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Reaching Out To Coworker After Loss

Q: My coworker recently suffered a miscarriage. I can tell she's really hurting, and I'd like to reach out somehow without putting my foot in my mouth. It's difficult to put myself in her place, but it's also hard to avoid saying something since I'm around her every day. How can I navigate this awkward situation?

Jim: In a case like this, naturalness and genuine humility will go a long way toward putting your friend at ease and helping her feel loved and cared for. Keep in mind that a miscarriage is the same as any other kind of death. It involves the loss of a real person.

Some suggestions:

Don't say: "I can imagine how you feel." If you haven't lost a child, you can't.

Don't say: "Let me know if there's anything I can do." This actually puts the burden on the bereaved person to think of something, and then to have to ask you for help.

Don't say: "God had a purpose for this." This makes God out to be the "bad guy" in the situation, and He isn't.

In contrast:

Do ask: "How can I pray for you right now?" Then remember to pray.

Do send a personal note or card now -- and perhaps also at the time the baby would have been born, which usually brings renewed grief.

Do offer to do one or two specific things to help the family in a practical way -- bring a meal, do laundry, yard work, etc.

Do make yourself available to listen. Most of the time, the gift of listening, your tears and a warm hug can help more than anything you could possibly say.

If you need more advice, feel free to get in touch with Focus on the Family's Counseling department at 1-855-771-HELP (4357).

Q: How can I help my school-age daughter talk about her feelings? Our family has been through a rough time recently, and I'm worried that she's bottling things up.

Danny Huerta, Vice President, Parenting & Youth: Children often manage confusing or difficult situations with words like "what if" and "I wonder." They also use "should" and "could" to create order when circumstances are beyond their control.

-- What if? Children sometimes try to quiet unpleasant emotions by seeking explanations using "what if" questions. "What if I was better at sports? Would my dad love me more?" "What if mom and dad hadn't gotten a divorce?" Different scenarios are invoked to make sense of emotional pain.

-- I Wonder. "I wonder" questions tell a lot about a child's insecurities. "I wonder if my parents are going to get a divorce?" or "I wonder if my dad loves me?" are good examples. More than just curiosity, these questions express hopes and wishes for the best.

-- Should. "Should" statements communicate demand and expectation -- how life ought to be. "Dads shouldn't leave their families." "My mom shouldn't drink." While these may be true, many times "should" statements leave a child frustrated when things are not the way they "should" be.

-- Could. This is the most hopeful coping word. "Could" allows ownership of the things that can be owned. It lets a child accept the fact that some things can't be controlled, but life can still be OK. For instance, "My mom and dad could have stayed married, but they didn't. I could still try to have a good relationship with both of them, or I could stay angry." "Could" allows options like offering grace and forgiveness, and the freedom to live a life of resiliency.

Help your daughter process her "what if," "I wonder" and "should" thoughts. Teach her to use "could" ideas to experience emotional freedom.


Jim Daly is a husband and father, an author, and president of Focus on the Family and host of the Focus on the Family radio program. Catch up with him at www.jimdalyblog.com or at www.facebook.com/DalyFocus.

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(EDITORS: For editorial questions, please contact Hollie Westring at hwestring@amuniversal.com.)


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