Acting around people who’ve experienced loss

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Acting around people who’ve experienced loss

Everyone will experience a loss sooner or later… Acquaintances, friends, parents, siblings, and in the worst of cases… children. This is the time when you need the support of your loved ones the most. It’s completely unnatural to lose a child. We were never taught what to do or say. Because although it happens, it’s still rare. Maybe I would have said the wrong things too if I hadn’t lost Sahar, I’ll never know. One thing I know for sure. If I’m ever blessed with rainbows, my children will know what to say and especially what not to say. They will know what to do, and what not to do.

People have baffled me with inappropriate reactions regarding Sahar’s loss. I realize that no one means to hurt me, but in so many cases, they still do. Up until now, I haven’t really reacted to any of these hurtful comments, acknowledging it’s not easy on people around me either. But they still sting, they still hurt, and I can’t seem to forget them… They keep hurting, they make me mad and most importantly, they actually slow down my healing process.

Here’s a few examples:

  • You’re young, you can perfectly have other children, and then you’ll forget
  • It wasn’t meant to be and it’s probably better this way
  • Be grateful, you can actually get pregnant
  • It’s time to let it all go and forget it ever happened, crying isn’t going to solve anything

Another baby will never replace Sahar. If you have 5 children, can you imagine your life with 4? Yes I can get pregnant, but I wanted the pregnancy I lost. I cannot forget. My heart is broken. Sometimes I want to just shout all these feelings of hurt and anger in their faces. But reacting this way doesn’t solve anything. Actually, a reaction like this, might actually harm your relationship with that person. Not saying anything when someone hurt your feelings isn’t the way to go either. That can hurt this relationship too… I might hold a grudge, which is unhealthy. So what can I do then?

I realized that I should actually tell that person that this comment hurt my feelings. That is, without trying to make this person feel guilty or uncomfortable. In a kind, polite manner. It will be a bit awkward at first, but I can try my best to immediately take the awkward feeling away by elaborating:
I know you mean well, but the comment you made is hurtful. I am not mad at you for saying this, because I know you only want to help and you mean well. I just feel the need to share my true feelings with you. Please don’t distance yourself from me because I told you how I feel. Do talk to me, do share your feelings and thoughts. Your comforting words can bring healing to my heart. Just know that this particular wording, though meant well, is hurtful.

I can image some people might feel bad in the beginning and keep their distance, but I’m confident that if they just think about everything I just said, they will understand. Just think of all the advantages… First, you’re helping yourself heal in that very moment by revealing your true feelings, in a constructive manner. Second, this person will think about what he/she’s said and wonder how it would feel if someone said that to them in your situation. And third, they might learn from it, and say something different in the future, that doesn’t hurt, that’s comforting, that suits this difficult situation. And not only to you, but to anyone that has experienced a loss that may cross their path in life. Your sincerity might even strengthen your relationship and help them help. I feel that if I do this, I actually take the pain away from the comment. This way I can forget about it and move on.

Apart from the people that hurt my feelings by accident, there have been lots and lots of people that have really been tremendously helpful (thank you!!!). Here are some comments and words that have helped, from personal experience:
  • I am sorry for your loss, I cannot imagine your pain
  • People speaking Sahar’s name out loud. I hope they will continue to do so in the months and years to come. Don’t feel bad if it makes me cry, they’re tears of happiness, gratitude and love.
  • Acknowledging that every day is a challenge, a battle to survive. A very special thanks to Dorien is in order here. She texts me “Thinking of you today”, or “Sending you peace”, or “Stay strong” when I least expect it, when I need it the most.
  • Remembering important dates. Just a text, a message on Facebook, or an old fashioned post card to have on the kitchen table. I’m thinking anniversaries, holidays, expected due date, mother and father’s day and so on… 
  • Talking about this lifelong grief instead of just life going on, about this new normal, about how this has changed me and my husband
  • When people tell me I am still a mother, and my husband is still a father…

You can find more tips on how to help people who’ve experienced a loss on Carly Marie’s beautiful website. I really hope that sharing my thoughts helped anyone.

UPDATE: I just came across this wonderful post on Still Standing Magazine. If you know someone who’s lost a child, here’s how you can help!


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1 comment:

Loving an angel instead… | Grief cannot be fixed04/08/13 at 8:10 pmReply

[…] often, that I have a pre-programmed answer for them in my mind, and I reply without even thinking. I speak my mind and heart in a polite way, making it clear that these kind of comments are hurtful and don’t help -at […]