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What to say vs What not to say

Updated: Feb 23

Whether you are here because you yourself have been privy to some amazing and not-so-amazing comments regarding your loss or because you want to ensure that you are supporting a loved one in the best possible way during this time- this post is for you.

Baby loss is a taboo subject for many- across all cultures and unfortunately TFMR even more so with that said many people don't really know what to say in this environment- and truthfully even just saying that "I don't even know what to say" is better than nothing and better than trying to find a positive and a light in this incredibly dark time. nothing is going to change what these mamas and parents are going through. Nothing will make their baby healthy and nothing will bring them back- acknowledging the gravity of such a loss is imperative for support and love.

Because of the nature of such a loss- what people say or don't say can make for an increasingly difficult situation where others are trying to support. Maybe people are not going about it in the way a tfmr parent would like- because truthfully most just have absolutely no idea.

If you are here because you want to support someone else going through this I commend you. I commend you for taking the time to do your research and to search for sources that can help you navigate trying to support someone you love. This is not easy. This will never be easy. They probably do not even know themselves what they want or need during this time- because truthfully they may just be focused on survival and sanity (whatever that looks like for them). Please remember that saying something is almost always better than saying nothing.

If you are here because you've been there- I hope this post makes you feel a little less alone .I hope you realize that unfortunately, not everyone says the right things- and that can really be difficult to manage. However, some people can really step up and say the most amazing things as well. I think both deserve their moments and explanations.

What to say

I think it is important to note that when you are speaking to someone who's going through loss you explicitly state that a response is not necessary. stating your love and your support whilst also not expecting a response is key. when they are ready they will respond to you- and with that please please respond back. These people are suffering some of the worst pain imaginable and if they entrust enough in you to speak to you please make sure you have the capacity and space to respond to them.

"I don't even know what to say"- honestly this is a great starting point. It highlights the insane gravity of the loss and the experience that these people are going through. When you cannot even begin to imagine to the point where you truly do not know what to say- saying just that while also reiterating your love (key point to add this!) - may be exactly what they need to hear. It may be the validation that so many really crave during this time.

"You don't need to respond but I love you and I am here"- like noted before this can mean the world. Even just check-ins like this that help to give the power back to those grieving but also do not force them to initiate can be really helpful in times of extreme grief and it's not often that one would be upset for receiving a check-in text.

"I want to be there for you. i can do x,y,z. which would be most beneficial at this time?"- speaking from experience when someone just states "Let me know if you need anything" it really puts a lot of pressure on the person grieving. at times they cannot even dictate what way is up or down much less have the emotional capacity to physically tell you what they need, they also may not want to be a burden or expect anyone to do anything. so instead of leaving it open think about what could potentially help them and what you have the capacity to follow through with. do they love coffee- can you bring them a coffee (and sit with them if they are in the space to do so?), can you drop off some groceries or a meal so they do not have to think about how to manage these mundane things, can you help clean or hire a cleaning service, do they have kids? could you take them off their hands for a few minutes so they can have some space to process and properly grieve? do they just need a text check-in so they know someone cares and is thinking of them? do they need someone who can sit with them so they aren't alone? whatever you deem appropriate for you and thus can truthfully offer to the person grieving can be of massive help. they do not want to ask for your help- but truthfully they could probably really use it. if you take the burden of the open-endedness out of "how can I help" they may be more likely to take it.

"I cannot even begin to imagine what you are going through"- unless you have been through it yourself you truly cannot. recognizing that, instead of trying to find common ground, can be monumental. again- the gravity of this situation is beyond what many can comprehend and acknowledging that can be extremely validating

"I would love to and be honoured to hear about *baby's name* and your experience if you would be willing to share at any point"- so many loss moms crave to speak about their baby and their experience. Giving them the safe space to do so, whilst also acknowledging their baby's name can be such an important part of the grief process. If they trust you enough with their story please know how truly special you are to them. even if they are not ready to talk about it right this second, they know that if/when they ever are that you are in their corner and give them space to do so.

what not to say

If you are reading this and think oh sh*t I've said these things in the past. It's ok..most of us probably have in some form. It's truly hard to know what is the right thing at the moment. It is important to remember that people are generally coming from a place of love (even if it doesn't come across as such) and it is important to recognize when you have said something that may have come across in a way you did not mean- to just continue to better ourselves and our support for our loved ones.

"It wasn't meant to be" / "This is all a part of life's plan"- any form of this statement should be deleted from your vocabulary. Referring to the death of someone's baby as something that "wasn't meant to be" is honestly kinda gross. you would never say this to someone suffering from cancer, or who had lost another family member, etc so do not say it now. This can feel completely dismissive of the experience, their baby, and they themselves. while one can hope that the future holds something happier for those struggling, it will never discount the loss they are currently dealing with and will live with for the rest of their lives. they absolutely were meant to be, because they were very much alive and very much loved. unfortunately, the ending was just not what anyone had expected.

"At least you know you can get pregnant"- getting pregnant, maintaining a pregnancy, and having a healthy baby are all separate entities of one another. Hearing this whilst managing the loss of your baby is like a slap to the face. thank you- yes I know I can get pregnant and maybe even potentially do so again, I also know that that did not guarantee me taking home my baby healthy and alive- which is the situation I am currently in. We know we were pregnant. we don't need the reminder- especially when now we are not and should be.

"Well now you can do x"/ "At least now you can ...."- nope. None of this. let's not try and sugar-coat this in any way or form. our baby was sick and now we have had to make the horrendous "choice" (insert eye roll at this word for this situation) to end this pregnancy and say goodbye to our loved baby/ies. there is no positive in this. There is no light. there is no "well now" or "At least". there is just shit. pure shit mixed with the most intense sadness. allow us that. We may not always be in the dark but do not try and find us the light.

"So are you going to try again?"- woof. this one can feel like a doozy. and it's incredible how quickly people feel comfortable asking this. This question comes with a slew of emotions for many post TFMR. deciding to try to conceive again is one of the most anxiety-ridden and emotional things one has to manage after losing their baby- who they wholeheartedly had expected to be here. the thought of starting over in this process, especially when it is not always an easy or straightforward one at that, can be extremely triggering. the layers behind a TFMR- the circumstances these people may find themselves in-may be so much more than you know. If they choose to try to conceive again or not is their business- not yours- they will share this with you if they so choose to.

Ok let's be honest here friends- this list (both good and bad) could go on and on for forever. but in general, people truly have no idea what this is like- how could they? and while we are thankful that most do not ever have to know this kind of pain- the fact that we do can be a really lonely place to be and can often be very misunderstood.

So it is my hope that the more we can be open around TFMR and baby loss overall- the more comfortable society can become with the fact that this situation is a reality. hopefully, they can be open to learning how to support those of us going through this and hopefully, we can help to bridge this gap. we need to. So here's to less of the 'what not to say' and more of the 'what to say'- because at the end of the day, we just need to know we are loved and supported.


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