What To Say...

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Molly left a comment on my previous post asking what I would like to hear people say about our children who have passed, as she has a friend dealing with this grief. I also invite others to comment on this post with words they wish they'd heard or would like to hear.

First, let me say that I am sure I made comments that were inadvertently hurtful to people who miscarried little ones or had their babies die. I think that, unless you have either been through that loss or gone through it with someone (because I have several friends that come to mind who havent dealt with the loss of their own child but went through the loss of ours as though they were their own), it is damn near impossible to know what to say. And, honestly, no matter what you say, you cant say the one thing that those parents need to hear. "This was all a mistake. Your baby is fine. Here you go!"

With my miscarriages, I would have liked to have heard acknowledgement of those babies. I would have liked people to have realized that, regardless of whether or not they were the size of speck of sand, that they were our children. That they were perfect. That we loved them even before we knew they were conceived and that, once we felt their perfect little presences, it just made our hearts love them more. I wish that people would have realized, even though they were so tiny, we were grieving the lives that they had (even in those short weeks) and the lives we saw for them. That we were grieving their futures, and ours. Comments that I hated more than anything else included "There must have been something wrong with "it"", "This was all for the better", "Better you miscarry than have a sick child", "Miscarriages happen- it is better to just move on", "You'll feel better once you are pregnant again". That baby wasnt an IT. It was my son or my daughter. I wouldnt have loved them less had they been born looking like the creature from "Alien". I didnt think it was better than my baby died and I sure as hell didnt feel better about losing my children once I was pregnant again. Words that I would have liked to have heard, "I dont understand what it is like to lose a baby, but I am grieving with you", "I know it hurts and that I cant make it better with whatever I say, but we are thinking of your baby", "No other baby can replace this one and it is okay to miss them and grieve for them", and, as saccharine as it sounds, "I'm sorry."

With Nicholas, Sophia, and Alexander, I think that because people had become invested with our pregnancies, people grieved with us, which helped. After they died, they made mention of their lives with their actions. They came to the memorial services. They looked at their photos, even though (I admit) it was probably really hard for them at times. They said their names. That was probably one of the most important things. Simply remembering them... Friends called on their monthly birthdays or to say that they heard/saw something that reminded them of a particular baby and they wanted to check in. They reminded us of our parenthood. They cried with us. They cried on their own and called us to help them through their own grief. One friend came over and sat on the couch with me after the twins died and, as we sat in silence, she reached out and said, simply, "This sucks". And that summed it up. She doesnt have kids and has no desire to have them, but she understood that there was nothing she could say, no glib words to make it better. That she could acknowledge that this was the worst and just be there. Another friend has constantly called or emailed on their special days, not with a "how are you doing" type thing, but to just remember... She doesnt even have to mention why she does this, but she does it and, even when the kids arent mentioned, I know she remembers. She's called me in tears because something triggered thoughts of the kids and her grief overwhelmed her. I could go on and on of stories of a multitude of friends, some parents and some not, who have not been afraid to embrace the short lives of our children and share them with us.

Things that I hated hearing "This was God's will", "I guess it just wasnt meant to be", "Maybe they would have had problems and this was nature's way of "taking care" of the problem", "Your next pregnancy will be better", "It's all for the best", "One day you will really be parents", "Just move on". I dont think that God wills for babies to die. I think that, yes, they have a life beyond this one and that we all have a destiny, but to give the simple "God's will" comment makes God out to be a real jerk who just takes people's children at random. And I dont believe that. I also dont believe it was simply bad luck. I try to believe that life, no matter how long, is a drop in the bucket compared to eternity and that, whether we live a hundred years or only a hundred miliseconds in the womb, our lives are equally short and equally long. It just so happens that my children are living elsewhere while I am living here. As to not being meant to be, I've always wanted to respond, "Maybe your common sense wasnt meant to be" because, really, who ever thinks that is a good response. I dont think my babies were problems, no matter what issues they could have had. Another pregnancy wont replace my children. Who is it best for that they died? Surely not me, their father, or them... And, what am I now, if not their parent? Just because you dont see them doesnt mean they arent children.

And, my personal favorite, "Just move on..." I could write an entire post about that one. What exactly should I be moving on to? You dont move on. You dont get over it. You reinvent yourself as the parent of a dead child. You pick up the pieces of your shattered existence and you try to glue them back together in some semblance of a picture that society can deal with. You look at your family portraits and forever see someone (or several someones) missing. You breathe only because it is the only way that a piece of your child still lives. And you take one step at a time. But never, ever do you move on and forget. Never are you the same person again. And for someone to expect that of you- it's ignorant.

Things I appreciated hearing: "Congratulations", "They are beautiful", "I miss them too" (because, even if you never saw them in life, the fact that you recognize the life they have and didnt have and that you cant be a part of it, is huge). Their names. For people to not dance around the fact that they were a part of our world and always will be. For people to count them.

The hardest thing, right now, is when people say things along the lines of "Finally, you are parents" or "You are a family of four". We've been parents for a long time. Perhaps not to living children, but parents nonetheless. And our family isnt a family of four. There will always be faces missing in the pictures... Faces we see. Faces we hope others see too... Even if they are only in the shadows of our own or in the faces of Bobby and Maya.

One of the most wonderful things I ever heard was from my mom. When I called her to tell her that we were pregnant with Alexander, it was on the cusp of a miscarriage and 6 months after Nicholas and Sophia died. She was excited and made her little happy noise. I actually said "I'm surprised you are so happy". We had been greeted with cautious optimism by Peter's parents (who were happy dont get me wrong but very nervous) and outright upsetness by my dad who couldnt handle the news. My mom's response was "I will be happy every single time you are pregnant. No matter how long the baby is with us. A new grandbaby is wonderful news." I played that comment throughout Alexander's pregnancy and the pregnancies that followed. Sometimes, with Bobby and Maya, it was that comment that helped me breathe when the fear gripped me so tightly.

We have been blessed by people who make our babies a part of their lives. We have friends whose children talk openly about ours. Who draw us family portraits with them included, name characters in their stories after our babies, who talk about them to us and what they think they are doing in heaven. The little girl of a couple we know went up to the pictures one day when they visited and pointed and said "babies", and her mom said, "That's right. Those are babies." This is what I ask of you, those who grieve your own children and those who grieve the children of others. Say their names. Remember their birthdays. Dont wait for their mourning parents to bring them up. Given, some parents may not be ready to talk about their babies with you because their grief is too overwhelming. But knowing that you are there, that you arent afraid of their memories, that will help them when the day comes that they ARE ready. And one day, they will be, and maybe, you will be the person they come to because you have been a part of their healing.

The greatest gift that has come out of my grief is being able to grieve with others. Hearing "I never was able to talk about my baby" or "I was told to just have another and I still remember my first/second/X baby and it hurts", and knowing that those people now have been able to talk and remember... Having people who attended the memorial services that we didnt know come up to us and say "I lost a son/daughter and was never able to have a service; this service was for them to me." There are so many people who have been left orphans by their losses and that we, as a worldly society, have orphaned in their grief because it isnt pretty... Because it doesnt fit into our belief that babies just dont die. But they do die. Every single day. And a parent misses them and grieves them and, most of all, loves them. And without support from those around them, they do so silently and alone and, perhaps one day, they feel they have to put those feelings aside to coexist as a "normal" person.

I'm not sure if this answers exactly what was asked of me, but I hope that it is a start. And I hope that others are able to add to this and continue teaching all of us how to better cope with all of this.

31 comments:

babsi said...

although what you mentioned is true, that most of the early miscarried babies are not able to live anyways because " there was something wrong with them" it is not something i would ever consider to say to someone who suffered through it! it is scientifically right but people should think about WHAT they are saying there. because if i would, god forbid, ever miscarry, i would, as you mentioned in other posts, think it was my fault that these babys were "misconstructed" (please do not misunderstand that i am no native speaker and right now i lack a better word)because every child of mine is formed from mine and my partners genes.
how insensitive must people be if they consider this as a consolance for you...maybe 30 years from now they could mention it and explain it right after and still be sensitive but NOT right after such a horrible occurrence.
and i do think highly of you for looking at nicholas, sophia and alexander as preemies and loved them as they have deserved it because i think many would have seen them as some sort of miscarriage and would probably be disgusted by the sight of them although they already have such tiny and beautiful little fingers and such tiny cute faces!
and i am so glad that with maya and bobby you now have your two beautiful babies on earth who can later grief their siblings with you and do now give you so much hope with their wonderful strenght and will to live.you deserve a happy life and now your twins will help you to remember and cherish your six "angel babies" and will surely make your life full of joy and laughter just as all your other children would have if they could have stayed

again if something in this post came over as awkward or harsh i apologize because i am full of admiration and respect for your journey i think my english is not too bad but sometimes i lack the right words to say it exactly as i meant it so i hope you see the real intention through it
still crossing my fingers for maya and bobby and i hope they can come home soon to be with you every minute of the day

The Mom said...

As soon as I finsih leaving this comment, I am e-mailing a friend to let her know that I remember. Her daughter was born 14 years ago and lived for 10 days. Her mother was only 16, and everyone pushed everything aside since she was so young. Over the years, 'R' and I have gone monhths between talking, but we always pick up like we never stopped. I can only think of two times, in those 14 years, that we have tlked about Stacha. I think about Stacha all of the time. I was supposed to be her god-mother, but we never made it that far. I have never known what to say, but your post has made me realize that not saying anything is far worse than saying Stacha's name and 'R' not wanting to talk about her. She needs to know that she isn't the only one who misses her.
Thank you.

JenJen said...

I actually have nothing to add~ you said everything perfectly!

I, too, would become very upset at the cliche "God has a plan." This is what people that have no clue what to say use...I'm a Believer and this truly upset me. It almost felt like people were trying to convert me when I didn't need converting...

I'm sorry for the loss of all your babies and am very excited to see that Bobby and Maya are doing so well.

Just Breathe said...

I believe that you have put so many parents feelings into words, words that need to be spread around the world. The world need to know about the number of babies who pass each year and how to help the grieving parents through their sorrow. Excellent post.

Psalm 139:13-16
For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfull made, your works are wonderful. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.

How can these children not be recognized as whole when they are perfect in God's eyes.

Tina Pearce said...

A great post...we lost our first baby june 2008 at 13 weeks. Now we are 32 weeks with a little boy. It feels like no one wants to acknowledge our baby we lost, like it never happened. It hurts sometimes, because I still miss her every day, and wish people in my family would acknowledge her. I hate the question "is this your first?" because I always say yes, even though inside im saying no. We have also been put in alot of situations with people who lost their baby, and most recently a cousin who lost their baby at almost 5 months. Your right, there is nothing anyone can really say to make it better, but it helps to just have those babies acknowledged, no matter how long they were with us. God bless you and your little ones...you guys have an amazing testimony and story, and ALL of your babies are so beautiful!

Minta said...

Michele, You took the words out of my mouth. I have lost six children, all in the first trimester. I get so furious when people say at least they weren't further along, or there must have been something wrong with them, or "God's will" type comments. I agree with you, I wish people would just say "I'm so sorry, this sucks." Same with comments about being a parent, I am a mother. Just because my children are dead doesn't make me any less of a mother. Just like just because you now have living children (for which, I am so happy for you. We had close due dates, 12/11/2009, and I picture what my Blueberry Bean would have looked like when I see your babies) doesn't mean you weren't a mother before they were born, or even conceived.

I love your mother's response to your pregnancies. You're very lucky to have that kind of support (and it's awesome to see you recognize that).

Heather said...

Michele, this is a wonderful post. And so needed....

ezra'smommy said...

Yes, yes and yes. I love your mother's comment about your pregnancy with Alexander - I wish she would pass some notes to my mom!

AKD said...

This is such a touching homage and explanation, Michele. It's just beautiful - and so true. These are words that I wish we could somehow give to everyone we encounter after such devastating losses.

Michelle said...

One of the things I hated most hearing was "At least you know now that you can get pregnant." as if that is what I needed to know and that made it better. I would rather not get pregnant then get pregnant and lose it.

The best people can do is acknowledge that they were our babies, just like you said, and know that we miss them and will always miss them.

Anonymous said...

I love this post because it validated a VERY short pregancy I had between my other children. I think I will meet this baby someday too.

Hugs, Anne

Priscilla said...

This post is very educational for me. I have never lost a child because of misscariage or for any other reason. I know I have been blessed with the responsibility of raising 4 girls. I know its a gift.

The closest I have ever come to a lose of a child is that of my brothers daughter. She was born just over 6 months gestation. She is a survivor of an attempted abortion. She lived for 32 days but they were the most blessed days of my life. I was only able to visit with her for a week, I lived over 2 states away.

I miss her, even though she lived a short time, I do miss her. I did fight for her, I was pregnant with my own daughter at that time. I look at my daughter who is 8 now and I think "Shelby would be 8 too." Everytime I see a hummingbird, I know its her. The moment she passed, a hummingbird came up to me right up on my face. I was afraid it was going to bite me but it didnt, the bird wasnt even afraid of me. I took that as a sign from her, telling me "Aunt Priscilla Im ok now..Im not in pain anymore" We see lots and lots of humming birds at my parents house. Her mat. grandparent.

You gave me a great lesson today. I know what and what not to say. Your babies are beautifull...all of them.

Sophie said...

Well said.

When my Jasper is here I wont feel like a family of four. I am a family of five. I find the idea of someone saying you are a family of four now, repulsive... because its not right. They mattered and they counted.

Great post.

xx

Donna said...

I just love your mom's comment. I want to remember that and tell it to everyone I know who gets pregnant.

Everything about the death of a child is difficult. Especially talking about it. Thank you for sharing all of your thoughts. It is always so helpful for people who have lived through it to share like this.

momto558 said...

Your babies are beautiful.I still mourn the lost of my first baby every May 10th,even though it was 33 yrs ago,I love that baby has much as my 5 that are living here on earth.Your little angels are looking down on their new little brother & sister and lucky Bobby & Maya...they have gaurdian angels to watch over them for their entire lifetime:)

Kate said...

heartwrenching post Michele. Thank you Thank you Thank You.

Nicholas, Sophia, Robert, Maya, and your three little angels are all in my thoughts and prayers.

Molly said...

MIchelle, thank you so much, this is such an informative post and Im sure it will help others who have friends or relatives that are dealing with a loss, its so hard to find the right words and knowing what they would prefer to hear, is such a comfort on both sides

Queenie. . . said...

GREAT post! Our society doesn't deal well with death in general, and deals even more poorly with baby death in particular. I think it harms the people going through it even more to have to deal with how people treat them.

BTW, I HATE 'it wasn't meant to be.'. It's my MIL's favorite. Maybe I can use that common sense line on her...probably not, though!

Michelle said...

I have an aunt who recently lost her first pregnancy at 12 weeks. my uncle and aunt've been trying and trying for so long and were so ecstatic when she got that positive result. when i first found out she had lost the baby, i didn't know how to react or what to say to her. i saw her a few days later - she wore sunnies that day, it wasn't even sunny so i think it must be to cover up her swollen eyes from crying bucket loads. i recalled some of your earlier posts and didn't want to sound offensive to her, basically just said "i'm sorry." and gave her a hug and she laughed it off with "i'm alright. it just wasn't meant to be." i was so shocked that a mother to be could say that herself. i don't think the full weight of grief has hit her yet and that as you said, wasn't "ready" just yet to deal with people's comments. thank you for your post. hopefully one day she'll be ready to be as open as you are about your experiences rather than hide behind that laugh.

Jessica said...

Michele, you captured everything perfectly. I just posted a poem called,"Don't Tell Me" on Saturday which basically says all the same things you discussed today. Thank you for doing that. :) Its a great post.

Peter said...

I think that a good way to open a conversation about a baby who has recently died is to ask if they had named their baby/son/daughter. I found that sometimes parents will name their child, but not tell anyone else because no one seems that interested or comfortable talking about their child. Asking about the name shows that you are interested and think of their child as a full person.

Leah said...

What a beautiful post. It's nice to know what should be said. I think most people mean well, but don't know how to communicate about loss. Such a beautiful post.

paulsgirl1297 said...

Thanks for this everyone should read it before they speak to someone who has lost their child, I absolutely HATE to hear someone tell me it was god's plan --his plan to wjat destroy my world. All I want is someone to listen and just let me cry if I want to and remember my little girl as a part of my life a very important part, and that I will never ''get over it''because a part of me will always be missing .

Jenni said...

Michele, Words can not touch what you have been thru and I would never try and imagine the hurt and devistation that you and Peter have been thru. I pray for you and Bobby and Maya every night. I also remember your beautiful Alex, sophia and Nicholas. When we lost our baby at 9 weeks after trying for 13 years I too heard all of those comments you listed. It would make me scream inside. I would cry at night over them. You are the pillar of strength to us. I know that sometimes you may not feel it but you have a heart of gold that is out there for the world to see.

I am proud to call you a friend and I am proud everytime, I read you posting about these lil miracles. I appriciate having someone like you reading and supporting me and I can only hope that we bring you a little comfort as well.

As for your last post. I cried. That is all I can type about that for now. Sending my love your way for Peter, you and ALL of your babies.

Krystal said...

I think of your children everytime I see their beautiful pictures on your blog!

Also

I gave you an award! Go get it from my blog!!!

Baby Smiling In Back Seat said...

Michele, What a wonderful and important post. I know it will help many people be more sensitive to those who experience loss.

It is wonderful to see Maya and Bobby's pictures in your sidebar alongside those of Alexander, Nicholas, and Sophia!

Tash said...

I gotta say: part of of what stops me cold when I consider having another child are anticipating the comments that essentially delete Maddy from our lives: "So! Finally a sibling for Bella!" or "What's it like the second time?" etc., etc., ad nauseum. And it's not just strangers that I'm sure will make my hair stand on end, but people who know.

This should be required reading for friends and family. Thanks so much, and I'm sorry if you're still dealing with crap like this.

Alexicographer said...

I came over from LFCA and Kirtsy. Thanks for this post. What your mom said is one of the most beautiful things I've ever heard. Thanks so much for sharing this.

Amanda said...

Thank you, Michele, for taking the time to write this post. I feel the same way.

Jendeis said...

A wonderful post.

My feeling is that "I'm so sorry" and "I don't know what to say" covers a lot.

I've had many people tell me that there must have been something wrong and that there must be a reason for this. What is reasonable about a miscarriage? Nothing!

wifey said...

Oh boy do I love this post! "And, what am I now, if not their parent? Just because you dont see them doesnt mean they arent children." This is EXACTLY how I feel, after 6 first tri miscarriages. My in-laws are so horribly un-understanding. They don't understand why it's hard for us to be around or talk about other babies, and when they asked why, my hubby told them "Because we are the parents of 6 dead children." Their response: "You're not really parents. Get over it."

Uggh. It stabs me in the heart just to write that, just as it did when she said it.

Thanks for posting this.