Friday, June 11, 2010

What Not To Say

I found this on another mommy's blog who experienced 5 losses, and went on to have her beautiful, healthy son. There is hope, people! Anyway, that said, I really liked how it was written - respecting and honoring our children lost too soon. I hope you will feel the same way. I know many of you reading have angels in Heaven, wishing more than anything they were here with you today. My heart is with you, today and always.

What we wish you knew about pregnancy loss:

A letter from women to their friends and family
by Elizabeth Soutter Schwarzer
I assert no copyright for the material. Please use it as you see fit to help women who have endured this terrible grief. Thank you.

Date: Sat, 23 Mar 2002

When women experience the loss of a child, one of the first things they discover they have in common is a list of things they wish no one had ever said to them. The lists tend to be remarkably similar. The comments are rarely malicious - just misguided attempts to soothe.

This list was compiled as a way of helping other people understand pregnancy loss. While generated by mothers for mothers, it may also apply similarly to the fathers who have endured this loss.
When trying to help a woman who has lost a baby, the best rule of thumb is a matter of manners: don't offer your personal opinion of her life, her choices, her prospects for children. No woman is looking to poll her acquaintances for their opinions on why it happened or how she should cope.

-Don't say, "It's God's Will." Even if we are members of the same congregation, unless you are a cleric and I am seeking your spiritual counseling, please don't presume to tell me what God wants for me. Besides, many terrible things are God's Will, that doesn't make them less terrible.

-Don't say, "It was for the best - there was probably something wrong with your baby." The fact that something was wrong with the baby is what is making me so sad. My poor baby never had a chance. Please don't try to comfort me by pointing that out.

-Don't say, "You can always have another one." This baby was never disposable. If had been given the choice between losing this child or stabbing my eye out with a fork, I would have said, "Where's the fork?" I would have died for this baby, just as you would die for your children.

-Don't say, "Be grateful for the children you have." If your mother died in a terrible wreck and you grieved, would that make you less grateful to have your father?

-Don't say, "Thank God you lost the baby before you really loved it." I loved my son or daughter. Whether I lost the baby after two weeks of pregnancy or just after birth, I loved him or her.

-Don't say, "Isn't it time you got over this and moved on?" It's not something I enjoy, being grief-stricken. I wish it had never happened. But it did and it's a part of me forever. The grief will ease on its own timeline, not mine - or yours.

-Don't say, "Now you have an angel watching over you." I didn't want her to be my angel. I wanted her to bury me in my old age.

-Don't say, "I understand how you feel." Unless you've lost a child, you really don't understand how I feel. And even if you have lost a child, everyone experiences grief differently.

-Don't tell me horror stories of your neighbor or cousin or mother who had it worse. The last thing I need to hear right now is that it is possible to have this happen six times, or that I could carry until two days before my due-date and labor 20 hours for a dead baby. These stories frighten and horrify me and leave me up at night weeping in despair. Even if they have a happy ending, do not share these stories with me.

-Don't pretend it didn't happen and don't change the subject when I bring it up. If I say, "Before the baby died..." or "when I was pregnant..." don't get scared. If I'm talking about it, it means I want to. Let me. Pretending it didn't happen will only make me feel utterly alone.

- Don't say, "It's not your fault." It may not have been my fault, but it was my responsibility and I failed. The fact that I never stood a chance of succeeding only makes me feel worse. This tiny little being depended upon me to bring him safely into the world and I couldn't do it. I was supposed to care for him for a lifetime, but I couldn't even give him a childhood. I am so angry at my body you just can't imagine.

-Don't say, "Well, you weren't too sure about this baby, anyway." I already feel so guilty about ever having complained about morning sickness, or a child I wasn't prepared for, or another mouth to feed that we couldn't afford. I already fear that this baby died because I didn't take the vitamins, or drank too much coffee, or had alcohol in the first few weeks when I didn't know I was pregnant. I hate myself for any minute that I had reservations about this baby. Being unsure of my pregnancy isn't the same as wanting my child to die - I never would have chosen for this to happen.

-Do say, "I am so sorry." That's enough. You don't need to be eloquent. Say it and mean it and it will matter.

-Do say, "You're going to be wonderful parents some day," or "You're wonderful parents and that baby was lucky to have you." We both need to hear that.

-Do say, "I have lighted a candle for your baby," or "I have said a prayer for your baby."

-Do send flowers or a kind note - every one I receive makes me feel as though my baby was loved. Don't resent it if I don't respond.

-Don't call more than once and don't be angry if the machine is on and I don't return your call. If we're close friends and I am not responding to your attempts to help me, please don't resent that, either. Help me by not needing anything from me for a while. "


  1. This is so right on, Faith. Thank you for sharing that. There are many people I wish I could have read this to a year and a half ago. I pray for you every day. Hopefully, we'll have our miracles soon!

  2. Amen sister! Great list, great post!!! Almost all of those have been said to me...ugh.

    Love ya! (((hugs)))

  3. I've not experienced pregnancy loss but having lost my baby through a failed adoption I have heard alot of those same comments. I have found that there is such a lack of compassion with a failed adoption as well, like "it wasn't your baby anyway so why are you sad?" But all those statements are so true, the do's and the do not's. Great post Faith.

  4. It must have been "what not to say" weekend. After reading your post, I was reading another friend's blog. Her son was born with a congenital heart defect and she posted "what not to say to parents of a sick child". How can people be so clueless when they open their mouths? Thanks for spreading awareness, Faith.

  5. LOVE THIS POST! Seriously, love it so much I want to marry it :P Perhaps we can fight to enforce a sensitivity license that everyone must get after a certain age so people know what asses they sound like when they make such insensitive comments... whether it is intentional or not.

    Wow, do I sound bitter or what?! Deep breath in, deep breath out... Om...

    <3 Jill

    P.S. I forgot that they missed one of my favorites. Comments along the lines of "I had (or I know someone who had) several miscarriages and now I (she) can't seem to stop popping out kids left and right, so enjoy your childless moments while you can." Sorry, can't do it!

  6. I can relate to almost all of these. Im delighted for your friend who endured so much (and so many of these sorts of comments) and went on to have her child. These stories dont do too much to stoke my personal fires of hope, only because statistically, my chances remain the same. But I do suppose stories like these keep me going. Not making me think that somehow the statistics are different because I know of some people who have had good outcomes, but just knowing what people can go through without cracking. I wanted to add something that really bothers me, and that is anyone who says "at least". At least is never appropriate for people who have miscarried, lost infants, or are suffering infertility. At least you didnt miscarry later. At least you know you can get pregnant. At least you didnt have worse complications.