Thursday, January 14, 2010

What to Say When You Don't Know What to Say

Losing a child is a horrible, horrible thing and the pain only gets compounded when people make insensitive and stupid comments to you. I haven't decided yet though which is worse, having people say something stupid or not having them say anything at all. You know, instead of just saying "I'm sorry for your loss" they look at you with sadness and pity and then quickly look away. Or, they ask in a cheery voice "How are you?" clearly hoping and praying that you will say you are fine and quickly change the topic. After all, if they really wanted to know how you were feeling mere days after losing your child they wouldn't ask in such a chipper tone of voice.

Talking to someone who has just experienced a loss is awkward and I completely understand that. So, my advice is this, just say "I'm so sorry." That's all that is really needed. You don't need to ponder the whys of the universe, you don't need to say that there must have been something wrong with the baby (because does the fact that someone has something wrong with them, perhaps cancer, make anyone feel any better when they die?), you don't need to say that God has a plan or how He needed another angel in heaven, or whatever other platitude you were considering saying. Trust me, none of those things are going to make the person you're talking to feel any better. Knowing that someone is feeling your loss with you and that they are sad it happened may not make them feel better but at least it's not going to make them feel worse. Being available to them and not being too scared to talk about what happened is even better. So many people get a look of fear in their eyes if I even dare to say the words "miscarriage" or "when I lost the baby" or anything of the sort. I need to talk about what happened, I need to talk about my son and I need someone to listen. I don't think that is too much to ask of a friend.

And, one last thing, yes, it is totally appropriate to send sympathy cards. I have been astonished by how few I have received, especially from those that I am close to. I'll admit that in the first few days after our loss I couldn't even bear to open and read those cards. But as the days passed I opened them, read them and wept over the kindness of those people who took the time to send them. I have gathered them all together and they are with Trey's things and I'm certain that over the years there will be times when I pull out his things and go through them and remember. I don't want to just remember the bad, but to remember the caring and kindness that I felt from my family and friends.

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