Tuesday, June 1, 2010

What (not) to say

Dear Stevie,
Mommy needs to go off on a bit of a rant this morning, if that's okay with you. Before I begin, let me say I know I'm a bit extra-sensitive these days (and by "a bit" I mean "extremely"), so don't hold anything I say against me right now.

I'm also fully aware that people have no idea what to say in situations like ours. I certainly wouldn't have had a clue what to say to someone whose baby died before it happened to me. And the fact that people say anything at all is way more important than whether or not they say the "right" thing. I'd love it if everyone were able to jump inside my head, understand exactly how I'm feeling, but unfortunately, that's not possible. So, for everyone who has no clue what to say, here's a list of the phrases I personally would rather not hear, ever again.

  • "She's in a better place now." Excuse me, but I think she would have had a pretty great life here with me and her Dad. Yeah, she'll never experience sadness or pain, but she'll also never get to experience the wonderful things in life like running through the sprinkler, licking chocolate chip cookie dough off the beater, or going on bike rides with her Dad. And that makes me really, really sad.
  • "I know exactly how you feel..." Unless you've lost a baby then no, you don't. And that's okay. Anyone who's experienced a loss of any kind can definitely relate, but no two situations, no two losses are exactly the same.
  • "I don't think I would have the strength to go on if I lost my baby." Yes, you would. Because you have to; there's no other choice. Again, this is probably my crazy over-sensitive side taking over, but this almost insinuates I must not love my baby as much or be as sad as I should be because you would be sadder and more distraught if it happened to you.
  • "Everything happens for a reason." I'm sorry, right now I just don't think I'll ever look back and say I'm glad Stevie died. Ever.
  • "It was probably for the best, she might have had something wrong with her." First of all, she actually didn't have anything "wrong" with her. She was perfect. But if she did have medical issues or disabilities, we would have loved her just the same. I would prefer to have my baby alive and in my arms either way.
  • "At least you're still so young..." Yeah because since I'm only 24 (almost 25!) I'm less sad about my daughter dying? I just don't even understand this one.
  • "You'll have other kids." Hopefully this is true, but right now I don't just want a kid, I want my kid. The one that I loved and wanted and died. Even when we have other children someday, they will never be Stevie. I will always miss my firstborn.
  • "You're lucky you now have an angel watching over you." Lucky? Seriously? I'm actually feeling like the most unlucky person in the world right now. I don't want an angel, I want my baby. If I'm so lucky, are you hoping your baby turns into an "angel" too? I didn't think so.
  • "God has so much to teach you through this experience." Not saying I'm perfect in any way, or that I don't have things to learn, but I can think of plenty of people who could stand to learn a few things in life that get to keep their babies...I would have much preferred to learn my life lessons in a way that didn't involve my child dying.
Rant over. Like I said, as much as some of these phrases annoy me, I would rather hear them a million times over not hearing anything at all, and I really mean that. I don't mean to make anyone feel bad if they've said these things to me (and most haven't); I'm sure I've said them to others myself, with nothing but the best of intentions.

"I'm sorry." "This sucks." "I love you." "I'm here for you." "I've cried for you." "I'm thinking of you." "I'm praying for you." "I have no words." These are the things that I love to hear over and over again. These are the things that are keeping me afloat right now.

Stevie, I wish so badly you were born healthy and alive in August like you were supposed to be, and I was hearing a million "congrats!" and "let me hold her!" instead any of the above. I miss you so bad today and every day.

All my love,


Antoinette said...

sweety there is a post i wrote regarding the do's and dont's i copied it from our BBC group, what we wish everyone knew about baby loss...i think you shoud post it here as well and also on FB you will see how MANY people will learn something from it...if you cant find it on my blog its also in my notes on FB....

What I would give to have all those terms be considered profanities....its just as bad as saying go F yourself...is that appropriate to a baby loss mother? NO, so what makes them think these phrases are....you are going to come a lot of these and im sorry you do...my own FIL told my husband in front of me, "the autopsy is normal? well you should request a copy and see what is wrong with HER (me) so you can save the next baby".....oh thanks a lot maybe he could have waited til i left the car before he gave medical advice on saving anything....xoxo..im here with you as always

kerrij said...

Ooh Kristin, I understand what you are saying.

I really wish that people knew when you suffered a loss that saying I love you, I care about you, I am here for you is enough. They don't need to validate it any further than that!

I wish Stevie would be growing up and learning from you and Andy too, and it really really sucks that she won't. And it makes me sad.

The Griegers said...

You are so right on. It really sucks that people dont know what to say but they should also know that saying nothing is sometimes better. I'm sorry for your hurt.

Once A Mother said...

ugh... the platitudes are the worst. it's like grief sticks a knife in us, and just when we start to get used to walking around with the pain of a knife in us, someone says something stupid and twists it. I wish people would think before they speak. I have heard all those platitudes, and couldn't agree more with your responses. Especially the one about not having the strength to go on. Sending prayers for peace in your heart. I love the name Stevie.

Erin and Brian said...

I am glad you had the guts to post this. This is something not many people talk about. My friend recently lost her baby, and I didn't have a clue what to say and what not to say. You want to say SOMETHING. But there really are no words. I just think we feel the need to do "something" when we need to just sit and hold their hand. I have said so many stupid things. This is really great advice and insight- so thanks.

Violet1122 said...

Kristin, I completely agree that your list is something that should NEVER be said after the loss of a child. I hope you haven't gotten too many comments like those.

mark&lesli said...

I agree - less is more. My sister in law just died and most appropriate thing someone at the visitation said is, "This must be awful for you." I thought, YES! Yes, it is! Thank you for not trying to put a positive spin on a terrible situation! I'm probably guilty of saying stupid things too though, hopefully not to you. You are totally right on with how you are feeling. The angel thing really bugs me too.

Megan said...

Kristin I loved this post because it is so true. I have not been in your situation but I remember when I miscarried some of the same statements were said to me and it drove me crazy. I knew people just were trying to help but some of those statements just drove me up the wall. Esp the "I understand one" because as you said each situation is different and each person reacts differently. The other one I disliked a lot was "everything happens for a reason". Telling someone who just had any kind of loss that is not comforting esp when it relates to a baby. I feel like you were reading my mind on some of these from what I went through a year ago. I agree with the good things to say and so glad you wrote this blog. I hope you continue to get the support you need and deserve!

Love ya girl and still think of you often and read your blog every other day or so and am reminded how inspiring you are through your writing! It has taught me a lot about myself and how I perceive life! Thank you for that!!!

Amanda said...

AMEN! I've only learned "what to say" the hard way...and I can tell you this, I'm just glad you're sharing your story with all of us. That's it. You're teaching us and while we don't want to learn it, we are.

I've heard all of these and more, though I'm just a mom to a boy with very special needs. I'm lucky enough to tend to those. There are so many many times I just wanted to snap and say exactly this.

Lindsay said...

Oh- I hate the "everything happens for a reason" comment. I am a FIRM believer that God doesn't do these terrible things. Like, he didn't have it in his plan for her to pass away. That is NOT the God I serve. The God I serve is so freaking heartbroken that something like this happened as a result of just living in a world where bad stuff happens. God does not give people cancer, kill babies, cause earthquakes and devastating things like 9/11, etc... but he does give us the strength to get through these sucky things.

thanks for posting this, I appreciate reading it, I think those things are annoying to anyone going through a hard thing. People mean well, but.... yeah.

Jess said...

I know you don't know who I am but my friend linked one of your journal entries in her blog and asked us to pray for you. I have been quietly reading your entries not sure what to say but wanting to reach out somehow and let you know that I'm here in Ottawa praying for your family. I have weeped a fair few times for you and your little one. I'm so very sorry for your loss. I will continue to pray and I hope that every day you can find a tiny glimmer of hope... just something to keep you going.


Brie said...

Hi, I just found your blog, and I want to say, I am sorry for your loss. It is still so fresh for you, I'm sure, as it's been just over a year since we said hello and goodbye to our daughter also born at 26 weeks with an umbilical cord kink. My heart aches for any mother who loses their child..and I have chills here reading your letter to Stevie, because it's like you read my mind. I wish I could follow the happy baby blog that you expected to be writing, but instead all I can do is offer apologies for something that will never, ever be able to be explained in a way which we say, " Oh, okay, I'm fine with my daughter dying." There are NO answers that can take away this pain and make it all OKAY.

Maggie said...

Yup, so very true! I'm pretty sure I've heard every single one on there and each one just pisses me off! Unfortunately, you will probably here them again or even hear WORSE things, if that's at all possible. All I can say is try not to let those sayings bother you too much. People obviously don't understand and unless they have been there, they probably never will. It sucks. I try to tell myself that, but most of the time, it eats me up inside and in the end their on my "list"! lol I wish I could tell you something better, but just know you aren't alone.

Michelle said...

I saw your link on BC and I totally agree. Since I lost Molly in May at 22w5d, I have heard, 'things happen for a reason' more times than I can count! But hearing,'it's good that they didn't try to save her, because she would have had a lot of problems and your life would have been worse,' was probably the worst, because she's not here anymore and didn't get a chance at life. I don't care how she would have been, I would have loved her no matter what. I wish we didn't have to deal with this pain.

Hansen Half Dozen said...

I've forgotten how I've stumbled across your blog, but I just lost a baby through miscarriage and this post really resonated with me as we've received these same comments. Thank you for writing it and for validating that I'm not just a cold-hearted, angry person. I'm so sorry for your loss.

Jeanie said...

I love this because it is true!!! I have always said that if people don't know what to say I would rather they just say THAT,...."I am so sorry,I don't know what to say." That is so much better than telling me the 8 million other stupid things they say instead. Because I am "older" and have other living children I often get "Maybe God knew it would be a lot for you to handle" or "You should just be happy with what you have". Right.

Merel said...

I so agree with you, especially on the 'I don't think I'd have the strength to go on' one. It does imply that I didn't love my baby enough, since I'm still around. Well, I thought the world would stop when my baby died, but it didn't. And I love my baby more than anything in that whole wide world that just keeps turning, whether I want it to or not.

Crystal said...

I agree with everything written. I lost my son, Nathan, 2 weeks ago (July 21, 2011) at 17 weeks gestation. I keep feeling like everyone thinks less of my loss because I didn't carry him full-term... that my pain should less somehow. I was induced and went through labor and I delivered him. Yes, he was small but my body didn't realize that when I was having contractions. I saw him, held him, he was real... not a figment of my imagination. Thank you for "hoping I feel better" but I wasn't sick, I didn't have a medical procedure, I didn't "just have a miscarriage"... I had a baby.

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