There are a million things not to say to a bereaved parent, but some things said, particularly when comparing loss, are just not things a bereaved parent wants to hear.
1. “I’ve had a miscarriage too.”
I know how painful a miscarriage can be; sadly I have been through them too. But please don’t call my daughter a miscarriage. There are so many terminologies out there.
2. “At least she didn’t come home.”
We had been given a discharge date, she was supposed to come home but she didn’t. She was still just over a month old. She mattered. It doesn’t hurt any less.
3. “But she was premature.”
She was premature, yes; at 26+6 weeks; she was born because I, her mother was poorly, my body was making her poorly, but she was born feisty. She squealed and kicked the doctor. She was meant to be ventilated for 10 days but was removed less than 24 hours later. But she didn’t die due to prematurity; she suffered overwhelming sepsis in the final hours of her life. She wasn’t ‘just’ a preemie.
4. “At least you’ve memories and photos.”
This, I have heard a lot. Of course, I’m so glad I’ve photos, and weeks of memories, I’m grateful to each of them. But it’ll never be enough, ever. They are memories, but they’re not proper ones, it was days spent looking through an incubator, days where it felt like she wasn’t even our baby; to stroke, her hair or change her bottom through a blanket of wires. They’re not normal memories, but they are all we have, and more than most.
5. “At least you didn’t get to know her.”
We did only have five weeks with her, and there was so much more we could have learned about our daughter; things that as a parent we should know – like her eye colour, but we don’t. But we had a lifetime of love to give her, but could only show her for five weeks; now we’ve to carry that love forever. We will always be her parents – her family. So no we didn’t get to know her for long. I wish we’d had longer.
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6. Don’t compare.
The medical advances that have occurred over the years are amazing, it is more than amazing on just how more and more premature and sick babies go home. On the same day as she died, it was assumed we lost her to a common condition to hit premature babies (it wasn’t); we were met with “Oh, such and such had that – they survived.” It certainly stuck in my mind; it isn’t overly helpful. It is hard not to compare sometimes. There’s just no comparison.
Don’t forget her.There are some amazing, wonderful campaigns out there for baby loss, talking, breaking the taboo. But mothers like me are often forgotten; the hashtags, the poetry often include only miscarriage or stillbirth; which talking about is so important, but don’t exclude our baby.
There really is nothing “at least” about Baby Loss. Don’t belittle our loss because she lived.
Photo Credit: Author