“Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” -Romans 12:15
As a general statement, I don’t think Americans know how to grieve with those who are grieving. I think we have this innate desire to find a positive spin on everything or to tie a pretty bow at the end of every story. Example: the story of The Little Mermaid did not originally end the way Disney portrayed it. Ariel dies. But no American fairy tale should end that way, right? That’s not a movie kids want to see.
We also worry about being politically correct, with a fear of offending anyone, so when it comes to a situation we don’t actually understand, we find ourselves retreating so that we don’t say something hurtful.
If you have a friend walking through infertility, though, she (or he!) needs you to be there. While there are all sorts of wrong ways to approach supporting this friend, there are also things you can do to be an encouragement, even if you haven’t personally walked through this battle yourself.
- DON’T try to minimize their pain. Statements like, “Well God works everything out for good” or “God has good plans for your life” can be bandaids over a wound that is gushing blood. DO send them Scripture and let them know you are praying for them, and even tell them that you know God can use this for good, but in the same sentence acknowledge that it has to be hard to be in a place where you can’t see that right now.
- DON’T be afraid of asking questions or for updates, especially if your friend has opened up to you in the past about this struggle. You don’t necessarily have to tiptoe around the issue. However, DON’T ask, “So, are you pregnant yet?” DO ask, “How are you doing? Do you have anything coming up that I can be praying for?”
- DON’T ignore their pain by never bringing up the topic. I love the way Shauna Niequist talks about this in her book Bittersweet from her own experience with miscarriages:
“When something bad happens, people say the wrong things so often. They say weird, hurtful things when they’re trying to be nice… But there’s something worse than the things people say. It’s much worse, I think, when people say nothing.”
She then goes on to share what to DO instead:
“Some people didn’t know what to say, and they said just that, ‘I heard what happened, and I don’t know what to say.’ That is, I’m finding, a very good response… When you’re mourning, when something terrible has happened, it’s on your mind and right at the top of your heart all the time… When you’re in that place, it’s a gift to be asked how you’re doing, and most of the time the answer comes tumbling out, like water over a broken dam, because someone finally asked, finally offered to carry what feels like an unbearable load with you.”
- DON’T feel guilty when you have good news to share about your own pregnancy or when you want to share about this new little laugh your baby has developed. DO be sensitive for appropriate timing and setting. One of the most thoughtful things friends have done for me is to tell me about their pregnancy individually before they announce it in a group setting where I am not able to prepare myself.
- DON’T make comments about how they should enjoy their Saturdays to sleep in or how they get to spend every meal in conversation instead of being interrupted. We know you are trying to put a positive spin on our season of life, but we would probably give a kidney to be able to wake up in the middle of the night and rock a baby back to sleep. DO share with us when you are having a hard day, because it helps us know that we can be real with you, and it reminds us that it’s not all about decorating a nursery and sleepy snuggles. Just be sensitive in how you vent, avoiding phrases like, “You’re so lucky to not have to deal with this.”
- DO be sensitive about conversation topics when in a large group – try to ask about their job, or if they are planning a vacation for the summer.
- DON’T promise that it will happen for them one day – you don’t know that, and it’s something they are probably wrestling with the Lord on.
- DON’T tell them they should just adopt. You wouldn’t tell someone whose husband just died that they should start dating again; adoption is a totally different thing, and while it is often how God answers the prayers of those walking through infertility, it can also be painful and uncertain.
Some of the most meaningful things my friends have done for me:
- texted me randomly just to let me know that she is praying for me
- praying for me over text, typing out the prayer so I can see what she is specifically asking God for
- sent me flowers the week of an important doctor’s appointment
- brought over brownies after putting the baby to bed when she knew I had a hard day and Eric was out of town
- putting reminders in their calendars to pray for specific doctor’s visits
- coming with me to get my blood drawn because it scares me
- shared their own stories with me
- affirmed me for how she sees God working in me and even through my story
- intentionally asking how I am doing
- letting me cry in front of them and asking questions or affirming me in response so it’s not an awkward silence where I feel like I shouldn’t have shared
- connected me with other women who are walking through the same thing
- loved me in the middle of feeling like a mess and letting me know she was okay with my messiness
If you have anything else to add to the list, feel free to comment below!