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.