What To Say To Someone That Has Experienced The Loss Of A Baby...
Experiencing the loss of a baby is something I know all to well. Before I had Conner I experienced a miscarriage. Then there was Conner. Hayden was actually a twin and I lost that baby in the first trimester. Then there was the miscarriage last year, followed by a chemical pregnancy (which yes I do count it) and then the miscarriage at the beginning of the year. It's not that I am keeping track or am trying to say, "Yeah, I have had it bad." I'm not. I know of others that have experienced many more miscarriages. It's just my way of letting you know that I have learned a few things along the way. Although I have not experienced a failed adoption, I do view them as one and the same...and imagine the feelings are the same. You may have to alter the phrases below just a bit...but really you get the idea.
I really feel that miscarriages and failed adoptions are very much looked over in today's society. With my miscarriages the feelings I felt were just as intense and devastating as loosing someone that I had known for years. Which is confusing to many. How can a person feel such a loss of someone they don't know? I too have asked myself that question. The thing is for women, I believe that we are so connected to that life. As soon as we hear that someone is to be in our care we naturally feel deeply for them. We have to be, that's why we are the caretakers and the nurturers of the family unit. When that loss comes we not only loose that child physically, we also loose all of those hopes, plans and dreams. The future seems very dark and we want to go back to the time when that little someone was in our life again. It's all so confusing and the pain is very deep, As a result, there will be some that just don't know what to say... and in their efforts to help they may say something offensive without even knowing. I do believe that there are good things to say and better things to say when it comes to the loss of a baby. That is what I want to focus on in this post!!
For example: One may hear the phrase, "I'm sorry to hear that you have miscarried." or "I'm sorry you lost your baby." or "I'm sorry your placement failed." Every time someone said that to me my heart dropped and was crushed. Deep down I felt it was because of MY BODY that the child couldn't thrive. To hear the words, "you miscarried" or "you lost your baby" was just a confirmation to me that what I felt was true. It was my fault and that was salt to injury.
The Truth: Miscarriages happen regardless of everything we do in our power to prevent it. I could mention all of the statistics but I won't. The thing is, after much thought and prayer I KNOW that these little ones receive a body once conception is made. Seriously, the more one learns about all that it takes for a woman to conceive, the more one would naturally realize the complete miracle of it all. It's just that SO much has to happen. Everything has to be perfect and in a perfect order. It's amazing that anyone has babies at all!!! Obviously there is a divine intervention there. Just as a spirit enters, if it needs to only be here on earth for a short time, then that is it's purpose and it's need. We so often forget that we only see one side of the show. There are many more things we have yet to learn and realize, including that of the going-ons on the other side. Quite often, I feel that these little spirits only stay for the short time they need. Then Heavenly Father needs to call them back for other important tasks. These lost babies are so pure and so valiant. They don't need the experiences and trials of life. Instead, they are able to go onto the other side. Cheering and guiding their family here on earth until the end of their journey. It's their mission among other things and it's SO easy to forget that. So miscarriages and lost babies are out of our control. Believe me, if a child is meant to be here on earth, he or she will be. I know this from experience. I believe the same is true of a child placement. If that child is meant to be apart of your family circle, he or she will be.
So, the better response would be: "I'm sorry to hear the loss of your baby." or I'm sorry to hear the adoption didn't go through."
Instead of using the phrase: "You're young, you have plenty of time to get pregnant again." or "Maybe this means you need to change your plan and try to get pregnant instead of adopt." A better phrase would be, "I have hope for you and your husband, hang onto that hope as well." We can't receive personal revelations for others. The individual must receive that for themselves. Plus, personally when a person told me I was young and had plenty of time I wanted to bawl and throw a very impressive tantrum right in front of them! Lets be honest, when a woman experiences a loss, she is not thinking rationally- not to mention hormones may be at play as well! For me it was a time game. All I could think of was, "It took me 4+ years just to get pregnant. What if I have to wait another 4+ years just to get pregnant again....and what if I miscarry then? Will I have to wait another 4+ years...." and then THAT led to, "What if I never have children." That never having children part was just too much to bare at the time... and that is what made me want to throw a tantrum! On another note, the whole "getting pregnant again" phrase seemed to encourage the replacement of the child I had lost. Even though I didn't know him or her, that someone to me was precious not replaceable...and still isn't replaceable all of these months & years later.
Steer clear of: "At least you know you can get pregnant now." or "At least you were chosen, that's good news." Honestly, this didn't mean diddly to me. What's the point of getting pregnant or being chosen if a child, the most desired thing, was not the end result? Nope, this wasn't helpful at all. Just avoid that subject all together! Honestly, I have dealt with getting pregnant and miscarrying AND I have dealt with not being able to get pregnant at all. I would MUCH rather prefer the latter. It's such a heart wrenching thing to be SO CLOSE just to have it fall through. To me that was always an extra punch and harder to work through. To loose Conner however is another subject...but still the phrase is not appropriate!
Some may try to mirror their experiences onto those that have experienced loss. I know people mean well, but sometimes, just sometimes tactfulness is left at the front door! When I was suffering a miscarriage I did find it helpful for others to share their experiences, but for the most part, it was so flustering when some would turn my pain into their pain...and soon I was comforting them. At times it was almost as if they were telling me stories to make my experience seem lighter and less traumatic. It was all done in pure honesty of course but at the time, how I was feeling, I needed to be allowed to grieve how I wanted....and not feel guilty that "so and so had it so much worse." I had lost a baby and that was real to me. I have also had women say to me, "I know exactly how you feel. I'm here to listen." That was the best thing in the world. They understood and they were offering help...but only on my terms. Just remember if a woman wants to hear of an experience, she will ask, if not, she's simply not ready...or wants to.
On the opposite end there are those that just don't get it and say things like "Awe man" or "Oh No! That's terrible" or "Shucks, I'm so sorry to hear that." It's not like we have simply burned dinner or use the wrong cookie recipe....we lost someone. A much better phrase would be: "I really don't know how you feel, but I do care about you. I want to help you in any way you need." Also, one may not know what to say and ignore it all together. That's the worst thing one can do. To ignore it implies that the person doesn't care AT ALL. Instead, just be open and let them talk when and if they need.
Also, putting a time limit on a grieving person is a huge mistake. Just because a person is trying again or several months have passed, doesn't mean they have fully healed. If they need to talk, let them talk for as long as they want...even if it is months later. For me, it always got worse as time went on. I would trap myself into the what if and if only stage....you all remember! I would just keep thinking, "I could have been such and such weeks by now. Or my baby would have been born today." It's an awful, awful thing to do. I advise not to do it...but it is hard!! People all heal differently and at different times. For some it may take longer than others. Be patient and never tell them to "Get over it" or "You need to move on." They will when they are ready. Usually for most, talking it out is the best way of getting there.
One last piece of advise!! Some are so curious and have that itch to ask month to month if anything has "happened" yet or they have been chosen yet. It's o.k. in some cases such as close, dear friends and such...but please use your best judgement if you are one of these special cases. It's one thing to lose a baby...but a whole other when the pressure is on. To know that everyone is watching and taking notes is so stressful. As time goes on, it can also become embarrassing and add to depression. I for one did not like being watched...or talked about as if I was some form of entertainment. That was just one more thing I found myself needing to cope with that I shouldn't have needed to.