What not to say.

I wanted to add a little to this post this morning after reading a couple of your comments. Did I ever tell you how much your comments mean to me? Thankyou.
I forgot to say in my post that I have in fact had my own foot in my own mouth many times before and probably even after my own baby losses. It is good to remember that sometimes saying less is more if you're not sure what to say. I usually took those misguided statements or clumsy attempts at consolation with a "grain of salt" and tried to see past the words to the heart of the person. I think thats important for grieving moms to try to do ,although in the depths of grief they are in a much more sensitive state of mind. Sometimes the source...a casual acquaintance or a nosy grocery store clerk didn't have the "heart" behind the offensive statement either. I think showing someone that you care about them and their baby is about all you can do...and that is usually very much needed by the person who is grieving.
I found the following post today and wanted to pass it along. As I wandered through some blogs I ended up at the "Dead baby club".
It sounds like kind of a morbid name for a baby loss support blog ...but once you've lost a baby you have no time for pleasantries or sugar coating horrible things. I get it. Although my own grief is no longer raw and painful I remember so clearly the time when it was. I remember a time when my wound was so raw that normal everyday events, or words of "comfort" from others caused me to wince in pain.
Whether it is a miscarriage, still birth, loss of a child...or the grief of infertility , there are things that people say (with good intentions) that do not help a broken heart and may even cause more pain. Please read through the following post even if you have never experienced infant loss.....at some point, someone in your life will and you may have a better idea of how to comfort them.

What we wish you knew about pregnancy loss: A letter from women to their friends and family

By: Elizabeth Soutter Schwarzer

When women experience the loss of a child, one of the first things they discover they have in common is a list of things they wish no one had ever said to them. The lists tend to be remarkably similar.The comments are rarely malicious - just misguided attempts to soothe.This list was compiled as a way of helping other people understand pregnancy loss. While generated by mothers for mothers, it may also apply similarly to the fathers who have endured this loss.When trying to help a woman who has lost a baby, the best rule of thumb is a matter of manners: don't offer your personal opinion of her life, her choices, her prospects for children. No woman is looking to poll her acquaintances for their opinions on why it happened or how she should cope.**Don't say, "It's God's Will." Even if we are members of the same congregation, unless you are a cleric and I am seeking your spiritual counseling, please don't presume to tell me what God wants for me. Besides, many terrible things are God's Will, that doesn't make them less terrible.**Don't say, "It was for the best - there was probably something wrong with your baby." The fact that something was wrong with the baby is what is making me so sad. My poor baby never had a chance. Please don't try to comfort me by pointing that out.**Don't say, "You can always have another one." This baby was never disposable. If had been given the choice between losing this child or stabbing my eye out with a fork, I would have said, "Where's the fork?" I would have died for this baby, just as you would die for your children.**Don't say, "Be grateful for the children you have." If your mother died in a terrible wreck and you grieved, would that make you less grateful to have your father?**Don't say, "Thank God you lost the baby before you really loved it." I loved my son or daughter. Whether I lost the baby after two weeks of pregnancy or just after birth, I loved him or her.**Don't say, "Isn't it time you got over this and moved on?" It's not something I enjoy, being grief-stricken. I wish it had never happened. But it did and it's a part of me forever. The grief will ease on its own timeline, not mine - or yours.**Don't say, "Now you have an angel watching over you." I didn't want her to be my angel. I wanted her to bury me in my old age.**Don't say, "I understand how you feel." Unless you've lost a child, you really don't understand how I feel. And even if you have lost a child, everyone experiences grief differently.**Don't tell me horror stories of your neighbor or cousin or mother who had it worse. The last thing I need to hear right now is that it is possible to have this happen six times, or that I could carry until two days before my due-date and labor 20 hours for a dead baby. These stories frighten and horrify me and leave me up at night weeping in despair. Even if they have a happy ending, do not share these stories with me.**Don't pretend it didn't happen and don't change the subject when I bring it up. If I say, "Before the baby died" or "when I was pregnant" don't get scared. If I'm talking about it, it means I want to. Let me. Pretending it didn't happen will only make me feel utterly alone.**Don't say, "It's not your fault." It may not have been my fault, but it was my responsibility and I failed. The fact that I never stood a chance of succeeding only makes me feel worse. This tiny little being depended upon me to bring him safely into the world and I couldn't do it. I was supposed to care for him for a lifetime, but I couldn't even give him a childhood. I am so angry at my body you just can't imagine.**Don't say, "Well, you weren't too sure about this baby, anyway." I already feel so guilty about ever having complained about morning sickness, or a child I wasn't prepared for, or another mouth to feed that we couldn't afford. I already fear that this baby died because I didn't take the vitamins, or drank too much coffee, or had alcohol in the first few weeks when I didn't know I was pregnant. I hate myself for any minute that I had reservations about this baby. Being unsure of my pregnancy isn't the same as wanting my child to die - I never would have chosen for this to happen.~Do say, "I am so sorry." That's enough. You don't need to be eloquent. Say it and mean it and it will matter.~Do say, "You're going to be wonderful parents some day," or "You're wonderful parents and that baby was lucky to have you." We both need to hear that.~Do say, "I have lighted a candle for your baby," or "I have said a prayer for your baby." Do send flowers or a kind note - every one I receive makes me feel as though my baby was loved. Don't resent it if I don't respond. Don't call more than once and don't be angry if the machine is on and I don't return your call. If we're close friends and I am not responding to your attempts to help me, please don't resent that, either. Help me by not needing anything from me for a while.If you're my boss or my co-worker:~Do recognize that I have suffered a death in my family - not a medical condition.~Do recognize that in addition to the physical aftereffects I may experience, I'm going to be grieving for quite some time. Please treat me as you would any person who has endured the tragic death of a loved one - I need time and space.Please don't bring your baby or toddler into the workplace. If your niece is pregnant, or your daughter just had a baby, please don't share that with me right now. It's not that I can't be happy for anyone else, it's that every smiling, cooing baby, every glowing new mother makes me ache so deep in my heart I can barely stand it. I may look okay to you, but there's a good chance that I'm still crying every day. It may be weeks before I can go a whole hour without thinking about it. You'll know when I'm ready - I'll be the one to say, "Did your daughter have her baby?" or, "How is that precious little boy of yours? I haven't seen him around the office in a while."Above all, please remember that this is the worst thing that ever happened to me. The word "miscarriage" is small and easy. But my baby's death is monolithic and awful. It's going to take me a while to figure out how to live with it. Bear with me.

I think at one point or another I heard every one of those words of "comfort". They usually stung. Some were horrible. The "It was for the best you wouldn't have wanted a defective child" was the worst one I think. I remember a time when seeing another pregnant woman or attending a baby shower at work took every ounce of strength I had. It took effort not to collapse onto the floor in a fit of wailing but to instead paste on a smile. The kind of restraint and effort it takes to go through the motions of every day life is exhausting.

I would also add be careful what bible verses you share with that person. Verses that are meant to bring comfort such as "all things work together for good..." may be true but may be hard to work through in the depths of grief. That doesn't mean that scripture isn't immensely helpful during the healing process but be aware of how certain verses might sting during that time...allow them time for God to speak to their hearts.

Some things that are helpful are:

Just be there. No words necessary. A hug. A tear. A "I'm so sorry...nothing I can say will make it better".
Help in practical ways. Food. Childcare. A lawn thats mowed. Everyday tasks will be overwhelming for her for a while.
Don't ignore her child. Don't pretend it didn't happen. Say her child's name. Every mother loves to hear her babies name...even more so when that child is only a memory. Let her talk about him or her. Let her talk about anything she wants to without judging. The things she is working through, talking about and sharing may sound bizarre to anyone who has not experience a child's death but chances are it is very normal...and even healthy for her to talk about. It may make you uncomfortable but your are there to comfort her...not yourself.

Every mother wants to talk about their child....a mother of a dead baby is no different. She wants to describe the shade of his hair, the curve of her eye lashes, the perfection of his tiny toes. Don't pressure her to talk..but if she wants to .....listen...and care.

She may want silence. If so, just your presence, a note, a letter, a card to let her know you care may bring comfort.


Valen and Carol said...

Thank you for this...so hard for the rest of us to know what if anything to say. I guess you have to realize they come from hearts of love even if the words aren't always right.

Joe, Erika, Micah, and Baby Rodgers... said...

Carla... your blog is such an encouragement to me. I have been away from the blog world for awhile, but I am so grateful to have caught up on a few of my favorites right now - and yours is one of them. I got all excited on the last post regarding my cousin's song that I forgot to let you know how encouraged I was by your honesty... your own heart. God has done such incredible work in your life - you truly have an amazing testimony and I thank you for sharing that with us! This current post really spoke to me as well. I could almost feel that sting as well when I read through that list. Before I had my pregnancy losses (when I was quite a bit younger) I know I've said some of those things to others. After experiencing it for myself, I learned how much it stings. Thank you for sharing those reminders with us. Hoping and praying many read it so that we can all work on how to truly encourage one another.

Lena said...

this is such a must read to so many people in my life- they are all well intended... but there have been many comments from those well intended that have hurt.
thanks for sharing :)