Sometimes, even the kindest, most well-intentioned individuals can say the wrong things, especially to loss parents. It’s understandably difficult for non-loss parents to know what to say around those who’ve experienced the death of their baby or child, so they unknowingly end up using phrases that can sting. Knowing what to say becomes even more complex when the bereaved announce that they’re expecting another child after their loss. Since announcing my own PAL (pregnancy after loss), I’ve felt the bite of some of those seemingly innocent words. Those words cause pain and can be impossible to forget once heard. Here are just a few of them, in my opinion, that might best be avoided:
1. You’re Going to Be Great Parents
The first time I heard this after announcing that we were expecting a rainbow baby, it knocked the wind out of my sails. Meant as a compliment, it’s something that many people automatically say to someone when they’re expecting their first child. This is unintentionally insulting to loss moms and dads, because a rainbow baby isn’t their first child. I felt so invalidated and dismissed in my existing bereaved parenthood, and had a tough time getting past how that made me feel. My husband and I became parents when our first baby was growing within me, and we’ve been parenting in our own ways since then. Losing our child didn’t take our parenthood away, it simply changed the ways we’ve been able to parent. Don’t say this, because loss parents are already parents.
2. Boys/Girls Are So Much Easier
This is one to avoid saying around PAL moms and dads, especially if you’re referring to the opposite sex of the baby they lost. In my case, we lost our baby girl and are now expecting a boy. The proclamation of “Boys are SO much easier!” is bothersome because it implies that we dodged something dreadful when we lost our daughter or that we’re getting a better deal now. My husband and I would happily have “put up with” the alleged difficulties of having a girl. While we are so excited to bring our little girl’s baby brother into our family, we still miss her, and know how much we’re missing without her in our world. This also hurts because we may never get the opportunity to know which is “easier” for ourselves.
3. I Wish My Child Would Stay Little Forever
No, no you don’t wish this. One of my children will stay little forever, and I’d give anything to change that. Bereaved parents do know that this phrase is a sentimental one, meant to express the delight of babyhood and the toddler years. We really do get that, but it’s a painful sentiment to hear, and one that only reminds us of the fact that our child will indeed be forever young. Watching our next child change and grow older is my greatest wish.
4. Don’t Worry, This Baby Will Be Fine
For many PAL parents, this statement is difficult to hear. After losing a baby, we know that there are no guarantees; we’ve already experienced every parent’s worst nightmare. There’s no way of knowing that it won’t happen again. Telling a PAL mom or dad not to worry is a waste of breath- the worry is always there. While we’re experiencing hope and joy with the anticipation of a rainbow baby, we’re simultaneously experiencing fear and intense anxiety. The innocence of former pregnancies is gone, and until we have our living, screaming baby in our arms, we will worry, and even then, it will continue.
Remember that although loss parents may seem so strong, we are also very fragile sometimes. It helps so much when those around us speak thoughtfully.
Jessica Orlaske is the mother of beautiful little Lucy Rose, whom she was only able to spend a precious day with after suffering a placental abruption. Though the loss of Lucy has transformed her life into one of heartache and challenges, Jessica continues to search for Lucy’s light in all things and find ways to honor her sweet daughter with love and kindness. She has found healing through writing and sharing her story with others.