To the mothers who have suffered loss. From a mother who hasn't.
Today is October 15, Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. I'm both saddened and heartened by my Facebook news feed. I'm saddened because I've seen too many friends posting about their losses. But I'm heartened to see that those who are sharing are processing their losses and those that aren't sharing know that they're not alone.
To the mothers who are grieving the loss of a child: my own mother, many of my friends, and anyone else reading who is in this space, here are my promises to you.
- I promise that I will not pretend to understand. I won't ever say "I know how you feel". I won't try to compare my own experiences with loss to yours. They don't compare.
- I promise to listen. I will hear you. I will listen if you need to talk. I will not interrupt you.
- I promise that I won't give you advice. I will never tell you how you should feel. I won't tell you what I think you should do to heal.
- I promise not to "blame" it on God. I know that everyone's beliefs about life, death, and religion are different. I won't express mine while pretending to understand yours.
- I promise not to "blame" it on you. I won't try to "figure out" why it happened. I won't try to explain what you did wrong or could have done right.
- I promise that I won't start any sentences with the words "at least". Those phrases never provide comfort to grieving people.
- I promise to grieve or mourn with you. I love you. And I love your baby. If you need someone to sit with you in this space of grief, I'll be there. If you decide on a funeral, memorial service, or farewell celebration, I'll be there.
- I promise not to use platitudes. "Everything happens for a reason" and "It is what it is" are not phrases that often bring comfort.
- I promise to validate your feelings. Whatever you're feeling is okay. Your feelings are justified. Even if they're different than what you expected them to be. Even if you're talking about it for the first time in 20 years.
- I promise to support you in whatever way you need. Would it be helpful for me to bring dinner for your family? Do you need someone to talk to? Are you looking for resources? Or do you want to be left alone right now? I want to serve you in whatever way you need right now.