“Before you tell a grieving parent to be grateful for the children they have, think about which one of yours you could live without?” – author unknown.
This quote has made a few loops around the fellow child loss community. It is probably one of my favorites, because it is one of my favorites, I share it quite often. Personally I think it sums up many insensitive comments that we loss parents face quite often. This isn’t really snarky, well actually that depends on what you consider snarky, and it educates in way that makes people think “hmmm I didn’t think of that.”
I shared this quote a few weeks ago and a fellow loss Momma commented. She suggested that we should try not to be so sensitive to the comments of other people, most of them are just trying to help and do not know what to say. She also suggested that loss parents should “rise above bitter comments.”
I read her comment closely several times. It didn’t appear she was trying to be snarky. I do not think she was being rude. I honestly believe she was attempting to be helpful. Also, She did have a good point. Most people do mean well.
Let me say that again.
Most people do mean well.
Most people do not know what to say.
Child loss is a sensitive topic, many people fear approaching it.
It is too hard.
It is too scary to think about.
A child dying?? A baby dying??
Many people will choose to put it out of their minds quickly.
Most people will say the first thing that comes to their minds when faced with the grieving family.
After we lost David, I often felt like people purposely avoided me. They saw me in the grocery store or at church, quickly turned around and ran in the other direction. Okay, well maybe they didn’t run, but it sure seemed like they couldn’t get away from me fast enough.
I do not really know which one I preferred more after David’s death. Those who avoided me and Ben or those who tried to make it better by commenting insane comments.
“It just wasn’t meant to be.”
Actually God’s word says “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.”
God doesn’t make mistakes. David wasn’t a mistake and I believe God creates every child with a purpose. So try again.
‘”God needed another angel.”
Humans do not become Angels when we die. We are below the angels.
“But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.” Hebrews 2:9. So try again.
“At least you know you can have children.”
Yes, exactly what every women wants when they spend over a year trying to conceive and MONTHS carrying a child inside of them. The KNOWLEDGE that they can conceive. So try again.
“Oh you have two more children now, be thankful for them.”
Trust me. I am more than thankful and grateful for my two beautiful blessings. That does not mean I no longer grieve David. That does not mean I forget about him or hurt any less because he died.
These comments do not even begin to describe the many insesitive comments I and many other loss parents face. But these comments, they usually are not said with malice intent.
So yes, this fellow loss Momma did have a point. Most people mean well.
However, I also believe most people are open to being educated. After all God does tell us in his word to watch our tongues, it has incredible power.
“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt so that you may know how to answer everyone.” Colossians 4:6
“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Ephesians 4:29
“The soothing tongue is a tree of life, but a perverse tongue crushes the spirit.” Proverbs 15:4
“From the fruit of their mouth a person’s stomach is filled; with the harvest of their lips they are satisfied. The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” Proverbs 18:20-21
These are just a few scriptures concerning what God says about the power of the tongue and what we say.
Most people, when their eyes are opened, can understand how what they say hurts, regardless if it was unintentional “yes I see how that comment would hurt someone even more, someone who is already hurting so badly right now. That was not my intent.”
I believe most people are inherently good and want to be helpful.
I also believe that loss parents should not have to “keep quiet and accept these harsh comments.” Not when educating gently is an option.
That is why I share about child loss, even when it makes other people uncomfortable.
That is why I wrote the book Faith Actually; Living Life After Tragedy, even when it was painful to write.
I pushed through that pain in an attempt to educate those who do not know what child loss feels like. Those who, hopefully, will never experience the unfathomable pain of watching your child slip from Earth.
I believe those people still want to know what is the appropriate way to approach the subject of child loss. It is a possibility that one day they or someone they love will have to face this tragedy, it is always a good idea to know how to help not hurt.
The truth is there is no one way to grieve. Every person grieves differently. Some people grieve by keeping it inside. Some people need to talk about it. Some people grieve for a long time. Some people choose to see the bright side and build a brighter future. There is no wrong way. There is your way. One may choose to look at the bright side, encouraging others to see the bright side. Which is what I believe this fellow loss Momma was trying to do. I remember the dark side though. I also know that many people need that dark side to be acknowledged. They need the comfort of knowing someone understands. There can be sunshine after child loss but there is also a whole heck of a lot of rain. Some thunder and lightening thrown in there too. If we only choose to accept and acknowledge “happiness always” then we aren’t really helping anyone. Are we? That mentality reeks of “shut up and get over it quickly.” Which is never okay to say to a loss parent.
You see, when I share and write about child loss, I choose to write about the painful moments, the uncertainty, the hurt, the reality of child loss because I remember what it is like to be at the end of my rope and to have no hope.
I do not share out of bitterness. I share because I believe, no I know. there is hope. However, that hope didn’t come right away. I found it after a process.
I remember the night I begged God to take my from Earth. I remember, like it was yesterday, what it felt like to not want to live anymore. I wanted to be with my son. I begged and begged God to take me. I wanted to waste away in my bed until I was no more. I gave it some good thought. How hard would it to be to choose to just not get up? I choose to share that reality, the reality that was mine, because I know so many other loss parents out there have faced or are facing the exact same feelings and torment. Wrestling with the desire to no longer exist.
I do not share out of bitterness. I share because I know I am not the only one.
I am not the only one to face the insensitive comments from strangers and friends a like. I am not the only one to face living with the painful reality that your child will never be with you on this side of eternity again. I am not the only one to face having to wake up everyday and figure out how to walk through life without your child.
This is the reality for so many people, women and men included, because it takes two to make a child.
When I share, I share in attempt to educate, not to be bitter.
Because I am not bitter.
I actually have never been bitter.
I have been hurt yes, excruciatingly so.
When a loss parent shares something in an attempt to educate, do not jump to the conclusion that they are bitter. Most of the time, it is an attempt to share what their reality is. Do not tell them to hush and get over the bitterness. Do not try to make their feelings invalid because they are not the same as yours. Their feelings are valid just the same. They need to be able to share those feelings. To heal and to educate.
My goal is to share with those who are curious how to be gentle and how to be kind o fellow loss parents, on purpose, with thoughtful intent.
That is all we actually want.
And in case you are wondering, I will continue to share this quote 😉
Until next time xoxo,