Stillbirth or infant loss can be the most uncomfortable topic to discuss which is why conversations surrounding a child loss have remained taboo for so long. Unfortunately, it happens so much often. So let’s break this taboo one honest moment at a time.
It’s a hard time for all of us and you may find yourself scared of saying or doing something wrong. You are really careful not to hurt the person going through grief and you remain quiet or say something to comfort the parents who are going through grief. We know you mean nothing to hurt us and whatever you say comes from an absolutely good heart. But still, it is important to say the right words when you try to break the silence. Simply because the words that you are choosing to say can either make us or break us as we navigate through our grief.
Here’s something to guide you.
What we want you to say
- Don’t be silent or don’t pretend that nothing has happened. It is so tempting to be silent or to pretend nothing has happened then to say the wrong words. But don’t. By being silent or ignoring us, you are simply isolating us more with more pain. And we end up grieving in silence. And maybe some people might actually prefer that. So, ask the parents if they would like to talk or just tell them if you want to talk you are there to listen.
- If you don’t know what to say. Simple sentences like, “I don’t know what to say. But I’m so sorry for your loss”. “I’m thinking of your family”. “Let God be your strength, we are praying for you”. “We are with you”. You don’t need to say more words to fill in the silence.
- Acknowledge our baby and say their name. Our baby existed even if it is for a short time. Say his name. Ask us how he looked. Ask us about our birth story. Our baby did not disappear, we gave birth to him. Ask about what was the favorite moment that we had together as a family. Ask how we spent our time with our son. Ask how we said goodbye. Ask how we are going to remember him. Trust us, our Elliot is the best thing that ever happened to us and we want to talk about him.
- Remember the father. My husband has lost his son. It’s very easy to forget the dad when you focus just on the mom. Yes, I am going through the physical pain but we are going through the emotional pain together.
- Remember the grandparents. Not only our parents are seeing their son/daughter suffer but they have lost their grandchild too. I can’t begin to explain the heartache of my parents who cries that they couldn’t be with us physically and they did not get a chance to hold their grandchild. On the other hand, the heartache of my parents in law, who we were hugging us tight and shedding their tears holding Elliot in their hands.
What we don’t want you to say
- Don’t say, “You will have another baby” or “God will give you something better”. By saying this you are telling us that our baby was not important to us or your living children are not important to you. Because they can easily be replaced with another. It hurts, isn’t it? Babies don’t replace babies. Every child is important to us alive or dead. We might have other siblings for him in the future but we will always miss Elliot as long as we live.
- Don’t say, it is only temporary. Our grief is not temporary. As long as we live, we have lost Elliot. We will laugh again. We will learn to live our new normal. That doesn’t mean the grief is temporary.
- Don’t say, it’s now time to get over this and move on. Don’t try to fix it. This is not something we can control. We wish it had never happened, but it did and it is a part of our life. We will never get over this. Instead, we will have to go through this journey praying for God’s strength and support from you. So please allow and support my new-normal.
- If you are quoting the bible, please do not quote one particular verse from the life of Job that God will bless you with a double portion. We will be the most grateful happy people on earth when it happens and there is nothing wrong to quote that particular verse. And Job’s life is so beautiful to reflect on our times of loss. But here’s the thing. Job has to go through the pain and the loss and has to sit in ashes and cry before he has other blessings. See here, he has to go through it. There are no cutting corners. Instead say, “Jesus is weeping with you like he did with Marta and Mary”. Quote verses like “God is the strength to the weary and weak”. Say “Elliot is fearfully and wonderfully made.”
- Don’t expect me to be around newborn or pregnant women. It’s not that I can’t be happy for you or someone else. Every happy new mother and crying baby makes me physically and emotionally ache that I can barely stand it. I just need more time and It can be months before I can go for an hour without my child consuming my mind. And when I’m ready. I will ask how your baby is doing or ask about your health if you are pregnant.
- Don’t ask us what happened meaning what caused the death or what did we do wrong that could have caused this. One second his heart was beating and the other it was not. As a mother, I have been through it a million times thinking where I went wrong and I am going through guilt and anger myself, Please don’t add fuel to the fire. Maybe the parents have decided to do abduction, and again the results are not something that concerns you.
- If the parents have other living children, please do not say “At least you have them. Be grateful for that”. A loss is a loss no matter how many other living children they might have, this baby was equally important for them as their other living children.