Friday, October 12, 2012

Pregnancy & Infant Loss - Stop Saying That!!

I think most people, when they find out you've miscarried or had a stillbirth, try to be at least somewhat sympathetic - even if the haven't been through that experience themselves.  But even the best-intentioned people will say the dumbest and most hurtful things.  Here's a rundown of some of them.  Maybe you've heard these.  Maybe you haven't.  Maybe you've said them.  If that's the case, recognize it and move on.

I guess it wasn't meant to be.  No.  I guess not.  I believe that God has a plan for each and every life.  I don't understand why He calls some home far sooner than others and far sooner than we, here on earth, would choose.  I have to then believe that these losses are also part of His plan.  So, while this comment may be technically correct if they're referring to God's plan, please don't say this!  We're already thinking it in some form - but saying that is pretty blunt and dismissive.

At least you can have more.  Really?  Are you my doctor?  Or maybe God?  Do you really know that with some authority?  How could you possibly know this - I don't even know this.  What if my history dictates that my chances of getting pregnant are pretty slim.  What if it took years for me to get pregnant with this child.  What if it took me years plus infertility treatment and thousands of dollars to get pregnant with this child?  What if what happened during the process of this loss caused damage that will make it even more difficult to bear children?  What if being pregnant puts me in a high risk category?  Do you really know that I can have more??

At least you know you can get pregnant.  See above.  Really?  In my time of loss, are you really going to use this as an opportunity to throw out a comment that suggests you are bitter or jealous because you are having a difficult time conceiving??  Don't get me wrong, if you're having difficulties in this area, I am not minimizing your struggles.  That said, my loss is not about YOU!!

At least you have other children.  While this wasn't the case in our family, I know that others have heard this.  That woman may be thinking, yes I have other children, but they are not this child.  This is a separate child for whom I had separate hopes and dreams.  No child can replace the one that was lost!

My personal favorite went something like this: At least it wasn't alive and had a personality.  {Read: At least it wasn't a real baby.}  Or words to that effect.  Yes, someone actually told me that after our stillbirth!!  No, he did not live outside the womb, but I delivered just as any healthy 40 week perfectly pregnant woman.  I just didn't have the positive outcome.  And I knew I wouldn't as I labored for hours, my own life on the line as I was going through this.  Did it matter that he didn't have a personality that I could have gotten attached to and, therefore, cross some invisible line into the realm of being "officially" able to miss him??  I guess it wasn't enough that I had months of building up hopes and dreams and plans for our first child.  Delivering him, seeing his face and who he looked like, and holding him for hours after apparently delivery didn't put me over that line either.  People, don't ever say something like this to anyone.  This comment has stood out in my mind as one of the most hurtful comments I have ever received, and it was uttered over 11 years ago!  Don't think what you say doesn't have an impact!

The point of all this is to say that women who have experienced losses are grieving.  They may be beating themselves up inside taking all the blame upon themselves - and, ladies, you know it's not your fault, right??  Friends and family need to offer their support, but if you are at a loss as to what to say, just say you're sorry for our loss.  You don't need to keep fumbling over words that, when they escape your mouth, will be like tiny daggers aimed straight at our heart.  

I don't believe most people are trying to be cruel with their comments.  Really, I don't.  I think they are well-meaning and just want to say or do something helpful.  People get awkward in these situations.  Words fail - particularly when they cannot personalize the experience.  What is intended to be helpful can wind up feeling like the mother's grief is being trivialized.

Recognize that there was a loss - no matter how early - and that the mother is grieving.  You may not think {for yourself} that it's appropriate to grieve a baby that was only being carried for a few weeks, but until you've been in that woman's shoes, don't presume to think you know what is best for her in terms of how she should handle her loss.  Don't minimize the loss or say things you think will "fix the problem".  Chances are it will only make things worse.

Be a support.  Be sympathetic {even if it means your silence} and understanding.  Just let the woman know you care without overstepping.  If you've been through a loss, you may have words of insight that will be helpful, but look on your own experience and remember before you just jump in and offer words that the woman may not be quite ready for yet.  Be a friend and allow a little grieving space.  

Offer tangible support if you can.  When an older family member passes away, it seems like casseroles are non-stop and other help is offered, but with a miscarriage or other loss, it's brushed aside as if the grief or pain is only allowed for that one day only.  Grieving takes time.  There may not be a visitation or funeral, but the grief is still present.  The grieving woman isn't going to want to cook or clean and may find taking care of other children or household issues very difficult for a while.  Offer help in these areas.  Even if she doesn't take you up on your offer, I'm pretty sure if it's done in the right way, your offer will be more appreciated than you know.

Be a friend.  Be a support.  Be quiet if you need to be, but just be there.

~~~~~

This month we remember all our babies who have died during or after pregnancy.  October 15th is National Pregnancy & Infant Loss Remembrance Day.  Please join Salena from {A Little Piece of Me} on the 15th as we link up and share our stories.  Please feel free to grab a button to help spread the word!

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