I know that I haven’t traveled the road of a loss mama all that long, but I’m sure what I have experienced in my first few months will resonate with other moms. People will surprise you, both good and bad. I have friends and family who have nailed it – sending me thoughtful texts, saying Brady’s name, acknowledging me on Mother’s Day. One friend in particular has listened to my Brady stories over and over, and is engaged in them every time. I have been posting some of those Brady stories on my personal blog, and she always follows up each blog post by texting me and telling me how much she likes reading the stories. Even though she’s heard each one multiple times before.
Then there’s the flip side of things. The people who say things that are the furthest thing from comforting. One of the topics that tends to come up with I get together with fellow courageous mothers is “stupid things others have said to you”. Sometimes it just feels good to vent, and I hope you’ll take the list I share as I intend it. I’m not trying to single anyone out or make anyone feel bad. I hope that by sharing it, it will help me let go of the wee bit of animosity I continue to carry towards the individuals who have said these things.
Snarking on things people have said is oddly comforting to me. It brings a tiny level of humor into a completely non-humorous time of my life. I’ve always been a snarky/funny/sarcastic person, but my snark level has increased exponentially since we lost Brady. I’m guessing the extra snark is a part of the “anger” stage of grief, but I’m no mental health professional, so your guess is as good as mine. Regardless, I’m sure many of you can relate to this far-from-all-encompassing list of “stupid things people have said to me”:
- “At least everything works/at least you can get pregnant” (uh… pretty sure one of the definitions of “not working” is having to deliver a baby at 26 weeks because you developed HELLP Syndrome and the only cure is delivery. Also, getting pregnant is nice, sure, but the goal is to have a living baby.)
- “So, the vacation is over soon!” (Please don’t refer to a woman’s leave from work after the loss of her baby as a “vacation”.)
- “At least he died when he was 2 weeks old. If he was older, it probably would be harder.” (Huh? This is plenty hard. Also, notice the theme of “at least”. If the “comfort” you are about to share contains the words “at least”, just don’t say it.)
- “I couldn’t really tell if he was cute. He always had that thing covering his face.” (That “thing” was a breathing tube for his ventilator. My son couldn’t breathe without it. If you can’t tell whether or not my son is cute because of a breathing tube, you are a special kind of stupid.)
That’s just a sampling. We’d be here all day if I had to list them all. I’ve heard that people just don’t know what to say to a mother who has lost a child, but if that’s the case, why are some people able to say things that are kind and comforting, and not offensive? I don’t have the answer to that question, by the way. It’s still a mystery. For me, it’s seemed that the people who I expect to be able to be compassionate and understanding are the ones that miss the mark the furthest, and those who I wouldn’t expect to have appropriate words of comfort actually do. Sweeping generalizations there, but I have said multiple times throughout this journey that people have surprised me.
People will say to not get upset when others say things that are hurtful and insensitive, because they have “good intentions”. My therapist recently shared a quote with me:
I plan to just say that quote to myself the next time someone says something hurtful and insensitive, and maybe that will help me move past the shock and sadness that I feel more quickly. I’m still embarrassingly bad at responding to these types of comments. My go-to seems to be saying nothing and acting awkward. If anyone has suggestions for how they’ve responded to these types of comments, or if you want to snark and share some of the things you’ve heard, post them in the comments. I’m all ears.
13 Comments Add yours
I can relate so much to this post. But first, Brady is so so handsome. I am so sorry for your loss.
I’m all for being snarky with you. Our son, Carter, passed away 3 days after delivering him in February. I’m always surprised at the remarks I receive from people. Some that have been said to me:
“He’s in a better place.”
“You are young, you can get pregnant again.”
And just this past Friday I had someone tell me, “it happened for a reason.” REALLY?
I’m with you, I haven’t found an appropriate response back to those asinine comments. I wanted to let my rage loose on the woman who said it happened for a reason but I had to keep some composure (I’m an RN and she was my patient).
But, then there are some people that surprise you. I had a patient sit and cry with me. And want to hear all about Carter and asked to see a picture of him. She’ll never know how much that meant to me.
She’s one of the few. Most in society don’t know how to handle grief. Or how to be empathetic.
Sending many hugs your way.
Thank you for being open to the snarkiness – and for sharing your experiences! First, I am so sorry for the loss of your sweet Carter. I am also so sorry that you’ve experienced similar hurtful comments. I’m so impressed with your ability to keep your composure with your patients. It can be so challenging when someone catches you off guard like that. I love that one of your patients sat with you and allowed you to share stories and pictures of Carter. I have had a couple of coworkers do the same and it fills my heart. It only takes a few minutes and it is so meaningful. I wish everyone could understand that!
Thank you for sharing your story about Brady and the snarkiness you’re experiencing. My son Charlie was born still Feb 13th of this year (I’ll never look at Valentine’s day the same), his death is still classified as unexplained. I have gotten plenty of comments that offend me too, like the “it happens for a reason” or “there must be a plan”, etc. The worst people for me are not those that say the wrong things, but those that have said nothing at all. I had someone that I work with that was quickly becoming a good friend during my pregnancy, but has yet to even acknowledge my son existed at all. When I reported I was returning to work early (I didn’t qualify for maternity leave anymore, so I had to go back months before I originally planned), this person texted me to say how excited they were and that I was sure to be excited too. I was insensed by the lack of sensitivity from a person that I perceived as being highly sensitive; why would I want to return to work when every moment I’m there reminds me that I’m not doing something I had planned for 9mo to be doing for a person that is no longer here. Needless to say, this whole experience has not only strengthened my relationships with some people, even my own mother, and has made me re-evaluate and re-set those relationships with whom I don’t find support. Know that you’re words mean something to me, and that I appreciate them. It makes me feel like other people understand, that I’m less alone in this.
I was nervous to share this blog post, but was hopeful that others would be able to relate, and that I, too, would feel less alone in this. Losing a child is so isolating, only those who have been through it “get it”. Thank you for sharing a piece of your story. I am so sorry for the loss of your Charlie, and I am also so sorry that others haven’t acknowledged him. It just adds to the hurt when others won’t acknowledge him, and how important he is. When I returned to work, I never quite knew how to respond the the “so excited you’re back!” comments – “I’m not” would’ve been honest, but I think I always just ended up saying something non-committal like “uh, thanks”. Like you said, I have definitely felt some relationships strengthen and have also distanced myself from others who are not supportive. I feel that I used to try to keep relationships alive no matter what, but now I just don’t have the capacity to put in the effort towards those who don’t offer me the same respect.
My grandfather’s “girlfriend” (i guess you could say… she’s actually my great aunt but if I tried to explain that we’d be here for the next 3 days, so moving on.) She claims to be all about “family” and wanting to bring her family and our family together and blah blah blah. She’s the most vindictive person I know, and after this specific scenario happened, I’m convinced she is the most cold-hearted and cruel person that I know as well.
I lost my daughter June on March 14 this year at 18 weeks pregnant. Still working on trying to figure out what happened, because according to my doctors this was NOT supposed to happen and they can’t figure out why it did. Anyways. I live close to this cruel person, so I see her every few days. She still has yet to acknowledge my daughter three months after the fact. I will casually bring June up in conversation, and she ignores me. Doesn’t say a word.
But what really boiled my blood was that my mom, my husband and I went to visit my grandfather the day before Mother’s Day this year. (Of course she was there). We all hugged and said hello and whatnot. And as we’re standing there she turns to my mom and says Happy Mother’s Day. My mom returned the saying and continued with “yeah, it’s also Lizzie’s first Mother’s Day too. Even though June isn’t here with us.” I kid you not. She turned to face me, looked my up and down and said “hmm.” Before turning away.
Y’all. I’m not joking when I say it took everything I had not to claw her face off right then and there. Like- you had the perfect opportunity. Just say Happy Mothers Day and move on. Nope. Nothing.
Needless to say, we didn’t stay five minutes after that because none of us could even pretend to be cordial to her. We all can’t stand her to begin with, but try to get along for my grandfather. Yeah, that was the straw that broke the camels back for me. Easily the most hurtful thing anyone has probably ever done to me.
I’m so sorry for the loss of your sweet June. Wow… that’s all I can say about your grandpa’s “girlfriend”/great aunt. With my experience, I think many people don’t mean to say hurtful things, they just unintentionally say them. It doesn’t make it less hurtful, but the intent to hurt isn’t there. With her, her actions and words are just so blatantly mean. It seems intentional. It’s unbelievable that someone would behave like that. I’m sorry you’ve had to experience that. I hope you were able to have a better Mother’s Day after you left your grandpa’s house!
Thank you! I did have a very nice Mothers Day, my husband went above and beyond. And yes, it’s one thing to say something out of sympathy that is hurtful. Like you said the intention isn’t to hurt you. But with her, it’s intentional and cold-hearted. I don’t understand how someone can act that way when someone just lost a child. I just don’t get it.
Thank you for sharing and I’m sorry you’ve heard these things. Since losing Mina, I’ve learned what a serious lack of empathy people have. It’s like they’re unable to put themselves in someone else’s shoes for a moment and really think of how their words can impact someone else. It’s something I strive for in conversations now – really thinking about what I’m saying because words matter.
As for the comment about the tubes on beautiful Brady’s face, I can relate and am hurt and angry for you. I found out someone said something similar about pictures of our daughter being in our home and I was dumbfounded that someone could be so cruel.
Thank you, too, for sharing your experience. It’s sad that so many of us have experienced these hurtful comments. I also strive to really think about what I say to others. Having the experience we’ve had makes one hyper-aware of how important our words are.
I’m equally sad and angered that you’ve had comments about photos of your daughter being in your home. It’s so normal and accepted to have photos of your child in your home, but somehow when your child dies it’s NOT okay? Ugh, that’s just infuriating.
Oh this is so relatable. People who you thought would be there for you, crash & burn… & people you barely know step up.
I have had strangers become friends & friends become strangers.
It’s sad because some days I feel like not only am I grieving my daughter but I am also grieving friendships/family relationships that I thought would last forever.
It’s actually really sad.
Sometimes I wish people would tell the truth & say “I don’t know what to say.” It’s ok to say that.
Absolutely! Being honest and just saying “I’m sorry, I don’t know what to say.” is perfectly acceptable. One of the best things a friend said to me was “F*** it, I’m sorry!” I swear a lot myself, so it was just really… appropriate.
Oh my word, I know I commented up there somewhere, but the pictures on the post finally loaded for me and oh my heart. Brady is absolutely perfect. When a beautiful baby. I seriously became the human version of the heart eyes emoji when I saw that picture. How precious!
Thank you, Lizzie! I seriously can’t believe we made such a cute baby sometimes ❤ I appreciate you taking the time to comment and validate. Sending hugs your way!