Sharing Infant Loss: Three Annoying Social Realities

Sharing Infant loss: Social realities: person holding finger over their mouth to say be quiet

Allow me to address a topic that our modern “happy” world easily dismisses. Are you ready for it? Here it comes: I had a baby who died. I’m a survivor of infant loss. My daughter passed away when she was a day old. This is part of my truth. Yet, I often feel an expectation to stay silent about this truth that’s redefined my entire life. Two years into my grief journey, I’ve realized when sharing about infant loss, loss parents have two options: 1) Omit the facts and pretend it didn’t happen or 2) Learn to feel comfortable with making others uncomfortable.

Conversational Awkwardness

Loss parents are often at the mercy of conversational surprises. They occur consistently, and the predictable nature of others’ reactions can be eye-roll inducing. Here are just two recent ones:

My husband ran into an acquaintance after many years. The old friend asked him if he has any children now. So, there it was: answer truthfully or spare the man from being uncomfortable. Chris shared the loss of our baby girl two years ago along with news of our baby on the way. Predictably, the friend abruptly changed the subject. Moments later the conversation ended.

Related: The “Awkward” In Grief

I attended a Gestational Diabetes class a few weeks ago, and I was first to start the dreaded round-the-table introductions. The command was to share our name and one word that described how we were feeling. “My name is Jessica, and the word I’ve picked to describe my feelings is ‘conflicted’.” I could have left it at that, but I was asked if I cared to elaborate. I had a choice: answer truthfully and make everyone uncomfortable or spare others by omitting the truth. I chose the truth.

I saw the flicker of panic in the dietician’s eyes as she scanned the other pregnant women at the table, worried that I might upset them. I glossed it over, saying I didn’t mean to make anyone uncomfortable or scare them. I felt ‘conflicted’ because I’d lost my first baby so unexpectedly, so I felt I had no right to be bummed with a diagnosis of Gestational Diabetes since I’m lucky to be pregnant again. I shared my truth at the peril of everyone else’s comfort, potentially singling myself out.

These interactions either leave us feeling invalidated or as though it’s our job to make others around us feel better.

Social Media Faux Pas

Social media accounts enable us to share our lives with the world. Best used, of course, to portray the ideals of happiness. We love to click the ‘Like’ button for happy things. I can post a cute photo of my dog and receive 100+ likes. If I post my latest article from Still Standing, I might get 10-15 likes.  Why is it that something I am truly proud of is hardly acknowledged, yet the ordinary things get so much attention? Because infant loss makes everyone uncomfortable. People scroll on past because, god forbid, they face a crummy reality.

The lack of support outside the loss community is never more blinding than it is on social media, the very place we’re encouraged to share what’s important to us. Avoidance has become the new acceptance, and it’s irritating.

Related: Social Media After Baby Loss: Who Do You Let In?

False Assumptions

Another source of social frustration is the tendency of others to make false assumptions about grief. My husband and I are expecting our second child; because we are celebrating this pregnancy, people assume we’ve healed completely. We appear happy, so our grief must be gone, right? Wrong. One child does not replace another, and our firstborn will always be missing from our family. That sadness remains. However, grief and joy can coexist. As loss parents, it’s important that we’re allowed to honor all our children. They’re part of who we are, and we deserve to share our truth as much as anyone else.

When it comes down to it, acknowledgment and compassion are the kindest gifts loss parents can receive.

 

Photo by Kristina Flour on Unsplash




  • Jessica Orlaske

    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.

    12 Comments

    • Terri Bierhalter

      July 10, 2018 at 11:07 am

      I’m proud of you for choosing the truth, and hope that it allows a tiny bit of comfort, if not healing. I will always love ALL of your babies…

      1. Jessica Orlaske

        Jessica Orlaske

        July 10, 2018 at 5:40 pm

        Thanks, Mom… you’re always my biggest supporter. I love you!

    • Kara Meyers (Brien)

      July 10, 2018 at 12:25 pm

      I just want to say that every time an article of yours comes up on my feed I click and read it! I should be better about “liking” when I do, and I bet I’m not the only one. I know am just a former student but reading about Lucy and your experiences as a loss parent has changed the way I communicate about loss in general. You’re making an impact by sharing your thoughts and feelings! I’d even guess that the awkward conversations get people thinking about how better to respond in the future. Doesn’t help in the moment, but I think it’s still a positive thing.

      Also, sorry to hear about the GD diagnosis. That’s got to be tough to deal with, and you shouldn’t feel guilty if you’re a bit miserable. Anyway, you’re in my thoughts often and I wish you a smooth remainder of your pregnancy. Have a good day!

    • Jessica Orlaske

      Jessica Orlaske

      July 10, 2018 at 5:43 pm

      Thanks so much, Kara. It makes my heart glad to know that my articles have had a positive impact and has provided a different insight… thank you for sharing that with me, and validating our sweet Lucy’s life. Best wishes to you today and always!!

    • Kylee

      July 10, 2018 at 7:31 pm

      I lost one of my twin boys a day shy of 3 weeks old. He had a genetic condition and I truly believe ‘wishing him here with me’ would be selfish as he would’ve had a very poor quality of life. Nonetheless, I miss him. I grieve him, I grieve the idea that I thought I would be raising twin boys with their older sister. Life takes unexpected turns and I have vowed to keep his light going by way of love, kindness and compassion – just like you. And, also like you, I choose the truth, at least 90% of the time (there’s always those ‘in a rush moments’). It’s good for our souls to speak of our angel babies. And besides, others tell me things about their living children that sometimes makes me uncomfortable so why should I hold back if they don’t?
      I was grieving one son, while cherishing the moments of another. It was a very difficult time. One of my favorite quotes I came across is as follows:

      “She wept because life was so full…
      Of hurts,
      Of joys,
      Of the madness that danced between the two.”

      All of that to say, my heart goes out to you Jessica. I wish you the best with your ‘madness’. Embrace it.

      1. Jessica Orlaske

        Jessica Orlaske

        July 16, 2018 at 10:45 am

        Thank you, Kylee… my heart goes out to you as well. Our hearts were never meant to experience such pain, but we find ways to be resilient nonetheless. I’m so sorry about your sweet little guy; none of this is ever fair. The quote you’ve included is absolutely beautiful, and I will remember it each time I embrace the madness. Thanks so much for sharing.

    • Beyondthewillows

      July 10, 2018 at 8:02 pm

      This is so similar yand the thoughts I have going through my first pregnancy after loss. It’s even at the doctors when those checking you in ask about other kids? It’s so hard to constantly gauge how much to share.

      1. Jessica Orlaske

        Jessica Orlaske

        July 16, 2018 at 10:47 am

        It really is such a challenge to know how to share the right amount in each situation. So sad that we all have to take that risk each time.

    • Eva

      July 11, 2018 at 6:50 am

      As loss parents, my husband and I have decided to be honest and talk about our sweet little baby girl Sophia, whenever someone asked us about what happened with our pregnancy. We’re not afraid to make people uncomfortable! More people should be aware and sensitive about the loss of a child and about the fact that your grieving is forever, it gets better with time but it never goes away. We lost Sophia 3 weeks ago at birth. We are lucky that we are part of an infant loss support group and we comfort each other because we all lost precious babies and we know and understand the pain.
      I totally agree with you that no other child is going to replace the one you lost, we are going to try again to have another baby.. but I’ll always miss her and want HER! She made me a mom and made my husband a dad, we will always love and miss her. Eva

      1. Jessica Orlaske

        Jessica Orlaske

        July 16, 2018 at 10:57 am

        Eva, my heart aches for you. I’m so sorry you’ve lost your beautiful little Sophia. It’s wonderful that you and your husband have decided to be open and honest about sharing her story, because she is, and always will be, a part of you. The grief journey is never-ending, and it is so important to lean on the support from others who are part of our infant loss community. Without those connections and ability to hear their stories, I’m not sure how I could have coped with the isolation. I’m happy you’re going to try again for a sibling for Sophia. That journey after loss is also hard, but it helped me maintain hope for more joy in my life. I wish you comfort as you navigate through these early months of loss… it is so painful, but never forget that you are not alone! Thinking of you, your husband, and little Sophia today.

    • John

      July 11, 2018 at 9:05 pm

      This is extremely well written. God bless

      1. Jessica Orlaske

        Jessica Orlaske

        July 16, 2018 at 10:42 am

        Thank you, John, and thank you for reading!

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