Wednesday, September 16, 2009

advice from a grieving parent..

I've read this little tidbit on several blogs and thought I would many people often avoid me or just straight up ignore me because they don't know what to say, and I've been there, not knowing what to say, but PLEASE don't ignore me and please don't act as though she never existed..that kills me when people shutter at the sound of her name..I have to talk about her..I have to remember her and I need for those that care about us, to do the same...anyway..some of this applies to us and some doesnt.. we had her for almost 9 months.. she wasn't a stillborn or a miscarriage, but the rest is pretty spot on. . I may edit some in red of my personal thoughts or clarifications..

-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. If Jay and I have another child naturally there is a 25% chance that it too will have the same thing..odds that may sound not so bad, but its a big decision for us for when we are ready and what approach we will do to increase our odds and have a healthy baby..

-Don't say, "Thank God you lost the baby before you really loved it." I loved my son. Whether I lost the baby after two weeks of pregnancy or just after birth, I loved him.

-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 him to be my angel. I wanted him 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. This is a biggy for 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. He may have been a stillborn, but he was Still Born. Again, she wasnt still born and so many people got to know and love her...even though she was an infant, I loved her as much as I have ever loved Cayden..

- 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. We had no idea we were carriers, I would have never tried for 4 years to have a baby with the 25% chance we would lose her, or have her suffer while she was here..

-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 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.

-Do recognize that in addition to the physical after effects 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.

-Do understand if I do not attend baby showers/christening/birthday parties etc. And DON'T ask why I can't come. this one is rough for me..if I am not invited I will feel somewhat left out because of what happened..I dunno..maybe invite and don't be upset if its too much on that day.. much of what I do is determined day to day, how I feel at that moment when I am meant to walk out of the door..

Above all, please remember that this is the worst thing that ever happened to me. The word "miscarriage" and "stillbirth" are 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.


Heather said...

Good post. I think that several of these apply to any situation dealing with death. Until you have lost a parent, don't tell me that you understand. If you have lost a parent, then you can tell me that.

Jen-I pray for your family on a daily basis. I see healing in your words and I am happy for that. I could not imagine losing a child and still having to face the issues such as baby showers and things like that. Keep trudging along and keeping baby Ella in your memories.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing this. It's very helpful to me.
~Amanda Smith

Anonymous said...

I have not gone through what you have, but I suffered 2 miscarriages and you are right. Any loss of a child is heartbreaking. You are such a strong woman, and mother.