Trusting the eternal promises of God’s Word, the Bible, assures our hearts and minds. But there is still so much processing of pain and healing of heart to occur.
What our world calls stillborn, we call heavenborn. There is hope in that word: heavenborn. Yet that hope is just a small part of the support we need. We need loving folks to walk through that dark valley with us. How can we do that?
Be open. Unless you have been through stillbirth, it is hard to imagine how you will feel. The type of emotions do not matter—whether anger or sadness, fear or faith—the honest expression of those emotions does matter. When we name our feelings for what they are, we are one step closer to handling them when we can. Everyone will process differently. However, God created us for relationships, with Him and others, that we might process together. Give yourself, and others, permission to be honest.
Be present. You may not know what to say. Be honest about that. You do not need to know what to say. You do need to be there. Even if silent. Even if crying and praying privately, but saying little out loud. You can be Christ incarnate for the broken family. While you are present, be sure to ask the grieving parents what they want. Don’t assume. Take your cues from them as to what to say or do. Talk and listen at their pace. Be there. Presence is powerful.
Be discerning. Grief is uncomfortable. Many times when you want to make a grieving person feel better you say things that should be avoided. Unwise examples include: “God needed your baby more than you;” “It just wasn’t meant to be;” “God knows best;” “You must have sinned and are being judged.” Not only are comments like this hurtful, they are unbiblical or even sinful. If you do not know what to say, then say so.
Be thoughtful. Parents have suffered an insufferable tragedy. They won’t forget. Be sure you don’t either. Every parent is different in their level and style of expressing emotion. Knowing that, find the best way to continue to bring up the baby and grieving in the months and years ahead. Don’t go on like the baby never lived. Acknowledge the child’s life as often as possible. Assist the parents along the way to healing. Pain can’t be buried, it must be processed. Keep talking.
Be available. Find an emotionally safe way to be together and talk. Talk about the hopes, dreams, and experiences of pregnancy. Talk about grief, remembering, and healing in loss. An event like Evan’s First Heavenborn Birthday Party does that. When you recognize tragedy, you can work toward healing. When you marginalize it, you get stuck in sorrow. Provide people the emotional space to connect and express themselves.
Be inquisitive. Whether heavenborn due to known or unknown medical reason, we are destined to ask, “why?” Why is not a bad question. It is not wrong to ask why. We should ask why. God is big enough for any why we ask. He will answer. Yet His answer may not come as we’d like. Somewhere along the grieving process, however, we need to change questions to, “what?” Trusting God, we should ask, “What would you have me learn through this?”
Be supportive. Parents of a heavenborn need supportive people to walk through the valley with them. If you are family or friend, then you can be that support. You don’t need special training. Pray. Ask God for help. Read your Bible. Find God’s words. Follow the lead of the Holy Spirit. Go at the pace of the parents. Move ahead toward healing together.
Postscript. This post is intended to be an informative, how-to complement to the related post, Heavenborn, that explains the genesis of the word heavenborn while recounting the gifts of Evan and his amazing parents, Liz and James. Heavenborn appears just above this post in my blog order.
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