Saturday, 19 January 2013

Things to never say to a woman who has lost a baby

I’ve been truly amazed and inspired by the “sisterhood” that is women who have lost babies. We are a non-judgemental group – people don’t care if you miscarried at 5 weeks or 12 weeks, had a still born at 20 weeks or 39 weeks or lost your baby at 3 weeks old. We all recognise that we are experiencing the same pain, the same grief, the same loss and the same yearning. I guess we band together because we are the only ones who know how each other feels. We know that our family and friends can empathise and sympathise with us, but they will never understand what it’s like to walk in our shoes.

As a result, we are there to support each other when someone is having a bad day, and we call on that support when we are the ones having a bad day. We give each other a chance to vent and try to have a laugh in the process. It’s good healing medicine!

So we’ve come together to share our list of the most unhelpful comments we’ve received in trying to conceive or since losing our babies. We know that people say these things to be helpful, but there’s not a single one of these comments that make us feel better. In the early days of loss, we are still in immense shock, anger and grief so a lot of these comments just seem insensitive rather than helpful.

Part of my aim in doing this blog is education – not just for those suffering through loss, but also for those who are supporting others through their loss. So if you have a friend who has recently lost their child, or has been trying to conceive for a while, here’s some things NOT to say and why you shouldn’t say them. If you have said some of these things to friends in the past don't worry, this will just explain why they may have been upset by it but know we don't hold grudges! And fear not, I’ll provide some things TO say at the end of the list!

"Practice makes perfect" – No it doesn’t - if practice makes perfect your friend would either be pregnant by now or wouldn’t have lost their baby. Nothing about where they are right now is perfect.

“At least you can have fun trying." – Fun is something that got lost along time ago. Sex becomes a chore when you have been trying to conceive for a while. You know you have to do it at the right time to create the desired outcome. If you’re trying again after a loss, sex to fall pregnant reminds you that you’re needing to try to fall pregnant – again! There is no fun in that.

“At least you can get a good nights sleep” – Women who have lost a child would give up sleep forever to have their babies in their arms. There is nothing that will make that better.

“At least you can eat smoked salmon again” – We may like smoked salmon but it’s no consolation for loosing your child. If the gods came to me and said you can have your baby but you can never eat smoked salmon again, then I’d gladly give it, or anything else for that matter!

“Well at least you know you can get pregnant” – As one woman said “
Yes, I did once. Nine months ago!” Just because we have fallen pregnant before, doesn’t guarantee we will again. And really, what’s the point in falling pregnant if you can’t keep the baby? There is no consolation in this thought because if you’ve been pregnant and lost the baby, you are not feeling joyful about HAVING to fall pregnant again. 

“Relax and it will happen when you’re not thinking about it.” If you’re going through fertility treatment, something has to happen at every stage of your cycle between medication, scans, blood test and then just waiting. You HAVE to think about it so you turn up to your appointments! Even if you’re not going through fertility treatment, you know that you HAVE to think about it to have sex at the right time to create a baby. The only women who aren’t thinking about it are the women not trying to get pregnant.

"Everything happens for a reason". Many of us will reach this philosophical stage in time, but we are no where near it in the early days after a loss. We are too busy trying to find a reason for why it happened so we can make sense of it. There is no part of us that can accept it was just meant to be because  it wasn’t – having a baby is what was meant to be!

“Don’t wait too long, you know your fertility is best in your early 20s” – I can’t believe someone actually said this but as this woman responded “Silly me, let me find my time machine and go back a decade so I’m not in my early 30s.” I think even I would have had to slap this person upside the head!

We do know that it’s hard to support someone who is going through so much pain. And, we do know that sometimes people just don’t know what to say. But honestly, we’d prefer them to say nothing rather than something that is more likely to upset us even more than we are. Please keep in mind that we are in such enormous pain we cannot think straight. Our normally rational and logic minds are being bombarded by fluctuating hormones, exhaustion, grief, stress, anger and all the other emotions we go through. We are simply not able to process information like we normally would and are overly sensitive to everything!

But here are some safe things that you CAN say to someone finding it difficult to conceive or support someone through their loss.

“I’m so sorry, I don’t know what the right thing is to say but I want you to know I love you and I am here for you.”

“I know you are feeling really frustrated by this and I’m keeping my fingers crossed it happens soon for you.”

“I’m so sorry this has happened. It’s a truly suckful thing.”

“I’m so sorry this has happened. Please let me know if there is anything I can do for you.”

“I’m so sorry this has happened but I think your baby was very lucky to have lived in the warm and loving home you provided.” – this one is likely to create tears but they will be good tears!

If worse comes to worse, and you just can't get any words out, just hug them! 

Finally, don’t be upset if your friend gets upset by something you said. As I said, our processing abilities become seriously compromised and this can last along time. If your friend does tell you your comments aren’t appropriate, don’t take it personally. Remember, their pain is not about you! If you get upset at them, you only make their pain worse because now they are upset they have hurt you. If they tell you your comments aren’t appropriate, just say “I’m sorry,” and understand they are in the throngs of grief.

Supporting someone through the pain of loosing a baby can be a taxing process. Don’t worry, we all know it and we know the energy it takes. If you feel you’re not being supportive or caring enough don’t!  We know you are doing all you can. You are only not being caring if you haven’t bothered to pick up the phone, send a text or write an email. We don’t need much – we just need to know you’re thinking of us.

Please know that not only are we suffering from the pain of the loss, but we are also suffering the pain of realising people we thought would be there for us aren’t. And that realisation is just as hurtful as loosing the baby because we realise we have lost part of our friendships. This also makes us enormously grateful for the support we do get. So to those of you who are there for your loved ones, I say congratulations and thank you on behalf of us all. We will never be able to express how truly appreciative we are of you support but just know we wouldn’t survive without you!

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