After we lost Carter, I looked at a lot of articles on what not to say to a grieving parent so that I would know what kind of things to anticipate hearing. People say things with the best intentions, but even now, after losing baby #2 and hearing all these things yet again, they still hurt. If you've lost a baby (or anyone in your life, really), you know the things that hurt: everything happens for a reason, God needed another angel, you're young and can have more babies, you can always adopt, it's for the best...there are too many to count. If you are someone that has said one of these things, don't kick yourself; it's hard to find the "right" thing to say. Rather than tell you what not to say, here are some pointers that might help when you're trying to find the right words.
- Talk to them about their child. Nothing hurts more than being avoided by family or friends because they don't know what to say. Just because we lost someone doesn't mean we aren't human. Interact with the grieving parent like you normally would. If they seem down, ask them how they are doing. If their child comes up in a conversation, DO NOT steer away from that topic. If you aren't sure what to say to them, let them talk. I guarantee they would love to talk about their child.
- Let them know you are thinking about them and their child, but specifically, their child. It's really hard to be a parent and not be able to share pictures of your growing baby with family and friends. It's terrifying to think that people might forget about the child that got taken too soon.
- If you want to help, just do it. We've all read articles about how saying "let me know if I can do anything" is not the right thing to say. If you want to help, take them dinner, take over a stack of movies you think they might like, give them a gift card to an activity of sorts. If you really want to help, just do something, anything, but don't ask what you can do. They are already making a lot of decisions, one more may just add to the stress.
- Acknowledge their child! First time parents are still parents, even if they lose their child before, during, or after birth. Unless they tell you otherwise, include the lost child when you are counting the number of children in their family. Send them a message on their child's birthday. Let them know that even though you can't physically see their child, you remember their presence.
- Try to accept that sometimes things just happen. If a parent loses a baby and no cause is found, do not poke and prod asking questions like "Did you have to much caffeine? Did you lift something heavy? Did you fall down?" The parents have spent day after day asking themselves what they did wrong, they don't need people adding to it. If they know what happened and feel comfortable sharing it, they will do so.
- If you don't know what to say, don't. Unfortunately, there are a lot of "wrong" things to say, and only a few "right" things. If you are struggling to find the right thing to say to someone, just give them a big hug and tell them that you've been thinking about them and their child. Honestly, sometimes it's better to say next to nothing than to say the wrong thing. Don't just do nothing, but if you're unsure what to say, don't try to overcompensate. A simple gesture is enough.
- Don't treat them like they are an empty eggshell waiting to be broken. They are still your coworker/friend/family member/neighbor. Interaction is still possible without constant puppy dog eyes. But at the same time...
- Be thoughtful and understanding and patient. Losing a baby is really hard, and it's not just something they can "get over." Be understanding when they go through each wave of emotion. Don't be offended if they get angry or if they are quiet. Just understand that each and every emotion they experience is acceptable, and it is normal for them to have "off" days.
- Be there. This one is simple, just be there for the parents. Make it known that you are always there if they need something, or if they just need to talk. There is no such thing as too much time spent talking about the one they lost, so the more ears that are available, the better.
Keep in mind that these are just some of the things Brandon and I feel have helped us; everyone is different. The best thing you can do is try! If you have experienced a loss, what are some things your family and friends have done to help you through the hard time? Leave your response in the comments, you never know who will benefit from it!