Remembering Lost Loved Ones

Today is Memorial Day which honors the memory our lost loved ones. In life, we experience many kinds of losses -the deaths of a spouse, child, family member, beloved friend or cherished pet. The loss of a job, a divorce or our children moving away.  Some of these are talked about openly. Others are not.

One loss which is rarely discussed is when a baby dies either during pregnancy or soon after delivery. Maybe you or someone close to you has gone through this.  Whether it occurs early or late in pregnancy, does not lessen its importance or impact on the woman/couple. While losses after 20 weeks are generally more traumatic, this isn’t always so. For couples who are struggling with fertility issues, each failure to conceive is a loss not only of becoming pregnant but also their dream of the child/family they hoped for.

If you’re supporting a woman/couple who’s going through a pregnancy/neotnatal loss, never assume that you know what their experience of grief is. Many times remarks made with good intentions like “These things happen for a reason or  I know things will get better,” are perceived as insensitive and offensive. If you’re not certain what to say, don’t say anything.  When people are grieving, often what they need most is for you to just listen. You cannot take away their pain or make it hurt less but you can support them with love and compassion.

For more, visit By the Brooke, Grieve Out Loud and Share.

4 Comments »

  1. This is such an excellent post! I have worked with so many women who have miscarried and they tell me about the well-meaning, but insensitive comments all the time. I’m so glad you wrote about this!

  2. Thanks Stacey. I think so many people don’t know what to say because of our discomfort with death/loss and as you mention, it makes it even more distressing to the women/couples going through it.

  3. What a weird coincidence this post is! I lost my first baby almost 11 years ago, and I could write volumes about the well-intentioned but awkward things people said to me. I also often felt that people wished I would stop talking about my baby, who I was lucky enough to have 3 1/2 days with before he passed. For a long time, I did try to avoid talking about him and my experiences with/memories of him.

    Then I read a post by mommy blogger, Katie Allison Granju, called something like “Yes, please DO ask me about my recently deceased son!” Her post made me feel validated in ways I didn’t even know I needed to feel validated. It was very freeing, and I decided I wasn’t ever going to keep my life-changing experience with my baby a “dirty secret” that was not to be talked about anymore.

    I recently made a pilgrimage back to the NICU which was the only place I ever got to spend time with Ian. I expected it to be painful and was prepared for that, but it ended up being one of the most meaningful and beautiful experiences I’ve ever had! Memories that were murky and vaguely difficult became clear and shifted into something that wasn’t difficult at all…everything felt very comfortable, comforting, and peaceful. I’m so glad I did this, even though many people thought I was a little crazy to do it, or asking for psychological trouble, or thought I was inviting a nervous breakdown. Now, I will say this: A grieving parent should never do something like this if they have even the slightest qualm or notion that they might not be able to handle it. But for me, it had been 10 years, and I was more than ready, and it was beautiful. And yes, some people still think I’m crazy for doing it. I’m ok with that…I honored my own feelings and needs and the rewards I reaped for it were beyond worth it.

    And if self-care ISN’T about honoring ones needs and feelings, I don’t know what it is.

  4. Thanks Angela for your wisdom and courage to share the experience of Ian’s death and how you’ve dealt with it. I think that keeping loss a “dirty secret” is when it haunts us and we can’t let go. Facing it and commemorating our losses promotes healing. I hope your comment will help other moms/couples face their losses openly so they can recover. Other stories and comments are welcome here.