Wednesday, September 7, 2011

What to say to a woman after a loss

Today is another sad day. I'm not sitting around and crying or anything... but I just don't have any joy. Like yesterday, I just don't have any desire to get out of my pajamas. I probably wouldn't even be out of bed yet if it wasn't for my (early rising) kids. I just... feel... like there is a huge void in my life right now. And then I feel guilty even admitting that, because I have been so blessed with a home and a husband and two beautiful children. I love my family... I just feel like a piece of me died with Samuel.

I'm constantly shifting back and forth between emotions. I feel sad. And then that sours to anger and bitterness at the hospital and at insensitivities. And then I feel self-pity. Why did this happen to me?? And then I feel guilty for feeling that way! I think: "Some people have it so much worse, it's not appropriate for me to grieve this way..."

Studies show that any pregnancy loss, whether at 6 weeks or 36 weeks, can trigger the same grief response in parents. That makes me feel just a tiny bit less crazy for feeling so deeply.

People can really be so hurtful.
When I reached out to my mom for help (I was so exhausted and physically incapable of caring for my children), she said "no offense... but maybe it's a good thing that you're not having a third baby since you're having a hard time taking care of the first two." OUCH!! that hurt on so many levels and I just started crying in front of her.

Later that day, we went out to lunch with my sister-in-law. She had just delivered my baby niece the week before (4 days after the miscarriage). She exclaimed without thinking "Oh, I'm so glad I'm not pregnant anymore so I can eat this hotdog!" I didn't say anything, but that hurt so deeply. I WISHED with my entire being that I was still pregnant!!!

A coworker told me (2 weeks after the miscarriage): "Not to be crass, but it is what it is and you just have to move forward and put it behind you."

The ultrasound technician right after she told me that my baby had no heartbeat: "Well, at least you already have children. I feel bad for the parents who come in here and have no kids at all." Does that mean that you don't feel bad for me? I just lost a baby, lady! Have some compassion!

If you want to know how to support a woman who has just experienced a pregnancy loss, here are some ways to show your love without putting your foot in your mouth!:
*Just simply say "I'm so sorry." No need to say anything else!
*Just tell the mom that you are there to listen. She might not feel like talking at that moment, but knowing that it's ok to talk to you is such a comfort! By the time I actually felt like I wanted to talk about it, it seemed that nobody wanted to hear about my story and I felt so lonely.
*Hold her hand or give her a hug. It seems that people are so awkward around grieving parents... just hold them! It makes them feel validated in their grief.
*offer to help! Miscarriage is VERY physically taxing on your body. Making a meal or helping with laundry or child care is HUGE. What a BEAUTIFUL way to express your love! Don't say "just call me if you need help with anything!" This is such a vague statement. I know that in my grieving, the last thing I wanted to do was schedule who was going to help when. It's also a pride issue to ask for help when you irrationally feel guilty for feeling the way you do in the first place. Please just say "I am coming over on Tuesday with dinner for your family and I will babysit your children on Thursday morning from 9-12 AM." Be specific! It really is so helpful.
*Offer to pray for the mother and her family and then actually do it! Lay hands right on the woman and pray over her. Pray for physical healing, not just emotional healing.
*Some of the most meaningful gifts that friends dropped off were: books on grieving. These were very helpful to understand my emotions in the immediate aftermath of the miscarriage. Some good titles include: What Was Lost: A Christian Journey Through Miscarriage and Grieving the Child I Never Knew.
--Another very thoughtful gift I received anonymously in the mail was a sterling silver necklace with a round pendant that has a tiny footprint on it with the reference: "Psalm 139:13" on the front and the words: "Our Little Angel" on the back. Jewelry like this is very personal, and you may not feel comfortable purchasing a gift of this nature... However, I was SO excited to receive this memorial necklace and I wear it every day and I am grateful to have had it given to me so that I didn't have to go out shopping for one myself. I think the act of shopping for a memorial necklace may have triggered strong emotions.
--Also... flowers. I know people say not to give grieving people flowers because fresh flowers eventually wilt and die... but I so wanted someone to give me flowers. I mean, there are flowers at funerals and memorials... I think a beautiful flower arrangement would help to validate the little life that was lost.
*Another fantastic thing you can do is (if she has other children) take her kids to a playground or on a fun outing. I remember feeling so terribly guilty that my kids were watching SO much TV because I could not get off the couch. I felt like they were missing their entire summer. Giving her other children some loving will really make her feel better! And, it gives her time to rest without distraction.
*Attend or create a small memorial service for the baby. Again... anything to validate the life that was lost and to validate the mother's grief feelings will be so helpful!
*Contact the mother to let her know you are thinking of her on special days like the due date or the anniversary of the miscarriage. Knowing her baby is remembered is so important! Again... validation of the life. My due date is valentine's day and it is a week before my birthday. I anticipate that will be a hard week for me!

What NOT to say!:
"You're young, you can have more children."
"It's for the best."
"It's God's will."
"Did it happen because you _________ ?" (miscarriage is NOT the mother's fault!)
"Now you are free to do _________!" (go back to school, work that dream job, go on vacation, etc.)
"At least you don't have to give birth!" (This is such a dumb thing to say! A miscarriage often feels like a birth! Mine was more intense than birth, and a LOT of work... I'd much rather have had a newborn to go home with than empty arms).
"You've got to put it behind you and move on. It is what it is."
"At least you weren't farther along." (again, studies show that no matter the gestational age, the grief response is the same).
"At least the baby died before birth so you didn't get too attached."
"It wasn't the right time... you can just have another baby." (yes.. but I wanted THAT baby.)
"When are you going to get over this?"
"I know another woman who had a miscarriage and she was fine with it. Why are you so upset?" (ugh... please, don't compare! Not cool.)
"Oh, I had a miscarriage, too, and I know EXACTLY how you feel!" (this was a really upsetting thing to hear... I'm so sorry for your loss, but with all due respect, you do not know exactly how I'm feeling. Each experience is unique. Please do not say this.)

I don't want to say "if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all" either. This past month has been so incredibly lonely for me. I feel like everyone is giving me so much distance and space... like they're afraid to talk to me. It would be so nice to just have a listening ear... and someone to tell me it's ok to feel this way.

I really wish that no one else had to go through this... but since 1/4 of childbearing women will experience a pregnancy loss at some point, it is unfortunately a common experience (although each miscarriage is completely unique to that woman and you cannot compare). I guarantee that at some point you will know someone who will have or who did have a miscarriage. Please tread carefully! Hopefully this post can help give you insight into the needs of the grieving woman.

Words have power!

No comments:

Post a Comment