First of all, I am just so sorry that
your baby died and that you are now facing such sorrow. The grief that comes
after a miscarriage can be hard to talk about, even with your closest friends.
But if you're anything like me, after I lost my first baby at 19 weeks, I was
desperate to talk about him. So I just starting telling his story. I muddled
through many painful conversations, but it was an important part of my grieving
process, and I learned a lot along the way. So if you are feeling the need to
speak out about the loss of your baby, but you don't know how to start, here
are some gentle ideas from someone who has been there.
1. Tell the story. It didn't take
long for me to realize that nobody was going to ask me about the day that Ethan
was born, not because they didn't care but because they didn't want to seem
nosy or make me cry. But I wanted
to tell his story. So I did. I just started talking, sometimes starting with
the story of finding out we were pregnant. Other times, fast-forwarding to the
day we found out he no longer had a heartbeat. I told them about those moments
in the ultrasound room, seeing his still body on the screen. I told them about
the drive to the hospital, about calling our family and friends. I told them
about his birth, about holding him, about saying goodbye. I learned to quickly
decipher whether the listener felt awkward, queasy or perhaps were even
re-experiencing trauma of their own by listening to my story. So I was careful,
for their sake and for my own, but I was also unashamed. This is my son's one
story. There will be no tales of baseball games or first pets ... this is
all I have. So if people will listen, I will tell his story.
This is my son's one story. There will be no tales of baseball games or first pets ... this is all I have. So if people will listen, I will tell his story.
2. Name your baby and use the
name when you talk about him or her. It can be challenging and
painful to name a child who has died, especially if you do not know the gender
or if you had a name picked out that you now want to save for a future child.
We experienced both of those scenarios. Ethan had a lot of physical
abnormalities when he was born, and it was difficult to tell his
gender just by looking at him. So we originally named him Grace, thinking
perhaps he was a girl. After the genetic testing came back, we changed his name
to Ethan. If he would have lived, we would have named him Gus, but we loved
that name so much that it made us sad to think of the name we loved so much
dying with our child. So we saved it, and now Ethan has a little brother named
Gus. I felt guilty and ashamed about this in the beginning, like we had
devalued Ethan by not giving him our favorite name. But it was important
for me to remind myself that we are Ethan's parents and we had the right
to name him any name for any reason. The same is true for you. I use
Ethan's name every time I talk about him, rather than calling him "the
baby we lost" or "our miscarriage." This makes it easier for me
to talk about him, and it makes it easier for the listener to ask questions. It
reminds us all that we're talking about a real person.
3. Never apologize. A few weeks after
Ethan died, I was at a holiday get-together. A few other women gathered
around me and asked how I was doing. I instantly found myself in tears, saying
things like, "I'm just so sad" and "I thought he'd be here with
me today." Two of the women started to shush me, and not in a
"there, there," comforting sort of way—in a "shh, you're
making a scene" sort of way. I was shocked and hurt. I hadn't even been
crying loudly! But even if I had, they had no right to shush me. My instinct
was to apologize for my tears. But looking back, I realize that I had nothing
to apologize for. I was and still am a mother who lost a child. Of course, I’m
going to cry.
Talking about your loss can be a wonderful, albeit painful and scary, way to heal and ask for support from those around you.
4. Use a conversation starter. I have
a few necklaces with Ethan's name or initials engraved on them. We also have a
couple of framed pictures up in our home in his honor—his name carved in a
tree, a birdhouse hanging from the tree we planted during his memorial service and a Bible verse that reminds us of him. Sometimes people ask what my necklace
says or about the significance of the pictures in our house. I love that
because it gives me a chance to tell them about Ethan. People can't read
our minds and know that we need to talk about our children who have died,
but sometimes an image, a piece of jewelry or a tattoo
can inspire words that otherwise would have gone unsaid.
5. Write about it. Perhaps
you worry that if you talk about your child, you'll cry and won't be able
to stop. Perhaps you are concerned that people won't care enough to listen.
Perhaps you don't want them to ask questions or say insensitive things. So
instead of telling the story verbally, take the time to sit down and write it
out. Post it on your blog or on Facebook. Email it out to people you want to
tell. That way, you can cry with abandon. You don't have to worry about what
people will say. And you don't have to tell the story over and over again. You
can simply copy and paste, adding or removing certain parts based on who you
are writing to. You can be as open or as private as you'd like. But having it
written out will likely help you as you grieve and as you try to
communicate your grief to others.
Talking about your loss can be a wonderful, albeit painful
and scary, way to heal and ask for support from those around you. As you
talk about your miscarriage, you will learn which friends and family
members are your safe havens. And you may notice that each time you tell your
baby's story, it gets a bit easier and the pain feels less raw. That's
healing taking place. And although conversations about my miscarriage are
sometimes awkward and clumsy, each time I tell Ethan's story, it feels
like it's being written more and more deeply on the walls of my
heart—right where I want his story to be.