QUESTION: Our son’s wife, I’ll call her Joan, just had a third miscarriage and has been told by her obstetrician that another pregnancy will seriously affect her health. Although our son Tom is sad, Joan is inconsolable. We don’t know what to say or if there is anything we can do. We all attend church regularly. We’ve often heard the saying, “What would Jesus do?”
We welcome any advice.
~ Caring In-laws
Dear Caring In-laws,
How fortunate Joan is to have such loving in-laws. Half of the battle when dealing with tragic moments such as this is to be with the one who is grieving, not necessarily offering specific advice, but letting her know that she doesn’t have to travel this road alone. Often we feel the need to say the right thing that will suddenly jolt a person out of grief, but that just doesn’t happen. Grief is not something we get over but rather learn to live with.
Since you are church-goers, one positive thing that you can do is to pray for Joan and your son. If you feel there are fellow church members who want to help, have them pray as well. If your church has a time during the service when people can add prayers of their own, then do so, either silently or aloud. Don’t underestimate the power of prayer.
You didn’t mention whether Tom and Joan already have children, but I inferred that they do not. Joan’s deep-seated grief might have some roots in her past experiences or beliefs. Perhaps Joan wants her child to experience the same loving family environment in which she was raised. Maybe she feels that it is her “duty” to provide children and, since she can’t do that, her self-confidence and self-worth are suffering. These types of feelings can best be explored in working with a professional therapist or in group therapy.
Joan is experiencing grief just as if a loved one died, because one did. Today there are many opportunities to seek professional help and I’m sure they’ll be able to find someone they’ll feel comfortable working with. While it is not appropriate to suggest the following during this early stage in grieving, perhaps in later months or even years you might want to plant some seeds to see if they’ll grow. If Joan feels unfulfilled without having children, there are several options to consider. Perhaps using a surrogate is a possibility, whereby Joan’s fertilized egg is nurtured in another woman’s womb. This is admittedly an expensive procedure, but many couples have used this method to conceive and bear biologically related children. Adoption might also be a possibility for the couple and, considering the great need worldwide, this might be a way for them to expand their family.
Once Joan and Tom can determine the nature of their grief (inability to have natural children, feelings of inadequacy, etc.), then the best options can be explored.
In the meantime, I hope you’ll join me in praying for them.
Kirby Smith, Vicar
St. Luke’s of the Mountains Episcopal Church
Dear Caring In-laws,
This is one of those times when words may be ineffective. The loss of a child, at any point, represents one of the most difficult challenges that might be faced by a couple or family. There are so many emotions that surface, not the least of which revolve around questioning on the part of the mother regarding her ability to carry a child. The “why” and “why not” questions can be devastating. Joan’s grief is complicated by the medical determination that she could be risking serious health problems should she and Tom resolve to try again. That seems like an immense sentence and one that may be difficult for her to consider at this moment.
I believe in cases such as this, that Jesus would simply love her. Ephesians 2:14a says, “For He himself is our peace…” (NKJV) and Philippians 4:7 reminds us that, “…the peace, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds…” (NKJV).
Perhaps the best approach you can take is to be willing to listen to Joan as she feels ready to share her grief, and let her know she is loved. In addition, you might encourage her to join a grief counseling group so she can release some of those feelings and find ways to cope with her pain. You may even consider joining a group as a family.
Another action you can take is to pray for her; intercede for Joan, as Jesus modeled so many times. I would not give her false hope, but we all have been given authority to go before the Father and contend for our heart’s desire. This may be something you can do privately for Joan and Tom and press-in for her peace, for her to feel loved and for a miracle. They still happen today and honest, heartfelt prayer remains the most effective vehicle.
Lucinda Guarino, Leader
Social Responsibility – Spiritual Services YMCA of the Foothills, lguarinoymcafoothills.org
QUESTION: It’s really hard for me to ask for help, but I don’t know what else to do. One of my chores is helping with our family’s laundry. When I opened my little brother’s duffel bag to get his Little League clothes to wash, I found pills and some marijuana in a plastic bag. I asked him what this was all about, and he said he was keeping it for a friend. He begged me not to tell our parents. He promised that he doesn’t do drugs, but I think he shouldn’t even be hanging out with kids who do.
Can you help me straighten this out?
~ Big Sister
Dear Big Sister,
First of all, this issue is something to be taken very seriously, especially if your brother is young enough to be in Little League. Whether he does drugs or not, he is associating with kids who do. Plus, he is carrying drugs around, which is illegal. Honesty is vital here but you also must approach this with a combination of respect for your brother and a mind to protect him.
The way to do this is to sit down with your brother and let him know that you trust and believe him that he is not doing drugs but you care about him and, for that reason, you think it is best that your parents know the truth. Let him know this isn’t about tattling on him. Tell him you would like him to go to your parents himself and you will come along to support him. He should let them know he made a mistake, he did not use drugs, he realizes what he did was wrong and it won’t happen again. Assure him that you will be there to back him up and, although your parents may be upset, coming to them of his own accord and admitting his wrongdoing himself will go a long way in earning their respect and trust.
Finally, without being threatening let him know that if he doesn’t tell them, you will have no choice but to tell them yourself. Remind him that it will be a lot worse if they found out about this from someone else or after something worse happened.
The important thing is to be on your brother’s side and show him you care about him while demonstrating honesty.
Joshua Lewis Berg
Dear Big Sister,
You don’t mention your brother’s age but I looked up the age rules for Little League and he must be 13 or younger. Many questions come to mind. Are your parents understanding and open to discussion or abusive? Is your brother telling the truth about his own drug use? If so, is he being bullied into holding the dangerous material? Did you confiscate the material and dispose of it safely?
You are absolutely justified in being concerned. I have read about studies that show the human brain doesn’t fully develop until the early 20s and marijuana use can be damaging during brain development. It’s difficult to know what the pills are outside their original packaging but it’s likely they are similarly dangerous to the young mind.
In addition to possible health and safety concerns, someone who is convicted of a marijuana offense, even as a minor, can lose eligibility for federal education grants and loans. Please make your brother aware of the very real consequences of his choices. Ideally your parents should help him understand this and it would be best if he can speak to them about it himself. Whether it’s your brother or his friends who are using drugs, I believe it’s important to get to the bottom of what’s so troubling about a young person’s real life that they wish to find something to alter their consciousness. There is a local organization dedicated to preventing underage substance abuse, CV Alliance, http://cv-alliance.org/. You can use their resource guide to find organizations that work with youth. A key thing is to help your parents keep your brother and maybe his friends too busy and engaged to abuse any substance. If the material hasn’t been disposed of, the sheriff’s department has a Safe Drug Drop Off program where you can do so anonymously, http://ladpw.org/epd/hhw/sharps/SheriffDept.pdf.
Good luck with this situation.