As the second Wyatt’s Day approaches, honestly faster than what I’m ready for, I’ve been trying to focus more on the joy he brought me and the face I can give to this unspoken sadness instead of just burying myself in tears.
I have met so many great people through this journey thus far and will probably continue to meet more. It isn’t in a playgroup where we all gloat about how proud we are of our little cuties, even though we are proud to be their parents. It is a group that shares tears, laughs, and stories. It is a group that sometimes feels just like best friends that you’ve always known and other times strangers so far apart, yet eternally connected. One thing that always compels me as I hear other stories is not their story, so much, but the reactions that they receive. I am a hopeless optimist. Yes, even in the deep well that is my life, I still find it hard to believe that there are people that have no stitch of humanity in them. In the very short two years since Wyatt’s death, I have heard an unbelievable amount of sayings and phrases that honestly made me want to punch the person who said it. Don’t worry; no one has walked away injured! I am beyond blessed and grateful that I have such a supportive love around me. I’m not even just talking about my friends and family. I definitely won the compassion lottery from people. Of course, I still have those I encounter that force me to say a Hail Mary in 2 seconds flat, but for the most part, I’ve been shown nothing but love. I grew up in a town that wasn’t super small but small enough that you knew a lot of people. I live 15 minutes and work 5 minutes from my hometown, so I still see many of those I grew up knowing. I attend the same church that I’ve attended since moving here in 1990. Love….from all of those people. I say thank you for each of them every night.
Even with all of that love, some people have said things that really rubbed me the wrong way. I just grinned and said thank you; although, if you could have heard what I was saying in my mind, “thank you” was nowhere to be found. I always knew that it came from a place a love so I never fought back. I know that I put myself out there more than most people about being a bereaved parent. That definitely opens me up to everyone’s opinions and thoughts. I can handle it; I have; and I will continue to do so. As I talk with other parents like me, my heart breaks when I hear about how they have little to no support from even their family. If we can’t fall onto our family and closest friends, then who? If you are reading this post, you know me and have potentially done some of these do’s and don’t’s. Unfortunately, I am probably not the only person you know that has lost a baby by miscarriage, stillbirth, or early infancy. This list does not include all phrases or actions to do or avoid. It is a little snapshot to maybe help point some of you in a differernt direction.
1. LET THEM GRIEVE HOW THEY WANT! – This is first, because this is most important. Even if you have lost a child, you don’t know how they feel. You have a better idea, but every person, every baby, every situation is different. If you haven’t lost a child, you don’t have a leg to stand on. The only time that you should try to redirect how someone is grieving is if it is causing harm to themselves or someone else. Grief is a process. You may think that they’re “over it.” I promise you, they aren’t.
2. AVOID “God needed another angel” or “He/She is in a better place.”- Leave the Lord out of it unless you are offering to pray for them. If the parent brings it up, then you can but tread lightly. I grew up very devout and clung to faith through many trials, but I was angry at God in the beginning. The last thing I needed was someone telling me how my son was needed elsewhere than with me. Some people instantly reach to their faith to pull them through and they may be alright with you throwing the Jesus card around, but to stay on the safe side, find something else to say. “I’m praying for you; I’m sorry” are usually pretty safe.
3. JUST BE THERE- Seems too simple, right? Often times, simplicity does more for the soul than anything else. If they don’t want to talk but don’t want to be alone, be there. If they want to cry or scream, be there. If they want to talk about their child or what happened, be there. Listen. It is horrible feeling to be alone in a crowded room. That’s really what my first month felt like. Afterwards, everyone’s life went on and that crowded room was no more. I didn’t need a lot of people; I really didn’t want to be around a lot of people. I knew I still had that handful of people that were JUST THERE for me.
4. AVOID bringing up that at least they have other children or that they can always have more.- Don’t get me started on what these phrases do to me and many other parents that I know. Those parents are yearning for a child that they will never have in their arms again. Those parents are so aware that they have other children or that having other children is possible, in one way or another. Thank you for stating the obvious. Parents want the child that they just said goodbye to. Many people told me “at least you have Barrett to distract you.” Really? No matter how wild my then 2 year old was, no amount of mayhem made me forget that I just buried my other child. That wasn’t and isn’t Barrett’s job anyhow. His role was to be Barrett and enjoy being a little boy, which he does thoroughly.
5. REMEMBER THEIR CHILD – This doesn’t mean that you have to mention their child every time you speak. Just acknowledge that their child existed. My best friend mentions all 3 of my boys when she is talking about my kids. It is that simple. If you are really close to the parents, you may want to do something small for them on their child’s birthday or day that they died. A card in the mail just to say hi and you’re thinking of them speaks volumes. A text or call is nice, but sometimes that extra effort of doing something different might mean more. I love a good cupcake and my best friend knows it. An unexpected cupcake would make my day. In the hustle and bustle of everyday life, things and people get forgotten. It means so much when parents realize that they aren’t the only ones thinking of their baby.
Often times, people are fearful to say or do anything. From my experience, my advice is to do something. Don’t step outside of your comfort zone; otherwise, it won’t be sincere and everyone will know. Grieving is messy and loving someone that is grieving can be equally as messy. There is no recipe for how to help those hurting, and I think that is a good thing. When in doubt, just ask them. You might be surprised how willing those hurting people are to help you help them and never forget to just love them. Love them from afar; love them close up; love them when they’re not looking; love them for who they are in that moment and every moment after. With Love- Heather