Saturday, September 8, 2012

My Do's and Don't's of navigating babyloss.

Just because my baby died does not make me an expert on the topic of "babyloss."  First off, I don't really like that word as I don't believe that I lost my baby.  I like to think that I relocated him, from my arms to my heart.

The night Ethan died my good friend & sister Mel told me something.  She told me to prepare myself for people saying some really stupid things to me, even if they have good intentions.  I had heard of this before, but having her say it to me then prepared me for multiple social encounters I wish had gone differently.  With that being said, I recognize that my take on social graces may be skewed based on my grief & resulting depression this summer.  So again, take what is to follow with a grain of salt if you prefer.  I offer my insights on this topic not to guide you on how to act around me.  Instead, as something to reference in the future, if you (unfortunately) have to navigate a relationship with another person whose baby dies.

Do acknowledge that they had a baby.  Not just that their baby died.  This can look like a simple card congratulating that person on the birth of their baby followed by a sincere condolence that their baby could not stay with them.  (Thank you Jen by the way for that, I kept that card for this very reason).

Do let them know that you would like to hear about their baby, if they ever want to talk about that with you.

If you talk with them about their baby, do speak the baby's name.  I love to hear Ethan's name, to read it also.  When Ethan died I lost the opportunities to hear and read Ethan's name throughout a lifetime, so I love to experience part of that somehow.

Don't tell them it was "meant to be."  Or that "God has a plan" that involved their baby dying.  Let them come to that conclusion if it is right for them.  Parts of that is what I believe about Ethan's life and death, but I had to come to that conclusion for myself.  When people told me that, especially so early on, it angered me.  How did others know God's plan?  And why did that plan suck so much?

Don't say "well at least you have your other three."  Yes, I recognize how blessed I am to have my older three children, but I want my fourth too.  Sometimes, when I was irrational and consumed by my grief, I wanted to ask people which child they would give up and not be depressed over?  Do consider saying something like, "I am so thankful that you have three children at home who love you and can make you smile.  Though I would think that doesn't erase the pain of not having Ethan.  I'm so sorry he isn't here."

Do be patient with them.  Allow them to set boundaries with their relationships if need be.  Some of my best friends allowed me to drift away a little bit, as they had newborn babies when I didn't have mine.  But they continued to let me know they love me through a text, Facebook message, etc. without expecting me to be able to see them face-to-face or talk with them on the phone.

Don't say "you can have another."  First off, Ethan is irreplaceable.  Even if I were to have another child, it would not erase the pain of Ethan no longer being here.  My heart made room for Ethan, and that cannot be erased, nor do I want it erased.  Secondly, the person may not be able to have another, or they may be frightened that it will happen again if they try.  I am unable to have any more children as Josh already had his vasectomy.

Do consider including acknowledging the baby's absence around holidays and special occasions.  Such as "Remembering Ethan at this time with you."

Don't say "I think my friend had it worse when she lost her baby at 8 months along."  (I really had someone, though clueless and with good intentions, say this to me last month).  "I think it was worse for her because she knew she was having a girl and had the room ready."  A baby dying is a baby dying, it's really shitty no matter how far along, what sex the baby was, etc.  Do consider saying "I'm so sorry for your loss.  My friend had a similar tragedy.  You are not alone in this."

Don't, under any circumstances, tell someone that they are "better off financially."  That one took the cake thus far.  An idiotic thing to say to someone, by someone who should know better.

Do stay in touch with the person.  In a form that they are comfortable with (phone, in person, cards, email, text, etc.).  Grief can make you feel very lonely.  Losing their child is enough, try not to have them feel that they are losing your friendship too.

Do tell them that you are there for them and that you love them.  Don't tell them you "know how they feel" unless your baby died too.  Do  tell them that you "can't know what it is like, but that you are there to listen and try to understand with their help."

Again, take 'em or leave 'em.  These are some of my reflections on how to respect someones baby and support their healing early on.  Thanks to all of you who have and continue to do so for Ethan and I.


  1. when we met with the priest to plan Alexander's funeral, he said "now, people are going to say a lot of stupid things" - I asked if I could hit them, he said "it is advisable NOT to". Thankfully, I haven't wanted to hit to many people. One thing I have heard a lot is that i hate the most "things happen for a reason" - Yeah, no, 8 month old babies don't get cancer and die 13 months later for a REASON. Another one I can't stand is "God Must have needed another angel". No, God, is God and he can just MAKE angels! My cousins husband said it best - just say "I am sorry" then shut the F Up!

    Your do's and don't's are right on!!!

  2. It is amazing to me how insensitive people can be, however well meaning. My mother, my own MOTHER, has told me that she can't possibly imagine what it would be like with two babies, it would be far to overwhelming. I would love to be overwhelmed thank you very much! She also told me when Liam had whooping cough, "Aren't you glad you aren't dealing with two babies with whooping cough?". That along with the school nurse who told me when I returned to work, to tell the kids who asked about Adeline that "Well, that just didn't work out". It has been a blessing for me to meet people who have also experienced a loss like this that do know what to say. As well as to hear stories like yours that make me realize that my own private little hell isn't actually as empty as I though. We are not alone. This is not a group I ever wanted to be part of but I am so very glad to know that I am not the only one.