2013-06-04

Things Not To Say Or Do To Someone Who Has Experienced A Loss Of A Child/Stillbirth/Miscarriage

As many folks who used to read this blog know, I had a stillbirth back in 2009.  It was one of the most painful experiences of my life.   I have a condition called incompetent cervix, it basically means if I have a kid, my cervix cannot support the weight of a fetus when it gets to be, in my experience about a pound, I go into labor and ultimately lose the fetus.   Over the years I've had a kid, and I've joined a couple of groups dealing with loss via incompetent cervix, and I've made many nice virtual friends.

A lot of times, it seems like you are in a weird, crappy club, the subject sucks, but the people are really nice, and they understand you.  They understand your thought process, they understand we all react differently to the same experiences.  That being said, there are a few things "outsiders" say and do that irk me, and maybe if I list out these issues, I might educate a few people.

1.  People mourn differently for different circumstances.  I've had a miscarriage at eight weeks, and a still birth at twenty weeks.  The process is different.  I mourned my miscarriage, but I mourned more for my stillbirth. I had an attachment to the fetus I had at twenty weeks. I knew the sex of the baby, and the chances of survival had increased, so I was more comfortable with the idea of a baby.   I delivered a child.  I have pictures of that child.  I have a birth and death certificate for that child.   I have her footprints. It was for all intents and purposes a child to me.  It was way different for me than a miscarriage, so please don't treat it as such.  If I were to give birth to a child that had a chance at life, I'm sure my mourning would be more intense, and unbearable, and I'm not going to compare my miscarriage or stillbirth to your loss of your child that you got to nurture, love, and see for however long they lived.   It's not the same.

2. God does not need another angel. If God did, he could have selected a whole bunch of old people ready to die, my kid was not an angel, and you know my views on religion.   This idea is just insane to me, he'd rather take away a potential life than to take something that is tried and proven, like an old person? I don't know, again my atheism my be rubbed the wrong way when I see this stuff.

3.  Just because I have another kid that survived, does not mean I'll get over my other kid.   I love my daughter, she is wonderful, she is great, and I'm thankful for the fact she's here, but it doesn't mean I can't miss and love the child I didn't have.   She is not an alternate to my first child, and she isn't a make up kid or consolation prize.  I would love to have both my kids, not just the one that is here now.

4.  The child I lost was not a genetic mistake. No really, there was nothing genetically wrong with my child. Even if there was something wrong with her genetically, it wouldn't hurt any less to not have her.   Yes I know many times miscarriages and stillbirths and the like do result in genetic abnormalities, but in the case of incompetent cervix, this isn't the case, and it's my cervix, not my child who was flawed.

5.  If you want to know the details of my loss, be kind enough to really want to know and not cringe as I explain to you, yes I gave actual birth to "it".   You want to know, great, I'm happy to share, not everyone is, but I'll share, but don't cringe in pain as if it was a horrible thing to deliver a child. It wasn't.  What's horrible is the lost potential of that child.  The lost experiences I'll never have for that child.

6. My child was not an "it".   She was a baby, and I'll continue to treat her as such, because she was mine.

7.  My loss is not a political discussion on abortion. My experience is not a parable or proof that a fetus is a baby.   It is my experience of loss, and for some other people, it might not be the same thing to them.  There might be circumstances in their life in which this type of experience is not a great loss, and I'm not going to judge someone for that.  My experience is mine alone, that others have their experiences and can mourn or not mourn anyway they like.

8.  Sometimes there is nothing you can say that will make things better.  It's not possible, there are no words that can perfectly convey what a person is going through, even if you are truly and really sorry.  It's not your fault, and it's not your job to fix a person's mourning.   Even though there are no words to make things better, know that if you are there trying to comfort someone in their time of need, they know that and appreciate it, they just might not be able to express those sentiments at that time, and it isn't a slight against you if you're met with silence or a glaring look.   It's the pain they are dealing with,and that pain runs very deep in my experience.

9. If the person who is mourning is acting weird, or you don't understand their motives or emotions, don't be offended or criticize them. As long as their behavior isn't harming them or others, it should be ok.   When I became pregnant three months after my loss, I probably wasn't the most logical person.  People didn't understand why I didn't share my pregnancy until six months in.  They didn't understand why I didn't want a baby shower or gifts.  The reason was, and again I wasn't logical, was I didn't want to get attached to the child I was carrying.  I knew there would be some attachment, but my fears and experiences with pregnancy kept me from wanting to celebrate my child until the child arrived safely in my arms.  I didn't want to be disappointed again, and no I didn't share that with everyone at the time, but it's because I didn't think people would understand, and they probably still don't, and that's ok.

10. You never ever get over loss.  I still to this day cry and mourn my child.  I'm ok with that.   I'm still living life, taking care of my family that is still here, and I still love the child I lost.  I'm not going to get over it.  Yeah  I handle my mourning a bit better now than I did when the pain was still raw and new, but it's still there, and I don't think it will ever go away, yes, even with having a living child.  It isn't an all consuming mourning, and if you're someone who has recently dealt with loss, I'm not going to lie to you and say "It gets better".  It doesn't get better, it just gets more bearable to deal with.   You don't cry everyday.  It won't be on your mind ALL of the time, but it will always be there. It will hit you at the weirdest of times, and you'll feel sad, and you might even cry, but then those moments go away, and you go on with life.

I'm sure there are other things I could add to the list, but these are the big ones in my experience.  I posted this as a result of a friend who is going through a very difficult time dealing with her loss.  She is angry, she is mad, and unfortunately in the internet age, people are seeing her grief, and many people aren't reacting in the most productive way to her pain and suffering.   It does take understanding and it does take patience, just let the person manage the best way they know how.