We’ve all felt the awkwardness talking to people who are going through loss. A family friend is going through the loss of his wife this week. Words haven’t been easy because for those who haven’t lost a spouse themselves it sounds hollow.
And then I have suffered my own loss this week: a second miscarriage of a baby who we were ready to welcome into the family.
A lot of well-meaning people say stupid things when people they know are going through grief. It’s not their fault really. Empathy is actually more complicated than many people think it is. It’s about connecting with the grief of that person and being humble enough to realize that maybe you don’t actually know what it’s like (and it isn’t about you!).
Here are some things that I would hate to hear about my ongoing grief for my two lost babies.
“You can try again.”
“I’m sorry, did you just go through agony passing the remains of a child out of your body?”
Coupled with the fact that for some people it’s not that easy to fall pregnant; the physical pain and emotional damage from the loss of a baby makes you not too keen to go through the process over and over again.
“It just wasn’t meant to be.”
When you’re God himself you can tell me it wasn’t meant to be. As for now, without proof of omniscience, you have no idea what is and isn’t meant to be and therefore you should probably shut your trap. The same thing goes for “it’s for the best.”
“Well, that didn’t happen with me/my pregnancies but I did have a scare when…”
Spare me the story of your perfect pregnancies and children when I’m trying to cope with the loss of another baby. You might be trying to connect with me by telling me your story but unless what you’ve been through is actually the same as what I’m going through just don’t bother.
“I understand you feel like this now, but it’ll get better.”
Here’s a newsflash: it doesn’t get “better”. You may cry less but you still cry when you think about the missed opportunity of your child. You still have a passing thought about how old they would be, or what your life would have been like if you had that baby. You may not be able to see the scars but they are still there hiding behind the surface.
“Your little baby is with Jesus now.”
You don’t get to say that no matter how true it is. I get to say that, but it just makes me want to cry if you say it… so don’t be so insensitive.
What you can say
Now it seems like it’s a very scarce list of things you actually can say. Saying sorry for your loss is always a good starting point. Asking what you can do for me also helps, if you actually make good on it. What I would like my friends to do is actually make time for me and buy me a smoothie.
I don’t want to know about other people they know who have been through this unless it is them. I don’t want to hear any pregnancy stories that don’t end in the same devastating loss as my stories.
People don’t want to hear about happier endings than theirs and people who have better lives than them when they’re going through something terrible. I’ll try to share in your happiness as a friend, but pick your timing.
I want my baby. Our family friend wants his spouse back. Obviously nothing anyone can say can change that. But if you want to support me, don’t give me the same blithe tirades from someone that doesn’t get it and spend some time with me.
You don’t have to make it awkward.
Bridget has been part of www.prayertentz.com for the last two years. If you want to support an Indigenous ministry which takes the gospel and prayer to various First Nation’s communities please click the link.
Bridget Brenton’s previous articles may be viewed
Bridget Brenton from Brisbane has been for many years a young writer then an Over 31 writer and now a Panellist marking for the annual awards.