Comforting Others in Our Weakness

Recently, I met with a friend who shared the loss of her granddaughter, who died at 20 weeks in utero. As we sat in our local sandwich shop, we cried together over the loss of the baby, the grief she shared with her daughter and son-in-law, and the dreams she and her husband had of being grandparents. The sun shining through the restaurant windows on that clear winter afternoon seemed to taunt us as it cast happy rays on the faces of people enjoying their day. For a time, we sat in the shadows.

I am often amazed that I work in this grief-care space, teaching others how to help people suffering after a reproductive loss. I frequently introduce myself as one who has “said all the wrong things” to hurting people. Embarrassed yet hoping to offer encouragement, I blurted untrue and unhelpful sentiments. As I have wrestled with my weakness about saying the wrong thing in situations, two specific truths come to mind that can help our grieving friends with the hope the Lord has offered through his Word.

First, we are reminded that the Lord draws near to those who are hurting. He is already there at the restaurant, coffee shop, or family gathering. The ministry of comfort involves the Holy Spirit (Acts 9:31), God, the Father (2 Cor 1:3,4), and Christ, the Son (2 Cor 1:5Phil 2:1), who is abundantly qualified to comfort man. Dane Ortlund writes, “Our pain never outstrips what he himself shares in. We are never alone. That sorrow that feels so isolating, so unique, was endured by him in the past and is now shouldered by him in the present.” We can breathe a sigh of relief, knowing that God is already there, near to those in need. His presence has already begun the work at hand.

Second, God has called us to care for His sheep, which means that when they suffer loss, we need to be there for them by making ourselves available in humility and gentleness (Eph. 4:2). In the past, perhaps you have not been a student of your words or deeds in this area. But God is kind to reveal this to us when we ask Him to be the the person who offers the comfort and wisdom with which Christ comforts us. We can console each other through a gentle hand on the shoulder, a silent embrace, or shared tears. Other times, meaningful words are shared. In every case, it means taking our eyes off ourselves and looking outward to help others. It means, in the words of Benjamin Warfield, “Not that we should live one life, but a thousand lives—binding ourselves to a thousand souls by the filaments of so loving a sympathy that their lives become ours.”

Hearing our friend’s stories are a precious gift. Our conversation continually can point to Jesus as the Wonderful Counselor who brings the ultimate comfort to the suffering soul. With that knowledge, we can rest assured.

What is Reproductive Loss?

My colleague, Tanya, and I travel quite a bit for work as we speak at seminars, attend conferences, and provide training. On any given flight, we are asked where and what we do, and I can tell you, it’s not always sexy for others to learn that we are reproductive grief and loss educators. Some people will tell us their precious and sacred stories, and others will not look us in the eye for the rest of the journey. On one such flight, Tanya sat beside a beautiful young woman who asked what the purpose of our trip was. Tanya quietly mentioned our travel plans, then sat back to see where the conversation would lead. Soon, the woman looked up at the air vent, hoping to find the meaning of these words there. She hesitatingly asked, “Miscarriage?” Tanya breathed out, “Yes.” After a long pause, the woman asked, “Abortion?” Again, Tanya answered, “Yes.” Finally, the woman looked up, searching for words in the sky beyond the plane, and asked, “Hysterectomy?”

Yes.

The woman went on to share with Tanya how she had to have a complete hysterectomy at a young age and was now grieving the children she would never bear.

Reproductive loss is any experience of grief in a person’s life related to their reproductive health, decisions, fertility, the outcomes of a pregnancy, or the creation or care of their family[1]. It can involve the pain of miscarriage, the agony of stillbirth, perinatal and infant loss, and the complex emotions tied to infertility, assisted reproduction, and abortion. It also extends to adoption, children born with congenital disabilities, and any loss affecting a person’s reproductive well-being.

Reproductive loss is a widespread and often unspoken part of life. Miscarriage alone accounts for a quarter of all pregnancies, resulting in about two million losses yearly in the United States. Yet, it differs from other forms of grief in that parents who have experienced reproductive loss may have limited tangible memories of their baby. Their loss is silent, and they often grieve without the support or recognition they need to heal. Additionally, when individuals form deep connections with their unborn or newborn children and experience any loss, grief inevitably follows.

Knowing that many people struggle with reproductive loss is half the battle of becoming a source of understanding and empathy for them. Because it is a private (or scary) topic, we seldom delve into these particular and painfully common tragedies. Thus, distressed women and men are not receiving the biblical guidance they desperately need. Instead, struggling with their pain in isolation, they often seek comfort and answers online, where much of the content they stumble upon focuses on the emotional dimensions of losing a child rather than applying the truths of God’s Word to their grief. While they find empathy in the articles they read, the profound hope embedded in the gospel of Jesus Christ is missing.

With just a little bit of information on this topic, we can listen to these stories with empathy and offer the hope and comfort afforded us in Christ Jesus.

Tricia Lewis, Co-Founder Reproductive Loss Network

 [1] Flores and Lewis, 2023; Earle et al., 2008; Price, 2008; Roth, 2018 

Everything In Me Said Abortion is Wrong

Sheila Harper, Founder of SaveOne.

Everything in me said abortion was wrong, but I charged forward with really bad advice, from even worse friends, and I went through with it anyway. March 29, 1985 was the day of my most regrettable mistake. I was nineteen years old and making decisions of life and death that I had no business making. My boyfriend broke up with me shortly after and I really don’t blame him. He begged me not to have the abortion and I selfishly did anyway. Don’t ever let anyone tell you this is just a woman’s issue. Men suffer from the aftermath of this choice as well.

For seven years after this date my life quickly became a mess. I started drinking, then consuming vast amounts of drugs. I spent all my money going to concerts and getting backstage, and signing up for credit cards and maxing them out. I suffered through a rape, and I went through relationships like water, not committing to anything or anybody. I became obsessed with death, hoping that if I took enough drugs, or drank enough alcohol I wouldn’t wake up. After an attempted suicide and being consumed with hoping to die, I met a man in a bar and cleaned myself up enough to get married.

My husband Jack, is the real hero in all of this. He loved me even as messed up as I was and lived with the drama of my life for years. We had two sons right away. My first son I have always felt was a gift from God to wake me up. That pregnancy got my attention and made me realize my life was worth living, if not for myself, then for this precious creature entrusted to me. My second son was indeed born on March 29th, the very day I had taken a life, God gave me another gift straight from Him.

Not long in to our marriage I heard about a class being offered for women who had experienced abortion and were having trouble afterward. Being in a group with others who had suffered the same experience after abortion, validated those seven years of isolation and loneliness. This Bible study I attended gave me back my life. It showed me how I needed to accept Jesus forgiveness and forgive myself. It was an incredible discovery and a much needed transformation.

God has walked me through forgiving the abusers in my life, owning my bad choices, and wiping my slate clean. He has made me a victor of my past circumstances…no longer a victim. What happened to me is not what defines me, but rather strengthens who I am today. The enemy meant all that junk for nothing but destruction in my life, but God used it all for the betterment of myself, my awesome family, and to help others through the same situations.

So there’s the real story. Without Grace I’m a mess, true and simple. With Grace life is awesome.

Please feel free to contact me by emailing info@saveone.org Or you can check out saveone.org for the same kind of help that was offered me and changed my life. Hope to hear from you soon!

Abortion – For Our Readers

By sharing our stories of hope and healing, we offer an exceptional gift to another. So often, in times of suffering and pain, we benefit from knowing we are not alone. Our words can make a significant difference to someone who needs to hear a Biblical perspective of hope.

You may have heard the statistics, “1 out of 4 women by age 45 will have had an abortion.” And of those women and men, so many have not experienced God’s grace, forgiveness, and love. And of their families, friends, and loved ones, they may think they don’t have permission to grieve the loss.

If you have not experienced abortion personally, I ask you to pray for God’s wisdom in how you can become a safe person for those you may know or come into contact with who are suffering from abortion. Being a safe person is vital, and it grants the Lord the opportunity to use you as a healing vessel. Unfortunately, the abortion-minded and those who have chosen abortion often hurt and feel isolated. However, there are several ways to pursue education to help those who grieve their decisions. Learn more here.

If you have been affected by abortion and have not sought after abortion care, I ask for you to pray for discernment and guidance from the Lord on your next steps. You may think you need to wait for the “right time.” But the reality is, the enemy will never allow that feeling to come. If you would like more information on care after an abortion, please reach out to us. No judgment, only help to hope. — Tanya and Tricia.