Over the last decade of infertility, I have received many “words of encouragement” that don’t encourage. Well-intending people, unfortunately, fall short because they don’t know what to say and it backfires. After experiencing this for so long, you learn what is helpful to say, and what isn’t.
After our miscarriage in August 2017, we’ve had to walk our daughter through her grief over the loss of the sibling she wanted so badly.
In the midst of that grief, I’ve been very intentional about saying things that will help her process her sadness and feel validated.
1. “Your feelings are valid, and it’s okay to not be okay right now.” I want my daughter to know that it’s completely normal to feel sad over the loss of her sibling. Sometimes we’re just not okay.
I want her to know that even though we do have a wonderful life and are blessed, that in the midst of everything that is good, sometimes we have sadness to process and it’s okay to not be happy at this moment.
Related: On Sibling Loss: She Grieves Too
2. “There isn’t a timeline on your grief.” At some point in her life, she will be told that she should be over it by now. I’m doing damage control now and reminding her that there is no such thing as a timeline on grief and that we will recognize our loss for the rest of our lives, and that’s okay.
Sometimes things will trigger our feelings unexpectedly, and it could continue another ten years from now. She isn’t expected to be “over it” by a particular time, and that’s okay. We don’t want our grief to dictate every facet of our lives, but it’s normal for it to spring up at any point.
3. “You can talk to me about anything and everything.” Open communication with my daughter is so important to me. She’s on the cusp of turning eight years old, and I know that her desire to turn to us for everything may be short-lived as the teenage years approach. I’m not only keeping the line of communication open but reminding her that it’s always there. I’m never too busy to listen.
4. “You are more than enough for us.” It’s essential that my daughter knows that if we never conceive again: she is enough for us. Yes, it makes us sad that someone is missing from the family, but I don’t want her to grow up feeling like she wasn’t enough for us, because the truth is she is all we need.
There is a gray area between grieving over infertility and the baby we lost, and yet also being fulfilled as parents because she is our miracle child that we get to raise. I want her always to know that she is unique and enough.
5. Remember to be kind to others because you don’t know what they are going through. My child has been a victim of bullying this year, which is another story for another day. So not only does she struggle with processing loss (she lost her sibling and two beloved pets in the same year), but she is often treated “less than” by other girls her age.
As much as our grief hurts, it’s become a learning tool for how to treat others with compassion, because we don’t know what they are dealing with, too. My daughter has always been compassionate and a “feeler” for other people.
This experience has heightened it ten-fold and has taught her the importance of spreading kindness.
If you’ve stumbled upon this article because you’re struggling with how to support a child through grief, I’m so sorry. These are the things I tell my daughter when she confides in me how much she’s hurting, and they seem to help.
Sometimes I don’t say anything.
Sometimes I hold her while she cries and listen to her speak, while silently praying words of peace and healing over her.
Sometimes the best thing to do is listen, and that’s okay, too.
Photo by: Samantha C. Photography
Jessi and her husband Glenn have spent their 11-year marriage navigating infertility. Between her PCOS and his male-factor infertility, they have struggled immensely to grow their family since the beginning. They share one daughter conceived from fertility treatment (born 2010) and had one surprise miracle pregnancy after five+ years of TTC that ended in a devastating miscarriage (2017). Jessi writes about conquering infertility, embracing motherhood, recovering from a miscarriage, and her faith on her blog Life Abundant, on Facebook, and on Instagram.