Day 6: What NOT To Say
Day 7: What TO say
I'm going to combine these because... well, because I can.
It must be so hard for others to address their thoughts, emotions, concerns, and love to a woman who has just buried her baby. Even from one loss-mama to another, it can be hard. So many of you have reached out and expressed yourselves to me, and I have appreciated all your kindness. - I thought I'd take a few minutes to help guide anyone who is trying to express themselves to someone, anyone who has lost their child and you're just not sure how to do it and convey what you intend - kindness and love and sympathy.
#1 and #2 have been addressed in the past, but let me just quickly revisit them:
1. Never start a phrase with "well, at least..."
This was part of my post FAQ's back in February, but I still see this as so important that it's worth mentioning again. DO NOT EVER start a sentence with "well, at least..." because it will never work out the way you hope it will. Re-read that section of the post and learn it well.
2. Bring dinner. Do the dishes. Provide childcare.
This was mentioned as I wrote up about Seth's birth and funeral. But it was so amazingly helpful immediately that it's worth mentioning again.
I can't tell you how amazing these things were to my family. After Taylor, I ate. A lot. Of Chocolate. After Seth, I didn't want to eat anything. The thought of food made me feel guilty and selfish. I definitely didn't want to stand in the kitchen cooking for my family, a "normal" activity while my life was feeling NOTHING like normal. I felt like I needed to take a few bites out of each dish because someone went to the trouble of serving my family, so it encouraged me to get a little nutrition. One amazing woman came over the day after I got home and cleaned my kitchen and dining room for me. She sat down talking to me, then just kind of disappeared as though she was going to the restroom only for me to realize she was doing my dishes! I was so unconcerned with "normal" as I said, so this mundane task being done for me was just incredible! She brought one of her kids with her, which was perfectly fine as it was entertainment for my kids. She even made lunch for each person - sandwiches, a bowl of fruit, whatever was desired. Absolutely incredible! And then all the people who took our kids as we made arrangements the day before induction, then took them when we went to the hospital and stayed unexpectedly over-night and then most of the next day... sometimes taking them at a moments notice (one person got sick and couldn't take on extra kids any longer) - just heart warming!
Doing any of these things - providing food, house care, or child care - are the best things to do when you want to do something but have no clue what to do.
Now onto the things that are new but still helpful to people trying to convey their thoughts to grieving mothers...
3. "That's just a gross picture of a dead baby." If you are considering expressing this sentiment, STOP NOW. It's been expressed to me, as well as to a sweet friend of mine. Just stop. We wish we had pictures of our babies ALIVE, but since we were never blessed to see our children take a breath of life, these "gruesome" images of "corpses" are all we have. To someone who has held her own dead baby, these images are of the most beautiful, perfect angels anyone could ever hope to see. When we share these images, we are sharing the largest part of our heart, our love for our children that aren't in our homes or in our arms. Everyone else gets to post pictures of happy little perfectly chubby babies that coo and cry. They are excited to share their newest joy. Despite the grief and sadness around our dead babies, we want to safely share the pictures of the most perfect joy of our hearts as well, even if the picture is of our baby already still and silent. Don't ever judge these pictures harshly. They mean more to us than any other THING, helping us to remember our gone-too-soon babies. Be kind. Be loving.
4. Time Limits
There are no time limits on grief. And grieving does not mean anyone is angry with God or any such thing. I want you to take a few moments to consider losing YOUR child.....
How's it going?
Does it make it better if....
He's a 30 year old man, leaving behind 4 children - 3 girls and a boy. He's one of those guys that can make anyone smile. He's always got a friendly disposition. He's lived through a lot of things, but now his children won't know him and the amazing man he was. He won't grow old with anyone. He won't see his children graduate high school. He won't know his grandchildren. His life is cut short, but hey, "at least" he lived a good 30 years, right?
Maybe it's better if he's younger, no kids yet. Maybe 18, just graduated from high school looking forward to college. The kid has such a bright future ahead, and you can tell because his personality shines so brightly and friendly that no one who meets him can help but be friends with him. He unites people of all cliques, ages, backgrounds, social classes, etc. He's still experienced a lot, but at least he's not leaving behind family. Except, you know he has such an amazing future ahead of him, no matter what he would have chosen, because he was warm, caring, compassionate, smart, and determined.
Maybe it's better if he's even younger - before he has big ambitions. Before his personality is truly known. Maybe it's better if he dies when he's 8. No family. No plans for the future. Just a rambunctious boy who climbs on things, captures frogs, gets into mischief but still gives great hugs, has smiles that brighten a room, and likes to help in the kitchen. Then again, maybe it's easier if it's an 8 year old who was sick a lot, never really well enough to go play, definitely wouldn't have had much of a future ahead of him anyway. "At least" he got to live for a while, but died before experiencing his first broken heart at the hands of a girl. "At least" you got to spend time with him, years with him, before he died.
Maybe it is easier when the child dies full term - right before birth, during birth, or within a few hours or days after birth. Maybe he liked spicy foods and it felt like he did Tai Chi in your belly rather than kicking up a storm. Maybe you planned on him being your last baby, joining two older brothers and assumed he'd play soccer like his big brothers did. Maybe this is the best time for your baby to die because you were able to enjoy the whole pregnancy but now "at least" you won't be awakened several times a night for feedings, have to change diapers, or deal with those ornery toddler years. Except, how cruel to go through an entire pregnancy just to leave the hospital empty handed. Maybe he had Downs Syndrome. Maybe you didn't care and just wanted to love him anyway.
Maybe it's easier if he dies in the middle of pregnancy. Then you've experienced a little pregnancy, but don't have to worry about getting swollen, going through labor and delivery, or those sleepless nights for months on end once he's born. Granted, you may have made plans already. Maybe having another boy would mean you'd need to finish the basement of your house, and move your other boys into the basement slowly over the next year or two. Maybe a Christmas time due date meant plans of staying home for Christmas instead of spending it with the in-laws. Maybe adding another baby to the family meant another two years of being a stay-at-home mom. Maybe you spent your sleepless nights dreaming of if he would be more like your first son or second son, or if his personality would be more like your daughter's. Maybe you prayed they'd just all get along well and would learn to love and protect each other as best friends. Maybe that family of 4 children just made your heart sing with delight! Maybe he was the rainbow after the storm of having lost a baby in a previous pregnancy. Maybe he was your light at the end of the tunnel of grief. Maybe being pregnant with him gave you hope for the future. Maybe loosing him took that hope away.
Maybe it's better to lose your baby early in the first trimester before you have time to bond with him much, although you may have been trying for years. Perhaps it's better to never have been pregnant in the first place, after all, who wants morning sickness and sleepless nights? Perhaps you'd take puking every day for 9 months and 2 years of sleepless nights joyfully if it meant you got to be a mommy.
How much time is appropriate to grieve? Well, if any of these were YOUR son, how long would it take YOU to get over it? As soon as you decide you WANT children, or see that positive pregnancy test, your whole outlook for the future changes, and there is no going back. There is NEVER a good time to lose a child. Losing your baby during pregnancy leaves your heart and your arms and your belly aching for your baby to come back. After birth leaves you yearning for more time, for him to be able to fulfill a bright future. So, before expecting someone to "move on" or "get over it," think about holding your dead baby/child in your arms, having to bury him, and never seeing him again in this life. Be kind. Be loving. Be gentle.
So, to sum it all up: