Lost… and Found

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Stillbirth and Miscarriage

Often minimized as a “lesser loss,” couples and families
suffering the loss of an infant through stillbirth or miscarriage
many times feel invisible. Kathryn Jackson of Shiloh (www.watermark.org/ministry/shiloh.asp),
a unique ministry for people experiencing infertility or the loss
of an infant at Watermark Community Church in Dallas, Texas, has
ministered with her team to many families in this situation.

Good Move

  • Provide long-term support. Don’t stop checking on families
    after one or two months. Ask — months later — “How are you doing?
    How do you feel about things now that a couple of months have
    passed?”
  • Offer faith tools for parents. Provide tools for grieving
    parents to use in discussing the loss with their other children.
    One mom at Shiloh expressed that in her grief, she wasn’t able to
    get her mind together enough to articulate to her children the
    truths she knew about God. She wasn’t asking for children’s
    ministry to convey those truths to her kids, but to instead give
    her and her husband an avenue for communication with helpful tips
    from ministry.
  • Offer “been-there” supportive connections. Ask parents if
    they’d like to connect with someone in your ministry who’s had a
    similar experience. The Shiloh ministry has a group of volunteers
    who meet one-on-one with people who request it. These volunteers
    have experienced similar trials and have a special heart for
    ministering to others experiencing this loss.
  • Sensitize your congregation. Find ways to educate your
    congregation on sensitivity and ministering to those grieving.
    We’ve found that simply sharing stories of God working amidst grief
    in our weekly news has a profound impact and heightens people’s
    awareness.
  • Acknowledge the child. If the baby who was lost was named, use
    his or her name in notes or conversations. Consider giving parents
    a keepsake with the baby’s name on it — a hand-painted cross or an
    engraved bracelet charm. A tree or flowering bush or donation to a
    special charity are also sweet gifts.
  • The bottom line is, do something. Stillbirth and miscarriage is
    often a time when most people say nothing and do nothing; it’s
    incredibly comforting to hear someone validate your grief with a
    card, a kind word, or a practical gesture of help. The simple words
    “I’m so sorry for your loss” mean the most and are usually all
    someone wants to hear.

Bad Move

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  • Don’t wait to take action. Waiting to approach the family is a
    mistake. Respond as quickly as possible. Seasons of grief vary in
    length — from days to years. Your window to minister may not last
    long. And, what might mean a lot to someone right away might not
    mean as much two weeks later.

Welcome Words

Using phrases such as, “I’m sorry you’re going through such a
difficult time” and “This must be so painful for you” is a good way
to validate someone’s feelings.

What-Were-You-Thinking Words

Eliminate the words “But at least…” from your vocabulary. Any
time you use these words, you’re minimizing someone else’s pain:
“But at least you miscarried early in your pregnancy.” Don’t
compare pain you or someone else has experienced: “Don’t worry,
you’ve only been trying to have a baby for two years, and I know
another lady who tried for six before her son was born.” Also,
don’t talk about your own children. Avoid looking for solutions or
offering “the bright side of things”: “You can always adopt,”
“Maybe you should try another doctor,” or “At least you already
have a child.” Don’t ask personal questions: “When is your next
fertility treatment?” or “Are you going to try again?” Don’t take
the things we know to be true and turn them into hurtful words:
“God’s timing is perfect,” “It must be God’s will,” Or “You just
need to turn it over to God.”

     

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