Sunday, December 27, 2015

Five Things Not To Say (After Pregnancy & Infant Loss)

I've been thinking a lot.  Usually this mulling and churning results in some more frivolous writing pieces for a time.  Hence, the reason you've gotten posts like Apple Frickin' Pie,  O' Christmas Tree and Spreading Christmas Cheer. 

It's not that these posts haven't contained important words and details... because Apple Frickin' Pie, well of course that's important.  It's more that these posts are just kind of killing space and time until I've come full circle with a lot of my deeper thoughts about life.

It's been three months since we experienced our second miscarriage.  I've really been struggling with how we as humans care for one another's hearts in times of grief. 

We've experienced some really beautiful acts of love and care since the day we knew we were losing our baby-- and then some just as equally not so great.  And I've struggled with the "why's" and the "how's" so much that I finally decided -- you know what?  Many of the people in my life haven't experienced the loss of a child.  Many have, but many have not.  So instead of being angry and hurt and exasperating by the unmet expectations I've held for them, maybe I should just straight up write about what not to say and do when someone you know has lost a baby -- whether it be through miscarriage, a birth defect or infant loss.   

1. "It was for the best.  God was protecting your baby from being born sick."  I had a friend tell me, "I didn't really take you seriously when you said people told you those things.  Until I lost my own baby. Yes. You were right.  People are that insensitive." 

Listen, there might be so much truth to that statement.  Perhaps my baby was being protected from a life of suffering and pain.  But if your friend walks in with the haircut from hell, you don't tell her she looks like hell.  You tell her, "It will take time.  It will grow out.  We'll get through this together."

I don't need to be told the straight up truth about WHY my baby died.  I need you to grab my hand and to tell me, "I know this is hard.  You can do HARD.  We will do hard together."  The end.  Please, stop saying this to friends and family members who have experienced the loss of a baby. 

2. "I understand how you feel." Especially if you've never lost a baby, please don't say this.  For those who have lost a baby, saying this is more acceptable.  For those who have not, comparing the grief of job loss or a family trauma -- while undoubtedly devastating -- the type of grief is very different.

This grief isn't comparable when you've literally watched the life of your baby wash down the bathtub drain.  It isn't comparable to the loss of the dreams and the future you had for your baby's life.  Some grief is different.  Not more or less than.  Just very different.  Know when to compare grief and when not to. 

3. "Be thankful for the children you already have." Yes, I am so very thankful for Mackenzie and Levi. Levi was the joy after the sorrow of my first miscarriage so there isn't a day that goes by that I don't thank Jesus for the gift of his life.  But just because I'm thankful for the children I do have doesn't mean I'm not entitled to grieve the children I have lost.  Mourning the babies I have lost is important and necessary. It's natural.  Please don't try and speed the process up by invalidating my grief. 

4. Don't say nothing.  Look, I know that there are things in life that make us uncomfortable.  For me it's things like black liquorish, the season of winter and the dethroning of Pluto as a planet.  For you it might be things like confronting hard topics like death or cancer.  We still have to deal.  Because with the exception of the dethroning of Pluto, the rest are here to stay. 

On a more serious note -- Please, don't say nothing.  Because saying nothing is worse than saying the wrong thing.  We aren't looking for extravagant displays of sorrow or grief.  We're just looking for a simple, "Hey, I'm so sorry you lost a baby."  If you're brave enough, a "How are you?" 

Those brave words will do wonders for the heart of a mom and dad who have suffered a loss. Saying nothing makes us feel alone and forgotten.  Saying nothing makes it seems like our loss was insignificant. Saying nothing makes us feel like you aren't the ones to walk with us in the valleys, that you only want to be there for the mountain top experiences.  And more than the loss of a baby, is the realization that the people you thought would be there during the valleys have all but disappeared. 

5. "You can try to have another."  Again, the babies I have or may have don't lessen the loss I am feeling now.  And yes, trying for another is an option for many couples.  But I also have friends who have tried and tried and have never had another.  Maybe another isn't in the cards.  And that's a whole other side of the grief process a mother will have to go through.  It's probably best not to make the "You'll have another" assumption and to just keep those thoughts to yourself. 

There are a lot of really great, supportive things you can do for someone who is experiencing or has experienced the loss of a baby. 

Simply say, "I'm sorry for your loss."  Bring a meal so that your friend doesn't have to cook for a night or two.  Offer to watch older siblings for an afternoon.  Losing a baby is physically painful.  A friend took Mackenzie for an afternoon and it was one of the biggest blessings to me.  Send a card. Ask, "Did your baby have a name?Remember your friend's due date -- this day will be one of the most painful and lonely days for her, so be that one person to remember.  Show up on the front porch with coffeeLet her cry Tell her you've been praying for her.  Help her think of a way to honor her baby

None of these things require much effort and yet, each one of these acts of kindness speaks volumes.  Each one of these acts speaks, "Your baby's life had meaning."  Each one says, "I'm here. I have not forgotten." 
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  1. Thank you for writing this post. I had a friend who experienced this type of loss and although I have lost my brother I did not know how to approach this topic specifically. I appreciate your braveness in sharing your heart. Thank you and I'm so sorry you lost you 2 sweet children.

    1. Hi Jo D, thank you for your comment! I am so sorry for the loss of your brother. I can't possibly imagine how painful that has been. Thank you for taking the time to read my post!

  2. Thank you for writing this post. I had a friend who experienced this type of loss and although I have lost my brother I did not know how to approach this topic specifically. I appreciate your braveness in sharing your heart. Thank you and I'm so sorry you lost you 2 sweet children.

  3. Number 4 really spoke to me! So often I don't say anything because I don't want to say the wrong thing but I didn't think of the valley experience and feeling forgotten. I love the ideas you gave. That helps to have something to replace what I've done or been afraid of doing! Thank you for sharing your heart.

    1. Thank you so much for your comment Brittany! Yes, number four Is a hard one. I often find myself not knowing what to say in any situations of grief. But I've also found that for me, having nothing said in regards to my miscarriages has been the most painful. Grief is so hard and I wish I haven't had to navigate it myself to learn the hard way.

  4. Might I add a 6th? Remember them on Mothers Day. I know a few women who have had miscarriages and don't have any other kids. I like to send them a message on mothers day, privately, acknowledging the fact that they are Mama's. This is wonderful, Brittany. Thank you

    1. So good Jordan! I'll edit my post to add that!! Thank you!

  5. Thank you for writing this post. When my husband and I went through our miscarriage with twins, people said so many things that really upset us. People really should think before the speak. I will be praying for you. May God bless you!

    Della @ Della Devoted

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