Q&A: What Helped & What Didn’t

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QUESTION

What Helped & What Didn'tWhen it came to how people reacted and how they treated you around the time of your loss, what things did they say or do that helped you, and what where the things they said or did that were not helpful or were hurtful?

(Note: All answers are from members of our community’s private support group.)

 

ANSWERS

What Helped

  • It was helpful when people asked me what happened, what was wrong with the baby and what we’d been through. I needed to talk about it.
  • Simply asking, How are you doing? and offering a shoulder to cry on.
  • People being brave enough to drop in and say hello how are you, or calling on the phone, just not being afraid to talk to me.
  • My doctor crying with my husband and me.
  • Our Catholic priest saying there was a time to pray for death.
  • Receiving, from my husband, a remembrance present in honour of my daughter every Christmas.
  • It helped me when people cried with me. Some thought it might upset me more to see them cry, but it didn’t. It showed me I was not alone in my grief.
  • It was, and still is, helpful when people send ‘thinking of you’ cards.
  • My father telling me that he loves me no matter what.
  • My mother phones me every year on my daughter’s birthday to see how I am doing and what I did that day to celebrate my daughter’s short existence in our lives.
  • I appreciated it when people took the time to ask my husband how he was doing. Often people would forget that he lost a baby, too.
  • It was helpful when people brought us dinners that we could just pop into the oven. They didn’t ask what we wanted to eat, they just brought food we could easily make, sometimes it was even left on the porch.
  • It was helpful when people just gave me a break and didn’t expect me to be as on top of things as I usually was … when they didn’t get mad when I couldn’t commit to engagements.
  • It helped me when someone simply said, I am very sorry. I don’t know what to say. I felt it was honest.
  • When someone sent flowers.
  • I am always so touched when someone remembers the anniversary.
  • What would be incredibly helpful would be for my husband to say something, anything, to let me know I am not the only one who remembers.
  • I work in a very large office, where just about everybody knew of my circumstances. On my first day back at work, I was heartsick, to say the least. One attorney came up to me while I was sitting in my chair—obviously not knowing what to say—he bent down, kissed me on top of the head and walked away. That simple gesture meant the world to me and I will never forget it.  When in doubt, a hug or  simple touch can work wonders.
  • I had lots of friends who were pregnant at the same time as me. It was very difficult for me when it came time for their baby showers and for their births. Some of my friends told me not to feel pressured to be around them or their baby until I was ready. They were sensitive to how being around pregnant people and newborns would make me feel. They said they’d still be my friend, even though I couldn’t yet see them in person or talk about their babies with them. They knew that I’d be ready someday, and they were willing to wait until I could handle it.
  • It is wonderful when nearly three months later people still ask me how I am doing. It makes me feel like they haven’t forgotten.
  • Telling my church and allowing myself to receive their support and kindness helped me heal.

What Didn’t Help

  • Continuously being asked why my baby developed with this defect, to the point where I felt interrogated. Things like What did you do during your pregnancy to cause it? or Were you taking drugs or not eating right? After a while I felt as though I had to defend myself, or somehow prove that what had happened to my baby was not my fault.
  • My mother-in-law saying, in an irritated tone, “Well, we don’t have anyone on our side of the family with these problems,” as if she placed all the blame on me.
  • When a woman loses a child, especially because of a serious defect, the first thing she feels besides sadness is guilt. Unfortunately, anything you say to her or questions you ask that could possibly seem like blaming her for this tragedy will cause her to feel that guilt even more acutely. Don’t think for one minute that she has not wracked her brain trying to find the reason for it already.
  • Comments like, You will have another chance, It was God’s will, You can try again, At least you were able to get pregnant or  At least you have other children. I wanted this child.
  • Comments from people saying if they were me, they would carry the baby to term and beg God to heal it.
  • Anyone questioning the “accuracy” of prenatal our tests. We had more than one, you know.
  • A friend told other friends what had happened after I asked that it be kept private.
  • Being told that kids with the same defect mine had “are beautiful children” as if their suffering was beside the point.
  • It did not help when people said nothing to me about my loss. They may have said nothing because they didn’t know what to say, but it made me feel like they were denying that my baby ever existed.
  • People saying, I would have done the same thing. This hurt me because it made it seem like our choice was simple, which it was not.
  • Not being acknowledged as a mother on Mother’s Day. I have carried and lost three children (two terminations and a miscarriage). Have I not earned the right to be called mother?
  • People saying what “great things” could be done with surgery. Doctors can’t just fix everything.
  • Saying they knew how I felt when they haven’t been through this.
  • Trying to talk about my daughter and my experience and someone immediately changes the subject to something “safer.”
  • Saying God never gives us more than we can handle.
  • Saying, It’s time to move on, or, Aren’t you ever going to put this behind you?
  • One of the hardest things to deal with is those who think they know what is best for us and/or the baby. How do they know what was better? Had they felt her constant kicking? Had they seen her moving around on the sonogram? Had they carried her for 22 weeks?
  • A friend who was angry that we did not tell her what happened right  away. She felt she was entitled to know. After I broke down and told her, she acted as though she were truly sorry. After we became pregnant with our second child, I found out she  told a mutual friend that she did not know why we bothered to become pregnant because I couldn’t have the last one.  As if it was my fault, like I did something wrong.
  • After I ended my pregnancy, someone said to me, “One positive thing to think about is that so many other people have been through this same thing and survived, so you will too.” Even though it’s true, it didn’t really didn’t help my healing process.
  • Saying we should stop trying to have children, that this was a sign that we were not meant to have more children.
  • Being told, What doesn’t kill you will only make you stronger. It’s horribly inappropriate.

 

 

Image: The Necklace by John William Waterhouse {Public Domain}