This week we are sharing some of the things that people said to us while we were in the throes of grief…for better or for worse. (My original post is here.)
I began grieving on December 15, 2008, which was the day I found out that Carleigh had anencephaly. I grieved for so many things-lost hopes, lost dreams, lost innocence. Those things were all crushed that day. In the midst of my devastation, I had a lot of people who reached out to me with love and support. In the midst of all that support though words were said that weren’t helpful and or appropriate in my opinion.
The first one that always sticks out plainly in my mind are the words “I’m sorry for your loss”. Now, these words are perfectly fine if your baby has died but my baby was still very much alive and I hated hearing those words. I lost a lot of things that day but I did not lose my daughter. Of course, I understand that people were just trying to be supportive and prolly didn’t know what to say but felt like they had to say something. You don’t need a lot of words to show a person that you care. I find that keeping it simple is often best when at a loss for words. Just saying “I’m sorry” is good enough.
I think what people need to realize is that there are no words that will make it better. There are no words that will take away the pain of finding out your child won’t live or losing a child. The impact of these moments will always stay with a person no matter how much time has passed. They will never forget and they often don’t forget both the supportive and the unsupportive things and words during that time. I certainly haven’t forgotten.
Other things that I have heard include “everything happens for a reason”, “God doesn’t give you more than you can handle”, “it was God’s will/plan”, “Heaven has another angel”, etc. None of these statements were helpful to me at all. I don’t think they give an ounce of comfort, especially when a person is freshly grieving. When a person is grieving they don’t need to hear your platitudes. I am guilty of saying these things in the past but I make sure I never say them now because I know it does nothing to help the person grieving. I say this as a person who does believe that Carleigh was part of God’s plan for us. When you are in a place where your heart is hurting and you don’t understand and it all seems so unfair those words can hurt.
I consider myself lucky that I have not encountered hurtful words that have been said to some of my friends. Words like “it’s time to move on/get over it” or “you can just have more children”. Those are just two of the many I have heard through others. I know these words come from a place of ignorance. If you haven’t lost a child you may not realize that there is no getting over it and that having more children doesn’t replace the one(s) that died. I think many people just want us to be back to ‘normal’ but what they fail to realize is that the people we once were don’t really exist anymore. I believe over time we can see more of our former selves but it’s never the same. Our actions and thought processes are forever altered. It can be hard to learn how to navigate this new road many find themselves on so please be patient.
I have learned a lot through my own grief on what is helpful and what isn’t helpful in comforting others. But sometimes I’m still at a loss for words. Even though I may not have the right words I know some things will always be right like a hug, a card, or simply telling a person you are thinking of and/or praying for them.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4