It happened again this week. Another insensitive comment about child loss from someone who had no personal experience with it. You know the comment. Some version of “at least it wasn’t a real baby!” This time it was said to a dear friend of mine. I listened as she got emotional and asked why people didn’t get that her baby died, that she will forever love and miss her daughter. Why didn’t they understand that it didn’t matter how long she was here for, she will always be a missing part of her life?
I listened, acknowledged her feelings, and eventually, I encouraged her to let it go and not let other people’s inexperience dig too deeply into her. I reminded her that this is a truth that no one ever thinks about before being thrown into grief and that no matter what, we loss moms would never wish this knowledge on anyone. And I truly believed everything I said to her.
Yet, sometimes I wonder what would happen if we didn’t take the high road. I don’t mean the get-spitting-mad-and-blow-up-in-their-face-road, although if you have, no judgment from me. I’m talking about the did-you-really-just-say-that-okay-I-guess-we-doing-this-road.
I’d never actually do it, but what would it look like if we did?
Thank goodness my baby wasn’t real and I haven’t spent every moment since the pink lines thinking about the baby growing inside me. It really does make it less devastating.
How lucky that my baby died before being born and celebrated. I mean have you seen the way people celebrate babies just for being born? Why would I ever want that?
It makes me feel so good to know that if you lost your teenager, you would experience so much more pain than I am experiencing right now, because believe it or not, your greater pain takes my little pain away.
Thank you for reminding me of the other ways people die. I guess it is okay to mourn those deaths but my baby’s death should hold no significance to me.
Yes, of course. I forgot I had other children or that I am young enough to try again, how kind of you to point that out. All better now!
How did you know that I couldn’t wait to try again, and I am thinking about how much fun I will have trying again?
Wait, you know someone who lost twins/triplets? Wow, that twice/three times the number of babies I lost. I should hide my grief because there’s no room for their grief AND mine.
So your sister’s best friend’s cousin’s wife had a stillbirth yesterday and she is perfectly fine. That’s amazing, can you get me her autograph?
You lost a job once and…you know what, I can’t even with this one!
Really, kids are expensive, and they take up a lot of your time and your energy? I was willing to give up some of me but that sounds like A LOT of work so maybe you are right, I’m over it now!
Yeah, I’d never actually do it. Most people wouldn’t be able to handle it. I mean can you imagine how inappropriate they would think I am?
Plus, despite the insensitivity, people, in their own way, really are trying to help us feel better. So, what do I do? I keep writing and sharing and listening and being there for those experiencing loss in my own corner of the world. Maybe we can’t change the way the world views our grief, but we can make it so that anyone experiencing it knows that they are not alone.
Look, if you are a friend or family member of someone experiencing grief and you happened upon this, please know that despite the satire, (grief is serious business and sometimes satire helps) I appreciate and need you. I need you to make the mistakes and try to correct them. I need you to be willing to be told that you handled it wrong and to be open to another way. I need you to not give up on your loved one. Pay attention to the effect your words have on them and reassure them that you love and care for them even if you don’t understand. They are grieving right now, one day perhaps everything will be better. But, until then, be there for them, however, they need you to be.