer and words are kind of my thing!
Even on those occasions when I did manage to pray, I frequently found it hard to still my mind and focus my thoughts for more than a few moments at a time – especially when I was still in the initial stages of grief. I've since learned that this is a common experience after loss.
As a result, most of my attempts at prayer during this season tended to be less like a conversation with God and more like a few uttered words– things like 'God, I feel so broken, please help me," or 'Lord, I really need your strength today.' Many of them even resembled breath prayers – simple prayers that can be spoken out in a single breath and repeated numerous times throughout the day. Looking back now, I can see that even though my prayers weren't long or eloquent in this season, they were probably some of the most honest and heartfelt prayers I have ever prayed.
So if you're struggling to focus your mind in prayer, why not start small using some simple breath prayers too?
2. Try Borrowing Other People's Prayers
It can also be hard to find the emotional energy to pray when you're grieving too. So one of the things I found helpful in this season was learning to borrow other people's prayers.
Part of this could be simply asking other people to pray with you or on your behalf. After all, James 5:16 encourages us to 'pray one for another, so that you may be healed.' But 'borrowed' prayers could also be about using other people's words to pray when you can't find the words to say yourself.
I found that using certain daily devotionals or prayer books was helpful, and there are many written specifically for women after pregnancy loss. I also found many of the Psalms to be valuable springboards for my prayers in this season. When we're thrown into unexpected grief after loss and facing countless unfamiliar questions, thoughts, and feelings, it's not surprising that we might need some new spiritual tools too.
So if your normal prayer habits feel a bit out of reach during this season, try to think outside of the box and explore which resources could help.
Photo credit: ©GettyImages/KatarzynaBialasiewicz
3. Be Honest with God
When I was in the deepest throes of grieving pregnancy losses, I also found prayer hard because I felt so angry with God. I couldn't understand how he could let something like this happen to me, not just once, but again and again. I wasn't exactly blaming God for the miscarriages. Deep down, I knew that He hadn't caused them. Like all forms of death, miscarriage is another tragic result of living in this fallen world. But having the right theological answers still doesn't take the pain away.
The good news is that we can honestly share our emotions with God after a loss. He can deal with our raw emotions. He isn't shocked or surprised by our tears, anger, sadness, or doubt. Just look at some Old Testament books like Psalms, Lamentations, or Job if you're not sure this is true! All three of these books are full of prayers of lament, complaints, and even accusations towards God. In Psalm 13:1, David complains, "How long, Lord? Will you forget about me forever?' In Job 7:11, he declares, "I will not keep silent; I will speak out in the anguish of my spirit. I will complain in the bitterness of my soul," and in Lamentations 3:1, Jeremiah writes, 'I am the man who has seen affliction by the rod of God's wrath.'
Clearly, none of these writers were scared to be real with God – and neither should we. Just like any relationship, our intimacy with God thrives better when we're able to be fully ourselves, talk honestly with him and be real about where we're at.
So my advice is to create some space to express your feelings before God honestly. Don't rush into this; wait until you feel able and ready. But once you do, take all of your sadness and anger and questions and fears right into His presence. Tell him how you feel and allow him to meet you right there.
4. Pray for the Comfort of God's Presence
Psalm 34:18 says that "The LORD is close to the broken-hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit," and in Matthew 5:4, Jesus himself said that, "Blessed are those who mourn or grieve, for they will be comforted." But the truth is that I never really understood these verses until miscarriage entered into my story.
What could possibly be 'blessed' about going through a heartbreaking loss? Well, I think that perhaps the 'blessing' comes not from the grieving process itself but rather from the opportunity that this kind of suffering can invite into our lives. As we ask God to draw near to us in our brokenness, something kind of miraculous and unexplainable happens - we begin to discover that the God of all comfort is drawing near to us too. God's presence is always with us, of course, but amid our grief, we get to experience the comfort of his presence in a new and more profound way that we've perhaps never needed before. And don't we especially need that emotional healing after a loss?
So if your heart is heavy and hurting right now, don't struggle alone. Take a step towards him today and let him wrap his arms around you.
5. Pray for Your Mind to be Filled with His Peace
I'm not generally an anxious person, but miscarriage can be such an anxiety-inducing experience. There are so many unanswerable questions that you have to live with, and it can open up so many unknowns about the future. What caused the miscarriage? And could it happen to me again? The problem is that your fear can no longer be rationalized away when you've already experienced a loss. So how do you navigate all of the stress, anxiety, depression, and other forms of poor mental health that miscarriage can cause?
Talking to a professional counselor and journaling were two essential tools I used to help me process, but I also found myself praying to know more of God's peace after each loss which also helped. It's the one gift that Jesus said he would leave them with – not power, miracles, strength, or even love, but his peace. In John 14:27, he said this: 'Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.'
Clearly, he knew what they would need, and if they needed it back then – don't we also really need it now? So my encouragement is to take him at his word and to keep asking him for his peace to fill your heart and mind.
6. Pray for God to Keep Your Heart Soft
Proverbs 13:12 says that 'Hope deferred makes heart sick,' and I've found that this is true after pregnancy loss.
Because it's such a devastating experience that leaves behind a crushed sense of hope, it's easy to allow the anger and disappointment you feel turn into bitterness or hardness of heart. Sometimes this can be expressed towards God, which is why I encourage you to be honest with him, rather than bottling your feelings up or putting on your best spiritual performance and pretending to be okay. But I also found that a lot of my sadness and frustration ended up being expressed as jealousy or comparison, particularly with friends or family members who were having healthy pregnancies when I was not.
If I'm honest, I would frequently catch myself thinking or passing ugly comments like, 'How come I lost my pregnancy, but she got to carry her baby full term? I'm a much better mom!' or 'She's having a third now, and she doesn't even seem that bothered!' Am I alone here? I think we can all be prone to this kind of resentment and bitterness in the face of our own lack – but this kind of thinking doesn't help. It only makes you feel worse.
So why not ask God to keep your heart soft towards him and those around you, even during your pain?
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Anna Kettle is a Christian author, blogger, speaker, and an award-winning marketing professional. Her first devotional book, ‘Sand Between Your Toes: Inspirations for a Slower, Simpler, More Soulful Life’ released earlier this year under Tyndale House. She is also a co-founder of SPACE, a UK-based miscarriage & infertility support network for women. Anna is a coffee lover, bookworm, travel enthusiast, music fan, keen foodie, gatherer of people, a miscarriage warrior, and a big believer in the healing power of words. She is married to husband Andy, and mom to their little boy Ben who is 6.
You can find more of her writing at www.annakettle.com or at www.thereisspaceforyouhere.com