Thirteen years ago, Chad and I experienced our first miscarriage. At that time, we already had a bouncy two year old, and while her understanding of pregnancy was basically non-existent, her awareness of a place called Heaven was not. She already knew at that tender age that Heaven is a real place where Jesus is, and that when people’s bodies die, that isn’t the end of them. She could comprehend, at least in some small way, that there had once been a tiny soul in her mother’s tummy that was now in Heaven with Jesus.
As the years went on, we endured two more miscarriages, each time with small children of different ages wondering at the mystery of it all, babies that they never saw, gone to a place they had never seen, to live with a God they hadn’t laid eyes on. These concepts seem too abstract for little kids to grasp, and yet they did, in their simple way and with what can only be described as a child-like faith, believe everything I was telling them about their mysterious siblings. In truth, children are much more likely to accept things that take a mighty faith to believe. It was a comfort to me to see how quickly they clung to the truth that Heaven is a reality, that our babies are really, truly there, and that someday we will meet them.
In the years since then, they have occasionally wondered about those babies, like what their names are, what they might look like now, and what they are up to. All questions that I, too, have about the those little souls that we know so little about. In some ways I have let my kids’ questions serve as a guide for how to talk to them about miscarriage. But there are a few things that I tried to make sure that they understood, even from young ages, about the reality that some babies go straight from their mother’s womb to the arms of Jesus.
I taught them that death is sad. The death of a human being should never be something that we try accept as natural or a sing-songy part of the circle of life. Death should always remind us that sin has tainted our world, and that death is the main consequence of the fall of man. There is no need to hide our own sorrow when talking to our children about miscarriage. They need to know that sin hurts us in more ways than one. The moment that Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden tree, death became a very unnatural part of the story of mankind, and it hurts. Kid-level translation: “Yes, I’m crying, because I’m sad about all of the things I will miss getting to see our baby experience. I’m sad because I wanted to know the baby and see you playing together. I’m sad because I will miss our baby.”
I taught them that the baby still has a future. Bodily death is not the end of life, and one of the sweetest parts of talking about miscarriage with children is imagining what Heaven must be like. Not only does this child have a future in Heaven, an eternal future on the new Earth awaits, where she will live a real life forever, just like the rest of us. Some of the most precious conversations I had about our miscarriages when the kids were small were when I just listened to them chatter about what they imagine babies do in Heaven. As they’ve gotten older, we’ve wondered about deeper questions, like what kind of resurrected body do babies receive? How do they grow up? What do they learn and how, and what special kindnesses does God show babies whose earthly lives were cut short? Only He knows. But talking about Heaven and the reality of life after death builds our faith and helps us remind each other of the truths about the future that we see in scripture. Kid-level translation: “We don’t get to meet our baby now, but someday we will! She is as safe as she could possibly be, where there is no pain or worry or crying. I wonder what she is doing right now?”
I taught them that God is good and trustworthy. When a baby dies, there are no satisfying answers as to why. We can’t say with any amount of certainty what all of God’s purposes were in creating that little soul only to bring her home to Heaven before she experienced life outside the womb. But we can and should say (and believe) with perfect certainty that He has good reasons. Nothing that happens in this sometimes sad and scary world is without purpose. We know this because we know that God is a good God who wastes no pain, no suffering, no heartbreak. It is all for His glory and our good, even though we may not understand how until we meet Him face to face. We can trust in His plans even when we can’t comprehend them, and we can remember that He is good even when we feel afflicted. We can trust the Lord when He gives and when He takes away. Kid-level translation: “We don’t know why the baby went to Heaven, but we do know that God has a very good reason for it. He always does the best thing. We can trust His plans and thank Him for creating her, even though we will have to wait awhile to meet her.”
One thing that I’ve learned about miscarriages is that as time goes on I have had different revelations and feelings and discoveries about my experience. I believe kids go through the same type of process. The older they get, the more they begin to understand about death in general, and they can have moments of realization about miscarriages in the family. A few months ago, it occurred to our youngest that if any or all of the three lost babies had survived, she might not exist at all. This is a fairly deep existential idea for an eight year old. Yet, what an opportunity to talk with her about God’s will and how we can clearly see that He has a plan for her life that is special and different from the plan He has for anyone else, whether the siblings that she lives with or her siblings in Heaven.
If your family has experienced miscarriage, know that one conversation will not be enough. The day you tell your children is the day you begin a lifelong dialogue that changes with the mental, emotional, and spiritual maturity of your family. Our miscarriages are not a regular part of our daily life or conversations, but there is no accounting for when the topic may pop up. Kids are always thinking about, evaluating, and reviewing their lives, and your miscarriage is a part of their story. Start early with a firm foundation of biblical truth about who God is, what Heaven is, and how precious every life is. God will equip you to handle your kids’ questions and concerns, knowing of course that many of their questions have no answers at all. Some explanations are held by God alone, but your kids need a faith built on the truths of God’s word, not pat answers that decipher all of life’s circumstances. Miscarriage is part of the mystery of God’s sovereignty, and while I wouldn’t wish a miscarriage on anyone, it can be a wonderful opportunity to show children what faith in God’s goodness looks like.