Tuesday, February 23, 2010

What not to say

Just wanted to add a list of things not to say to someone going through a loss, and reasons why.

~ "Maybe there was something wrong with the baby."  ((In the end, they would gladly take a baby with disabilities over no baby at all.))
~"God has a plan." ((DO NOT say anything about God unless you know that this person shares your religious/spiritual beliefs.  And even if they do, they are already feeling abandoned, hearing that God PLANNED to forsake them is not helpful at.all.))
~"It's for the best."  ((So it's better for the baby to die than to have me for her mother?))
~"At least you didn't know your baby" ((well, you can read my last post for my feelings on this one))
~"Did you do something to cause this?"  ((The mother is ALREADY feeling guilty, she really doesn't need to feel like everyone else thinks it's her fault too.  MOST losses don't happen because of something the mother did or didn't do, but we feel guilty for it anyway.))
~"I know how you feel."  ((Even if you HAVE had a loss before, everyone feels their grief uniquely.  But especially if you haven't ever had one, don't say this.  And do NOT compare a miscarriage/stillbirth to a loss of a pet or an elective abortion!))
~"Have you ever thought of adopting/not having children?"  ((After a loss, especially after multiple losses, she is already afraid she may never have a child of her own, maybe that she isn't "meant" to or that she isn't "good enough."  Asking this question makes her feel that you think she's not good enough as well.))
~"You can always have another" ((She doesn't want another child.  She wants that child. Not only that, but it's possible that she may NOT be able to have another.  Either way, this statement minimizes the loss when she feels her world is falling apart.))
~"Be grateful for the children you have."  ((Like the previous one, this child is different.  One child does not replace another.  She is grateful for the child she has, but she is grieving the brother/sister they will never have and the future that is now gone.))

Things that ARE helpful to say/do:
~"I'm sorry."  ((It may seem trite to say, but if it's sincere it's better than saying nothing.))
~"I wish I had words, but I don't."  ((This acknowledges that the loss IS something worthy of being wordless for.  There aren't words in any human language to express a grief this deep, and saying so shows that you acknowledge that it IS something hard))
~Sometimes a simple hug can do more than words ever could.

As time goes by, it may seem like she has "gotten over" her loss, when really she hasn't.  It's not something you get over, and telling her that she shouldn't be thinking about it anymore is hurtful.  A mother thinks about ALL her children every day, even if she doesn't talk about it as much anymore.  Accepting that time going by and even subsequent children will never truly erase the pain is a wonderful thing.

Acknowledging important dates unprompted is something I have always treasured.  It shows that I'm not alone in remembering my daughter.  It shows that she (and I) are important enough to someone else that they make an effort to remember.  But you really do need to follow her cues, because some people cope by not thinking/talking about it.  If you are unsure, you can always ask.  It's good to know that someone wants to help you in the way you need to be helped.

A simple rule to go by is that if what you are saying minimizes the loss, then it shouldn't be said.  Acknowledging that she has the right to feel whatever she's feeling is the most helpful thing.

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