I have struggled with this on many levels. The silence, especially when I know that certain people know that we experienced another loss, Michael. Or even our first loss, Emily. In my head I think, “Why wouldn’t you say something? Even a simple sorry?” I also have felt and have seen over the course of this past year and a half, people forget and move on. Their lives are not changed or impacted as much because of the death of your baby. Your child. That is sometimes very hard.
And then I was reading a newly released book recently called, “Stillbirth, Yet Still Born,” by Deborah L. Davis. She is a psychologist whom I met last year at a conference in Minneapolis called PLIDA (Pregnancy Loss Infant Death Alliance). It was very soon after Emily died, that I felt this urge, this call to go. I went. And I am so glad that I did. It was the first time since Emily died that I did not feel the need to explain why this death was significant and how it changed our lives forever. Everyone there – doctors, nurses, authors, bereaved parents – got it. They understood. It felt good to be understood. And validated for the feelings that I was having, and continue to have. Anyhow, I am getting a little sidetracked. In this book by Dr. Davis, which includes parts about Emily’s life and death, there is a bereaved mom talking about how after the death of her baby, some people stopped talking to them. And in there she said, “When you feel so different anyway, the last thing you need is being made to feel like a leper. It was then that I realized that expectations were obviously not a good thing. I didn’t want to be angry and bitter. So I learned that, if someone said something kind, then great, and if not, well, I didn’t expect it, anyway.”
Reading those words, I had to reread them several times to really think through a) what exactly they meant and b) if I agreed with them. The thing is, as you know, even though we have lost, we have different experiences. And with that, we grieve differently and are at different points with that as well. So, I do have to say that yes, I have experienced individuals a) not saying anything, b) saying hurtful things without probably intending to do so, c) people saying things that I am not quite sure if they really heard my story of loss and what it all meant and then undermined our loss (I am thinking of a healthcare worker when I say this – another story, another day), and d) ones that knew of me beforehand and others new, that have been a sympathetic ear and continue to truly care and listen. You probably can relate with what I am writing. I have come to a point in my grieving that I am letting go of expectations of others to ask about Emily and Michael, or me for that matter. But, I will say those that do ask and validate our babies, I have grown closer to over the past year and a half. Doesn’t that make sense though?
Think about it. Any loss that you have experienced in your life. Whether it be the loss of a job, a break-up (which is a loss), loss of a parent, loss of a baby and child, loss of anything… Those that were there, and continue to check in on you, you grow closer. Those that don’t, well, your relationship or friendship stops or it just doesn’t grow.
It is sad that in our world, the loss of a baby while pregnant or shortly thereafter does not get as much validation as I (and others) feels it deserves. I remember a group I attended last year, shortly after Emily died, and the facilitator said, “People get more sympathy when their pet dies.” She went onto to say that, “People allow you to grieve as big as the coffin is. They think, you didn’t really know that (your) baby.” Sorry to sound so blunt and to the point. But I feel that those two statements are true on many levels. It’s sad.
And one of the biggest lessons I have learned since Emily and Michael died, “You can’t change people.” You can’t. Some people will care and show their concern. Others may think about it, but won’t say anything. And others, just separate themselves from you, and don’t say anything. Why? I have many ideas. They don’t know what to say. They don’t want to say the wrong thing. They don’t want to be around it, the grieving. It disrupts their “world”. But, I have taken to heart that quote from the bereaved mother above. When someone does say something, great. Focus on that. Nurture that friendship and relationship. Because unfortunately in this area of life, losing a baby or babies, most will not say anything. That’s just how it is. So count your blessings for those that truly show their concern and have those individuals a part of your life. Especially as you grieve. Because grieving, if you haven’t realized this already, is hard work.