Eric Schumacher: “My Wife Had a Miscarriage”…We Both Did
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Eric SchumacherEric Schumacher is a pastor, songwriter, and author whose work has been featured by the Gospel Coalition and elsewhere. He has a BA in communications and an MDiv from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Eric and his wife, Jenny, have five children and live in Iowa. Learn more at emschumacher.com.
“My wife had a miscarriage. Why do I feel so lost?” Eric Schumacher recounts the grief in his own marriage and how ultimately, trauma brought them closer.
Eric Schumacher: “My Wife Had a Miscarriage”…We Both Did
Eric: We had gone to the doctor together—he’d done the exam—said, “I need to do this procedure.” He said, “Eric, you are welcome to sit in this room if you’d like to.” For whatever reason, I just started to feel a bit lightheaded; so I said, “Jenny, I’m going to need to leave.” I got up and left the room. I went out and sat in the waiting room, just thinking I was a failure as a man and as a husband because I didn’t have the physical strength that time to stay in the room.
Ann: Welcome to FamilyLife Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I’m Ann Wilson.
Dave: And I’m Dave Wilson, and you can find us at FamilyLifeToday.com or on our FamilyLife® app.
Ann: This is FamilyLife—
Dave: —you ready for this?
Ann: I’m ready.
Dave: It’s one of those, where you better fasten your seatbelts.
Ann: I just got my Kleenex® box.
Dave: Yes, you got it out. So talk about what you think about grief or trauma hitting a marriage. What percentage of marriages cannot survive a really heavy trauma? Do you know?
Ann: So what percentage ends up in divorce?—is that what you are asking? Out of the hundred, maybe, thirty?
Dave: A stat that has been quoted often is 80 percent.
Dave: I actually did some research to find out that a book was written—
Ann: They will end up in divorce!
Dave: —80 percent. Now, let me just say this—a woman named Harriet Schiff wrote a book called The Bereaved Parent in the ‘70’s—and she quoted even close to
90 percent. That’s been debated. I mean, it could be as low as 20 percent; but either way, it’s like: “Wow!”—when a marriage goes through something really traumatic.
Today, we are going to talk about losing a child—
Ann: —a miscarriage.
Dave: —a miscarriage. That’s a trauma that a lot of marriages may not survive unless they have a plan. You’ve got to have a plan to survive any kind of trauma.
Ann: And Jesus: He is my plan. [Laughter]
Dave: Yes, Jesus, no doubt; but you’ve got to have a plan.
We’ve got Eric Schumacher back in the studio. We’ve already talked to you a little bit about your loss in four miscarriages. But Eric, welcome back.
Eric: Thanks. Yes, thanks for having me.
Dave: Yes; I mean, yesterday, we talked about you and your wife Jenny have walked through four miscarriages. Again, if you missed yesterday, just listen to it because—
Ann: —you’ll cry.
Dave: —you’ll cry; but it was so helpful—
Dave: —to hear you navigate/how you guys have walked through that.
You’ve written a book to men—
Ann: —a devotional.
Dave: —yes—about how to walk through miscarriages. It’s called Ours: Biblical Comfort for Men Grieving Miscarriage. You give them a 31-day, which is great; because I know me—I’d be like: “I can’t read something 60 days, but I could do 31,”—to help them walk through that.
Ann: And you’re walking through the book of Luke.
Dave: Talk to us about how that grief and trauma impacts a marriage, because you’ve lived it.
Eric: Yes; I feel like, for Jenny and me, it brought us closer together. I felt like we’ve had a lot of suffering, I think, in our marriage. Some of it has been tension between us—and you know how that goes in marriages—
Ann: —and you have five kids.
Eric: —and we have five kids; yes. [Laughter]
Dave: And you’re a pastor; and you’re a counselor; and you’re going to school; and you lead worship.
Ann: —and he writes books.
Dave: And there is something else: and your mother-in-law came to live with you.
Dave: So there you go.
Eric: Well, she helps out. [Laughter]
Ann: It’s too bad there is no stress in your life. [Laughter]
Eric: Yes! I felt like each of our live births and each miscarriage brought us closer together because there is that sense—that, at least, we had—you’re there, and this is an intimate thing between the two of you. You were the first two to know about this pregnancy, and you’re anticipating this child together. If you need to go to the hospital or the doctor’s office site—you know, I went with Jenny to see the sonograms, and all that, to hear heartbeats. It was a loss that the two of us, together, could only grieve as deeply as we did.
But I know it can be a struggle for men to know: “What do I do as a husband—
Eric: —“and as a father now that we’ve had this miscarriage?”
To add to that, it’s a loss—both parents have lost a child—but this does affect the woman/the mother, physically, in ways that the father, obviously, is not affected. She may have cramping, and all the various issues that can go with a miscarriage, and you’re not having those. You’re in a place where you can use your health and strength to be able to care for her in different ways.
Ann: I’ve heard some women say that they’ve watched their husbands. It appears to them, as they are watching their husbands, that he isn’t grieving.
Ann: So then she’s judging that, of saying: “Did you not care?”
Did you guys go through that at all?
Eric: I don’t recall us ever going through that, but I’ve heard that a number of times. There could be various things going on there. On the one hand, it could be a father, who doesn’t know how to grieve and doesn’t know how to show his grief. Maybe, the family he grew up in, you didn’t show grief.
Ann: Or he is trying to be strong for her, and so he won’t show it.
Eric: I think that is the other thing—is because we think of miscarriage as primarily a woman’s matter, then, he may even feel guilt for grieving—he feels like: “Because she carried the pregnancy, this is more her miscarriage than it is mine.” That’s part of what the title of the book gets at—Ours—this is our miscarriage, together.
He might be afraid: “If I talk about my grief, if I talk about how sad I am, that I’m a mess inside, that I can’t deal with things, it might sound like I’m undercutting her grief—the legitimacy and seriousness of it—so I’m just going to stuff it down and be the guy who cares for her.” That’s not healthy. I find that most mothers in miscarriage want their husbands to grieve with them and alongside them, even if that impacts how the husband can serve them in that time.
You’ve suffered a loss. It’s not wrong for you to ask friends to be good neighbors to you—and help out with chores, childcare, meals—all those sorts of things. That’s not just for mom; you two need to grieve together. Your home is a place that came about by you getting married to each other because you, as a husband, need a wife; that’s why God gave her to you. To try to manage the household as one, when it is supposed to be two, that’s not healthy for you as well.
Ann: I’m thinking back at one of our sons and his wife had three miscarriages before they had any kids. After one of those miscarriages, they called me; and they said, “Could you just come and be here?” Now, as I’m listening to you, Eric, it is because they wanted to grieve together. All I did—I stayed out of the way—I cooked; I cleaned. So many of those hours, they were in the bedroom, with the door closed, grieving.
Ann: And what you are saying is that’s really important.
Eric: It is.
Dave: You are also saying—because I think the way I’m wired—
Ann: Yes, what would you do?!
Dave: We have not gone through this, but I can picture myself trying to comfort and be there for Ann: “She carried the baby; I didn’t. She needs me; I need to be strong. I need to be empathetic; I need to hold her and not be thinking about my own grief.” I would just be—it’s almost like I would put it away, partial denial—
Ann: —for my sake; yes.
Dave: Yes. If I have any grief, I’d go do it with my guys; I’d sit with them.
Obviously, you’ve dealt with it; and you are writing to men. I remember reading somewhere in your devotional that, you got so nauseated, you walked out of the hospital room.
Eric: Yes, that was—
Dave: So you’re carrying this.
Eric: Yes, that was during the one miscarriage we haven’t talked about yet, where Jenny had to have a D&C. We’d gone to the doctor together—he’d done the exam—he said, “I need to do this procedure.” He said, “Eric, you are welcome to sit in this room if you’d like to.” I’ve watched the birth of all five children without getting lightheaded/nauseated; that stuff doesn’t get to me.
I had the option of pulling my chair up next to her bed, and even facing her, and holding her hand during this; and for whatever reason, I just had started to feel a bit lightheaded. I said, “Oh, I’m going to sit in the back of the room.” Then it kept continuing to get worse; and I just said, “Jenny, I’m going to need to leave.” I got up and left the room, and I went out and sat in the waiting room.
That was another hard part that I look back on and go: “Did I do the right thing?” This little voice in my head was saying: “You call yourself a man. You’re supposed to be a leader, the protector, the provider, and you can’t even sit with your wife. You left her alone in that room by herself going through this procedure,”—just thinking I was a failure as a man and as a husband because I didn’t have the physical strength that time to stay in the room.
Ann: That is the accuser; isn’t it?—
Eric: It is.
Ann: —of the brethren, like—yes.
Eric: I went out into the waiting room and found a place in the waiting room where nobody else was at because I wanted to be alone. I felt like Satan sat down next to me and started whispering in my ear.
It’s not a sin to be weak; in fact, it is the first requirement of being a Christian. Jesus said, “I did not come to be served but to serve.” The entry way into the kingdom of God is by saying, “I need Jesus to serve me.” You have to become like a child.
Jenny didn’t think those things about me; she wasn’t upset about that at all. But it is a matter of finding your identity in who Jesus is and what the Bible actually says about what it means to be a husband and to care for your wife. Christ became just a great counselor and comfort to me in the midst of these kinds of situations.
Dave: Yes, I know that you just said it—going to the Word, seeking His face—I mean, you walk men through Luke; so you find comfort in Christ. Obviously, He went through loss as horrific as this.
Ann: Let’s read Luke 19; should we do that?
Dave: Yes, Luke 19:41 [excerpt from Eric’s book]:
I can remember the day, a few years ago, standing on this road where Jesus was, and looking into the city, and trying to feel what He felt as He is riding in, celebrated as the King a week before His death; but in verse 41, it says, “As He approached Jerusalem and saw the city, He wept over it and said, ‘If you, even you had only known on this day what would bring you peace, but now it is hidden from your eyes.’” And He predicts what’s to come, which they have no idea; and yet, He knows.
Again, standing there, I sort of viscerally felt this emotion like: “What would that be like to have these hopes of what the future is?” Then as He is looking at the city, He knows they do not realize what’s about to happen.
Somehow, that comforts you as you are grieving.
Eric: Yes, there are several things that can comfort me/comfort us. A thing I think about right now, when I read that passage and hear it is, first of all, we see Jesus weeping. Then the next thing He does, when He gets into Jerusalem, He goes straight to the temple; and He cleanses the temple. We see Him driven by His anger at the way the temple is being mistreated and His Father’s house is being mistreated.
A close friend of mine, who was 43, died unexpectedly of a massive heart attack. I preached at his funeral—it was a different passage; it was from John at Lazarus’s tomb—Jesus at Lazarus’s tomb. But these two things also come up there. First is that Jesus weeps. He knows that Lazarus is going to be raised from the dead, but this is real weeping. The word behind that in the Greek is for like burst into tears. This is like full body weeping—like convulsions, snot running from your nose, saliva down your beard—like ugly crying; you know? That’s how Jesus felt about the loss of His friend. He identifies with that sort of grieving that we do.
Then the other thing is—it says that Jesus—when He saw Mary weeping and the others with her weeping, He was disturbed in spirit. Then, when He is brought to the tomb, it says that He was disturbed in spirit again. That word is a word that is used for like war horses when they snort—so it’s not like He was overcome with grief—this is intense rage and anger as He looks at the tomb, and He sees and hates death.
Those feelings, here in Luke/in this passage in Luke are what drive Him, not just at the temple, but straight to the cross, where He is determined to end our sin, end death, and raise us from the dead as justified children of God, forgiven of our sins. As I think of myself sitting there, in my own shame, I remember that Jesus hates the accuser, who is sitting next to me, accusing me of being guilty of things that are not sin. His strength/Christ’s strength and His rage has numbered the days of Satan, and has guaranteed my eternal life and resurrection from the dead; and I would say, the resurrection of my baby from the dead.
Christ doesn’t sit down next to a weeping father, and say, “Boy, you are a failure at manhood; this isn’t what manhood looks like.” He came, not as the unflinching leader; He came as the suffering servant, who is well-acquainted with grief and sorrow. He sits with weeping people, and He hears them and sees them, and He weeps with them.
My story might provide solidarity; it’s not going to provide any lasting comfort. Only the story of Jesus can provide us with healing and eternal absolute comfort. I wanted to help men walk through the entire Gospel [of Luke] in a month, and be well-acquainted with Jesus, and see how much He loves the broken-hearted and is there for them.
Dave: And I think it’s—I know I’ve done this—it’s easy for me to dismiss what you just said: “Jesus weeps,” especially when you are going through grief or loss. You feel alone; You feel like God has abandoned.
But the two things you just expressed are still happening real time in our life: Jesus is weeping with us; He is also angry: this is not what He designed life to be.
Dave: We live in a broken, sin-stained world. Bad things happen, even to good people; and He is weeping with us; He is right there. You can hear the whisper of the accuser—that should be shut up—and say, “Wow! He is weeping with me, and He is angry with me. It’s okay that I feel the same things that He did, because there is a better story; and there is hope in the end.”
If there is a listener right now who is feeling abandoned, I hope you realize right now: “He is with you. He is weeping. You are sitting in His lap. I know it may not feel like it; you may feel like He is a thousand miles away. That is not true. He is right there, holding you, weeping with you, and saying, ‘I feel just as bad as you do, but there is hope.’”
Eric: And He is with your wife—
Eric: —when you can’t be with her.
Ann: Oh, that is a good point.
Eric: He is able to be with her to comfort and help her when you can’t; and even when you can, He’s doing it better.
Shelby: That’s Dave and Ann Wilson with Eric Schumacher on FamilyLife Today. We’ll hear about Ann’s struggle to trust God when her sister passed away in just a minute; but first, maybe, this summer you’ve glimpsed some character in your kids that needs some help; but how do you tackle that kind of stuff? Well, I love this quote from FamilyLife’s Art of Parenting® small group study; it says this: “We had a very diverse study group from six different countries. It was an amazing experience of evaluating how culture and upbringing impacts our parenting styles. This course was instrumental in reorienting our beliefs and practices toward Christ-centered parenting. It’s amazing.”
Well, right now, you can use the code, 25OFF, to save on the Art of Parenting, along with all of our small group studies: 25OFF at FamilyLifeToday.com.
Alright; now, back to Dave and Ann’s conversation with Eric Schumacher and how Ann struggled to understand why God would let her sister pass away in her 40s.
Ann: I think all of us face the questions in those hard times of: “God, why?
Ann: “Where are You?” I don’t know if we will ever get all those answers as we are on this earth.
My parents, recently, both just passed away in the last two years; they were in their 90s. I’m not questioning that: “Lord, You have given them a good, long life.” But when my sister passed in her 40s, then I’m thinking, “I just don’t see the point; that seems like a terrible mistake.”
But what you were saying was—I remember doing that—and I told Jesus that, like, “Look, Lord, this seems dumb. It just doesn’t seem like a good thing for her four boys, who are now without a mom.” But I didn’t have a clear answer except that: “I’m with you; and I will be their mother and father for so many times that you won’t even know about, Ann; but you can trust Me.”
That’s not easy, just to say, “Okay. I’m going to trust You”; but it is the best thing we can do.
Dave: Were these words that you and Jenny spoke to each other? I mean, did you need each other?
Ann: —or talk about it together?
Eric: We did need each other, and we did talk about these sorts of things together. I don’t know that I talked about all the things, I was dealing with, with her; I tend to stuff things, and then I process through writing.
It’s when Risen Motherhood really/they asked me if I would write an article for their website on how father’s experience miscarriage to help the mothers who come to their ministry. Writing that, I really had to go back and relive those experiences and begin to name the things that I was feeling; you know?—like anger, and shame, and loss—all these things—questions, uncertainty. That was really good for me, so that enabled me to talk about this much more clearly, which is what I hope this book does.
Ann: It opens a door.
Eric: It does. There is a little journaling space for some questions. I think it will be helpful for men as they walk through miscarriage, to be examining the experience in some way—paying attention to it; not even asking: “What’s right?” and “What’s wrong?”—but just pay attention to it and write it down. You don’t grieve things in a week. Especially, the loss of a child, at any stage, is a manifold grief that you can’t understand all at once; because 18 years later, that child would have been graduating from high school—there is a new grief—you know?
Eric: One of the things, I think—and you said it well—about not having all the answers to our questions. I hope that comes through in this devotional because, throughout Luke, we find Him encountering a lot of suffering people. He doesn’t give answers as to why they are suffering. He might say, “It’s not because anyone sinned”; that’s to protect the suffering person; but he still doesn’t say why this person is suffering this way and not this person. We don’t get those answers this side of eternity, and I don’t know if we get them then; but we do get Jesus, and that’s better than answers.
Dave: Now, is that the kind of stuff you encourage a husband to talk to his wife about?—because when you said you sort of found yourself processing your grief through writing, I would do the same thing.
Ann: That’s what I was going to say!
Dave: She is pointing at me right now.
Ann: I’m pointing at you, because—
Dave: It’s like I would go preach a sermon on it. She would hear it, sitting in the congregation, like, “Why won’t you talk to me?”
Ann: I’m sitting here, like, “What?! I’ve never heard this in my life; and now, you are in front of—
Dave: Look how/you are getting all animated!
Ann: My arms are up; “Now, you are in front of thousands of people.”
Because as a wife and as a woman, we long for that connection of knowing what our men are going through; because we want to experience it together. That’s why your devotional is so brilliant, because—
Dave: So you tell us, Ann. I asked Eric, but you tell us men: “Should we be sharing that with our wife?”
Ann: Yes. And I think—I know for you, Dave, you wouldn’t have processed it until you sat down—maybe, read a devotional and then journaled your thoughts about it. I don’t think you were trying to stay away from it necessarily; although, you don’t like to feel bad. You’d run to play basketball or something instead of feeling bad [Laughter]; but if you brought me the page of the journal that you wrote—it brings tears to my eyes—because we, as wives, long to know our husbands’ hearts. We long to know what they are feeling.
We tend to tell our husbands what we are feeling if you ask—sometimes, you don’t even need to ask—we just tell you. But as women, we long to know our men. That’s a beautiful way to know our men—it’s not that you are trying to stay away from grieving—it’s that you’re not always sure how to process it. It could be an incredible gift.
Eric, this has been a gift to us, and I think so many; because it’s not really talked about. Thank you for having the courage to enter into this world.
Eric: Thank you for having me.
Shelby: You’ve been listening to Dave and Ann Wilson with Eric Schumacher on FamilyLife Today. His book is called Ours: Biblical Comfort for Men Grieving Miscarriage. It’s a 31-day devotional for men processing miscarriage. You can get a copy at FamilyLifeToday.com.
Also, all this month, when you help reach more families with God’s truth by giving to FamilyLife, we want to send you a copy of Jennie Allen’s book called Find Your People. It’s our thanks to you when you give this month at FamilyLifeToday.com or when you call, with your donation, at 800-358-6329; that’s 800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
Now, tomorrow, Dave and Ann Wilson are going to be with our very own Ron Deal, talking about excelling at ministering to stepfamilies. That’s tomorrow.
On behalf of Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Shelby Abbott. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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