Almost got out of bed last night to write this post but I decided not to...it was already past 2am. Here are some thoughts on what I have (or haven't) experienced. Some of you might relate and some of you will benefit from getting a better understanding of grieving a child. Please if you have anything to add to this "list" just let me know! I tried to think of every option.
What NOT to say to a grieving Mom.
1. First and foremost, don't tell this woman she is not a mom. Just because you don't physically see a baby does not mean she is not one! And even if you don't say it, don't make or let her believe that statement is true.
2. "God has a plan!" or "It's all in God's timing." Don't even mention God and His timing in any context. God's timing allowed that woman to become pregnant in the first place. That brings up way too many topics that you don't even want to go to. Or do you? Do you really want to talk to this woman about how God's timing was for her child to die at that exact moment? I know that might sound extreme, but it's just as extreme as telling her "God has a plan!" Even though you probably don't see it that way.
3. "Everything happens for a reason." Instead of putting God in their response, they just go to the typical phrase to try to make you feel better. Instead it just crushes you into your grieving hole even more. Maybe they don't believe in God, so that's the next best thing to tell you. Maybe you don't believe in God, but whatever you or they do or don't believe...what matters is your response to their loss. They just lost a baby. A life. Memories. A story in their life is forever changed. Life continues to go on, but they have still lost. Something is missing for them. They have to keep going but they can't. It's like telling the world to stop spinning. That's what grieving feels like when someone tells you something that is hard to hear. I can't stop my grieving, but YOU can stop from telling the Mom these crazy phrases that mean nothing. Because that statement "happens for a reason" is not true.
4. "When are you going to try again?" or "Are you going to start trying again soon?" I've honestly heard this before, and it didn't bother me. But that's because it was from people who truly care about my journey in motherhood. They have sat beside me in the hardest moments listening to my heart. With these specific people I know where these questions are coming from, they are truly just figuring out my heart. They know it's part of the grieving and it was their way of acknowledging the step I was in. But if I hear it from someone who hasn't even talked to me before about my loss, I'm hurt. If it's from a stranger I'm confused. I have a baby who is nearly 18 months old, why would I be so urgent to try again right now? I usually just brush it off and tell them we're busy with the remodeling of our new home. If you are going to ask these questions to a grieving mom, make sure you've been there every step of the way.
5. It's time to move on. If a grieving mom mentions her loss, don't give her the impression she should be pass those thoughts. She has the right to ache and grieve whenever she needs to. Like how often does a mom with a newborn want to share her baby's updates and pictures? Do you think anything of it? (ha, maybe a little bit if it goes over board.) But grief comes in waves. Don't tell the ocean to stop bringing the high tide in, it just can't be done.
6. Just think of happier times. Really? Tell that to someone who just lost their best friend to a drunk driver.
7. Try to focus on your babies that ARE alive. Wait, what? Did you just say that? Which kid(s) are replacing the one(s) I lost? My daughter could never --will ever-- take the place of Alex or Taylor. If you had multiples would you just push some aside because it was too hard? Am I supposed to forget and just "let go" of the babies I have lost? I'm a mother.....
8. "My friend had the same thing happen to her and now she has healthy baby!" Wait a second, did you just make this conversation about your friend? A grieving Mom does not need to hear how great someone else's life is going. Good for that friend of yours, but I'm sure she didn't want to hear those same words when she had lost a baby before.....
9. "You are still young." Sure. But what are you going to say when I'm 40 and I'm still grieving this baby?
10. "Enjoy just being married..." Oh, wait. Did I mention something about my marriage? As long as we're there.....this loss has changed my marriage so much. Thanks for reminding me of how hard this is on my marriage. And for those that it hasn't hurt the marriage, I'm sure you're not focusing on all the good moments right now. Yes, you can run to the grocery store any time of the day or night. You don't have to search babysitters. You don't have little sleep because of a sick or teething baby. But you are loosing sleep because you think something is terribly wrong with you and your body and your hubby can sense that. Must I say more?
11. Don't ask "How are you doing?" Change that phrase to something more specific...I'll add more below.....
So, what DO YOU SAY to a grieving Momma?
1. If you don't understand, if you've never been through that, if you are not a mother you won't understand. Just say, "I'm so so sorry. I don't know what words will help but just know I'm praying for you/thinking of you." (Side note: Don't say you're praying for them if you truly are not. Let them know how often and when you are. Honesty is key.)
2. Tell me what I can do for you. (Maybe the grieving Mom could just use a coffee/ice cream date. Maybe the Mom would like someone at her house during the day for the normal annoying laundry and cleaning day. Or maybe just bring over some food and eat junk food. And remember she might not mention what you could do for her, but you be the one to set up something.)
3. If you are close to this Mom, be the one to be at every step of her grieving. Even if you're not a Mom yourself. Be willing to hear her latest update thoughts, listen to her pain, and make sure you're aware of the times that are the hardest.
4. Like mentioned above "how are you doing?" is an open question that just confuses me. Be more specific. Some people might be fine with that question, but I never know how to answer. Maybe try "how are you feeling" or "what are you thinking about today?" It's about hearing the Mom's grieving process and if you listen carefully you might find out where she is that day. It will help you walk her through the process. She'll feel closer to you if you come across as caring rather than judging her grief.
Overall, just be open and let HER SPEAK. Some times people worry about what to say or what not to say....but mostly what's best is to just listen.
Comment or email if you have any thoughts or things to add.