As you move forward, you will be called upon to answer the tough questions and respond to those people who don’t understand. What follows are some suggestions to consider. Clearly, these are not your words; you’ll need to find your own, but they may give you some ideas as you prepare to face people who say unhelpful things.
1. Isn’t this a nice baptismal celebration? And aren’t you glad you came? It’s time that you have some joy in your life. You’ve sat around for weeks in your dark room, you need some happiness. And its time you see your new niece, she’s so cute at 1 month, don’t you think?
“Actually, my wife and I are finding this pretty hard. Seeing other babies and happy, carefree people right now is very painful. We can hardly stand it. I realize that neither of us can stay any longer; I’m sorry, but we need to leave. Please tell others that we are not ready to be in a ‘happy’ group setting right now. Our pain and loss is too raw. Don’t take it personally, but we have to care for ourselves right now.”
You could have sent a note saying the same thing and decided not to go in the first place.
2. I am uncomfortable seeing that picture (your baby’s picture who has died) on your desk or wall. I wish you would take it down.”
“I’m sorry it is uncomfortable for you. Death is hard for us all. But this is all I have, no pictures of my son at his first birthday or his first baseball game and he is the love of my life, just like your children are. So it is important to me that I keep this picture here. I hope you will come to see the reminders of love this brings me and become more comfortable over time.”
3. Silence and no reference to your child.
If you find it difficult to speak directly to someone, put it in writing. A suggestion--I notice how little Anna’s name is spoken by our family. I sure wish you and my family (or co-workers) would say her name aloud more often. She will always be our daughter; we will always be her parents. She has a place in our family and her name deserves to be spoken. We miss her deeply and this keeps us in touch with Anna and her spirit. It also tells us that you remember her, too."
You may be okay that others don’t bring the baby’s name up as it makes you uncomfortable as you sense their tension. Maybe you find a friend or two who will talk and listen and let go of the idea that folks at work are ready for this much openness about something so hard. Some parents have even asked that their baby’s name NOT be brought up because it is too painful for them and they just want to do their work and not think about it too much.
Find your way and go forward. If things change, let others know so they can adapt and be supportive.
4. When are you going to return to your normal self? When will you move on? I miss the old you.
Keep in mind that they really MAY miss the old you and don’t know how to BE with the new, developing and changing you. This is also a loss for them and its easy not to acknowledge their loss because you are focused on getting them to change and accept you now as you are.
First you could try,
“I bet this is hard for you, too. You don’t recognize me, you see that I am in pain, you want to help, and you can’t fix it. You don’t know what I need and it's hard to please me or even have a calm conversation with me right now. I feel badly about that. However, please consider that I am a different person. My sweet baby Ernst is so important and loved so much that I could NEVER go back to who I was before and act like he didn’t matter.
I AM moving on; this is how I am moving on. I now make baby clothes, or keep a blog, or volunteer to help others BECAUSE of Nicole. I don’t know where I am going; I’m not really in control, but I feel I must do it this way.
I ask you to respect the new me; the mother of this child. Please help me BE her PARENT openly, boldly, and lovingly. Let’s try to do this together.
5. Your sister and I think you should give the clothes and toys away to others who need them. They sit in the room and when you go in there it causes you too much pain. You’d feel better if everything was gone.
“I can see you find that to be a bad idea. And you and Nance would do it differently. Since I am the one who has to live through this in the best way I can, please understand that I won’t be doing that right now. It gives me comfort, it makes me cry. Both are good and necessary for my ‘grief work.’ When I am ready I’ll decide what to do – probably I’ll save some things for other children, God willing. We’ll see. Thanks for understanding.”