Since the loss of my son Dominic, I have noticed the high levels of discomfort among individuals who try and speak with me. They either don't know what to say, get so uncomfortable with my posts about my son that they unfollow or unfriend me, or they simply say such disrespectful things that I wonder... "where did the common sense go?"
I remember growing up I always heard the saying "sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me." Hilarious, because words 1000% have a significant impact on our mental and emotional well-being. Once something is said, whether the intent was to hurt or insult someone, the damage is done once it is said.
The purpose of this post is to share a wide range of things that have been said to bereaved parents, how it has made us feel, and sharing what actually would help us during our difficult times. Before I move into that, I want to remind you all of something very important.
Bereaved parents never stop grieving. Grief doesn't have a timeline, we are not magically "better" after a year of their passing, after we have a rainbow baby, or even after you see us smiling and laughing like we use to. We simply find ways to allow grief and joy to co-exist.
Now, lets move into what parents of loss shared with me. These are all very real responses from parents who have lost their baby during pregnancy, infant after delivery, or child (of any age). These are ALL things people--including family and friends, have said to our bereaved parents.
What is something you are tired of hearing since your child/baby passed?
"At least it happened early"
"It just takes time"
"You were just unlucky"
"At least you have Xiomara"
"God has a plan" --Don't tell me the death of my baby is planned
"At least you know you can get pregnant"
"At least you have kids now"
"She's not suffering anymore"
"You can still have more in the future at the right time"
"You're young. You can have another"
"Be grateful, think positive"
"He's in a better place"
"It'll get better"
What is the most hurtful thing someone has said since the passing of your baby/child?
"At least you will have more free time now"
"Were you really even pregnant?"
"That's why you shouldn't buy things so soon" to someone who was 24 weeks pregnant
"At least you had her 7 weeks"
"It was God's plan"
"At least she didn't live longer so you weren't as attached"
:At least you didn't get to take him home, bond with him and then he died"
What is the most hurtful thing someone has done since the passing of your baby/child?
"Not including her in my child count"
"Close friends not reaching out at all":It is hard for me to hear from others, who complain about their children"
"Unfriending me or blocked me"
"Belittled my grief and loss"
"Congratulate me during my pregnancy, then stay completely silent after my baby died"
What is something you wish others knew or would acknowledge, that would help you?
"That I have no relationship with my mom because she's toxic"
"To use his name"
"People need to learn to just LISTEN"
"Don't just ignore my baby dying. Ask me about him. Give me a chance to talk about him"
"Asking 'how are you' can be really triggering"
"I'm a little scared to be social these days"
"That I need time and patience"
"Realize I will never get better" "Say her name"
"I love to hear her name! Don't be afraid to talk about her!"
"Talk about him and visit him"
"We grieve every day, not just on anniversary days"
"We wish people would say his name more"
What has helped you cope with loss?
"The strength of other mums"
"Support groups, IG accounts, talking about what happened, my baby, and grief"
"My amazing group of mommas, praying and being close to God"
"Instagram community of bereaved mommas"
"Journaling/writing to her or about her, finding other loss mommas"
What can others do to help you during your grieving process?
"Keep in regular contact to see how I am"
"Ask me questions about my son"
"Ask me about my baby"
"Do their own research on stillbirths and baby loss"
"Stop pushing their way of coping and pretending I'm okay when I'm not"
"Acknowledge that I'm still hurting"
"Let me know when you are reminded of her"
What is the ultimate message you want to pass on to others, who are not on the same grieving path as you and may not understand?
"The pain is unpredictable, deep, physical and irrational. Daily tasks are like a marathon"
"Always be kind, because people are fighting huge battles"
"Sending kind words and prayers, lets me know I'm not alone"
"Let me talk about my baby"
"Give me space when needed, let me know when you are thinking of her"
"Coffee deliveries are always nice"
Let's be clear, the passing of my son is not God's plan. He didn't "need him more than I did." Yes, I was able to deliver him and had four beautiful months with him, but saying "at least you had him for ___ time" is NOT helpful. So to end this blog, I'd like to provide some things you should ALWAYS keep in mind when encountering a bereaved parent. Loss is very common-- it is 1 in 4. Your close friend or family member can be suffering in silence, so keep the following in mind:
Despite the gestational age, a loss is a loss. It doesn't matter how early in their pregnancy they were in, IT IS STILL LOSS. You have no idea how long they have been trying to conceive or what this baby meant to them, do not invalidate their pregnancy or loss.
There is no "too early" to buy baby items. It doesn't matter how far along they were when they began purchasing baby items, they are allowed to celebrate the life they are growing whenever and however they choose to.
Having living children does not remove the pain of grief. Just because someone already has other living children, does not take the pain away from the loss of their child. It is still a loss and it still feels like someone ripped your heart out.
Don't ask if and when we are having more kids. You do not know if the mother has underlying medical conditions (e.g. PCOS) that may make it difficult to conceive. You do not know how much pain that one question can bring to a grieving mother. Just don't say it.
We didn't want the free time or have "extra time" now. We wanted that baby. The extra time we have now, we just spend thinking about the "what ifs"
Say our baby's names. Don't be afraid to talk about our babies, give us a safe space to talk about them. Say their names often! It's the most beautiful music to our ears.
Don't push your religious beliefs. You are free to believe what you want, but don't bring the this is "God's plan" or "He needed your baby more than you did" to us. If believing that helps you cope with life, then great! But don't push it on someone else.
Ask us what we need. This seems like common sense, right? Ask us what we need. We are not all built the same. We all experience grief in different ways and have different needs. Sometimes sending us a coffee could make our day, coming over to watch a movie with us, go on a small walk, or maybe we just need someone to just sit there and listen.
Remember, we are still human beings. We just experienced every parents worst nightmare. We experience the suffocation of grief and the loss of our child even single day. Don't let your family or friends suffer in silence. Let them know that you are there for them, not to respond with unsolicited advice, but to truly listen to what they are feeling and let it all out.
Stay compassionate. Stay loving.