Every year, 26,000 babies are stillborn in America. In 2003, one of them was my son.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

A Letter to Family and Friends: What Not to Say after a Stillbirth

*I've written on this topic before, but it's an important one, so I'm doing it again in the hope that families and friends of couples who have a stillbirth will find it and educate themselves on what not to say to those who have suffered a loss.

Dear Family and Friends,

     Please don't tell me that my baby's death was for the best. I miss that child more than I could ever say, and the death of a much loved, much wanted child is never for the best.
     Please don't tell me I have an angel watching over me. I don't want an angel, I want my son. If I have living children, please, please don't say, "Well, at least you have your other child(ren)." Children aren't interchangeable, and though I know how lucky I am--and I am so very grateful for those children--my heart is permanently broken because my new baby is gone. You wouldn't tell me, if a sibling died but I still have living brothers and sisters, "Oh well, you still have your other siblings." Would you? People are not interchangeable.
     Please don't tell me I can always have another. You don't know that, for sure. Another pregnancy may not be possible for me, and even if it is, another child will never take away the hole in my heart left by this baby's passing.
     Please, don't tell me my child died "for a reason." What possible reason could he had died for? There is no reason on earth that could make his death feel better for me, ever. Babies aren't supposed to die.
     If you don't know what to say, simply say "I'm sorry. I'm thinking of you and I hate that this happened."Don't be frightened of my tears, and don't think that if I cry you have brought up the sorrow--it is always there, and I am most likely crying every day. I need to cry. It's part of my healing. Allow me that.
     I will never get over this. I will survive the intense sorrow and pain, but I will carry my child's death with me all my life. Every Mother's Day, every Father's Day, the holidays, the anniversaries and birthdays not shared will hurt. Please remember them, and remember my child. Speak his name. Saying my child's name is one of the greatest gifts you could give me, for I don't want him to be forgotten.
     I am not going to be the same person you knew before. Respect that. In the first year, I will not want to attend baby showers, see babies, see pregnant women, will not return to life "as normal." Give me time and space to return to the world as I am able.
     Let me know that you are thinking of me, with phone calls, cards, even e-mails. Understand I may not feel up to replying but I appreciate knowing I have not been forgotten.
     There is no timeline for grief, no magic day when I will be "over it." Please don't tell me to move on; I need time to look to the future, but how much time I do not know.
     Remember this: my child was real; I held him in my arms, took his pictures, kissed his head. I will miss him every day of my life.

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