Wednesday, November 3, 2010

"It's for the best," and other stupid things you shouldn't say out loud

Following yesterday's post about baby Gabriel, I thought it would be appropriate to follow up by addressing the sensitive subject of what not to say to someone who has experienced the loss of a child...either by miscarriage or stillbirth, because, let's face it -- people say stupid things.

A couple who has just experienced the devastating loss of their child does not need to hear your philosophy on it. They don't need to hear that it (the death of their baby) is for the best. They don't want to hear that this is God's will. No matter how profound your thoughts may be, please, please, keep them to yourselves. The grieving parents simply need your presence, a gentle understanding touch, someone to cry with, someone to listen.

My daughter found out very early when she was pregnant with her second child. When she miscarried, some people said things that not only hurt her, but actually made her angry.

"Well, you shouldn't have taken that pregnancy test so early. Then you wouldn't have even known you were pregnant."

Somehow, they missed the point. She did know she was pregnant. She wanted this baby. She was already falling in love and then, suddenly, without warning, this little life was no more.

"I know how you feel," someone said to her. "When I decided to end my pregnancy, I felt the same way."

What?? How could she possibly think that was the same?

Here are some other things that are often said...and shouldn't be!
  • At least you have your other child(ren). Sorry, but that doesn't make the loss of this one hurt any less. Maybe it should, but it simply doesn't. Children can't be replaced.
  • Maybe God doesn't want you to be a mother. Excuse me? Were you talking to me...because I'm pretty sure we won't be talking ever again.
  • Oh my gosh. What did you do? I mean, do you think you did something wrong? Oh my gosh. I think my mistake was talking to you in the first place.
  • Well, he's in heaven now. Your own little angel. I don't want him in heaven. I want him here in my arms. And he's not an angel. Read up on your theology.
  • You're young. You can have more children. I wanted this child.
  • Don't cry. You know this is for the best. for whom?
  • There was probably something wrong with baby. Be grateful you don't have to raise a handicapped child or something. Grateful? Wow, that wasn't an emotion I had even considered.
  • Look at the bright side -- now you can go out partying again. Sorry...think I'll pass.
  • Don't be so sad. C'mon, that's not like you. Nothing will ever be "like me" again. Part of my heart is gone.
If you find yourself in one of those awkward, uncomfortable situations where you just don't know what to say, simply offer a genuine, "I'm sorry," and leave it at that. Add a gentle touch. Look the couple in the eyes, making sure compassion is showing in yours.

Pregnancy loss happens. It happens more often than you know. Chances are quite high that there is someone close by right now who has suffered this kind of loss. Just because it is somewhat common (one out of every three pregnancies), that doesn't make it any less devastating to the couples it happens to. Even if they seem okay, chances are, they're not. And chances are your offering a flippant observation will do little more than inflict more pain, regardless of your intention.

To Gabriel's parents, and to Brandon's, and to the parents of countless others whose names I do not know, I offer you my sincere sympathy. May God heal your broken hearts.


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