By: Autumn Purdy
Gifts come in many forms and any kind offering can make a world of difference to a woman who has experienced pregnancy loss. Gentle words and time spent sharing, handmade presents, a simple meal, a letter scrawled in imperfect handwriting, even a litany of text messages stating “I’m here for you,” will help to lift the spirits of a grieving mother who has lost her child.
When I miscarried the first time, I received an abundance of phone calls and texts, cards, letters, emails, and even a bouquet of flowers from an aunt and uncle. My mom sent a book, Our Stories of Miscarriage, knowing I’d seek out literature to help heal my broken heart. One of my work colleagues left a Styrofoam cooler of food, snacks, and beverages outside my apartment door. Knocking quietly without a response, she followed up with a text, expressing her sympathies and to let me know she had stopped by. When I opened the door to a stack of simple-to-prepare comfort foods, I was touched beyond compare. My village at the time was vast and strong. I appreciated each level of kindness offered to me.
Family and friends showed up for me in a plethora of ways and their efforts were instrumental in helping me to overcome my grief over losing my child.
The second time I suffered a miscarriage, the calls, food, flowers, and sentiments lessened considerably. It’s as if no one knew what to say, what to do, or how to handle my grief. I remember hearing “I’m so sorry” a great deal, followed by lulls of awkwardness and deafening silence.
As my pregnancies continued to end in loss, I don’t recall receiving many thoughtful gifts or words of affirmation after I miscarried a third and fourth time. Maybe I was too dulled by the pain and shock to remember.
Though, the one gift that stands out from this particularly harrowing time arrived in the form of an email from an old friend. In the correspondence, she extended her love, prayers, and support, and also shared some Bible verses to help lift my spirits and to offer me hope. I printed a copy of the email and placed it in my bedside table where it has remained ever since. Over the years, I have referred to her typed words of encouragement to get me through subsequent losses and personal trials.
Due to my recurrent miscarriage experience, I learned many self-care methods and discovered some tangible ways to honor the children I had lost. One fall day when I was out shopping for Christmas presents, I found and bought a set of crystal angel ornaments. These delicate trinkets hang on my family’s Christmas tree every year as a physical reminder of the first, four children my husband and I created together.
During my fifth miscarriage, the support I had initially received a decade prior when I lost my first child, returned to me in abundance.
I was convalescing on the couch when a friend stopped by with a handmade shawl, some literature, and treats. She sat beside me and cried tears of remorse. She, too, was a bereaved mother and her understanding presence was a balm to my weary heart and aching body. Another friend, going through her own health crisis at the time, came by to visit and left with my young son and daughter in tow for an afternoon playdate with her kids, all of them friends. I was able to nap and have some time to myself, a welcome reprieve in a suffering time, all because a friend stopped by and offered help. On another day during my lengthened recovery, I walked out to the mailbox and found a flat, cardboard envelope. Inside was a gift from one of my best friends—an art print featuring my family tree with all the names of my children, living and deceased. After framing the lovely piece, I hung it in the stairwell leading to the basement playroom where we have built an eclectic art gallery of homemade art and sentimental prints. Every day I walk past the gift and am filled with gratitude for such a beautiful gesture and a loving friend.
After my sixth miscarriage, I recall comfort foods, Edible Arrangements, and cookie trays. Some close friends of mine brought over an entire meal, including a homemade chicken pot pie. The warm crust was flaky, buttery, delicious, and the filling inside, hearty, soothing, an expression of consolation and deep care. I can still see the steam rising from the ceramic cookware, can taste the satisfying blend of poultry and cooked vegetables, and I’m once again filled with awe of the dedicated preparation to create such an exquisite meal. What impressed upon me the most, though, was the well-intentioned visit, the hugs, and the tears shared between us.
Because of my experience with recurrent miscarriage, I’m well-versed in showing up, offering comfort, and sitting with sorrow when another mother has lost her child.
Over the years, I’ve offered help and comfort in the ways that had the biggest impact on me. My motivation to support grieving mothers stems from the insight I’ve gained and knowing what it’s like to have lost so much. When visiting, I always bring food. In a pinch, a chocolate bar followed by a hug and an offer to brew some hot tea never fails. I sit with the devastated woman and welcome her tears. Placing a box of Kleenex between us, I nod my head in understanding, express my heartfelt sorrow, empathize and say with conviction, “I’m so sorry for your loss. I understand how you feel. Please share as much or as little as you want. I am here for you, always. You will get through this, I promise. You can count on me.”
About Autumn Purdy
Autumn Purdy earned a B.A. in English from St. Vincent College in Latrobe, PA, and is a Reviews Editor for Literary Mama. Currently writing her first book about the path to motherhood and her experience with recurrent miscarriage, she lives in Westerville, Ohio with her family. You can read more of her writing at https://asadsongbetter.com/ and https://bookjoy.blog/ and find her on Instagram and Twitter at @purdywords.