Heartbroken but hopeful.
Saab Magalona-Bacarro’s blog title says it all. On March 6, she broke the heartbreaking news that she and her husband lost their baby girl last February. She started her blog post by saying that she’s in denial and that she thought that “keeping it to ourselves will make this whole thing unreal.”
Saab and her husband’s pain is evident in her blog post, but hope can also be seen – especially for her baby boy. She writes:
So many things happened in the last month. There are so many people we could blame and be angry with, but each time we hold our boy, we think otherwise. He’s been fighting to be part of this world and it’s our responsibility to make it one that is forgiving – one that tries to see the best in other people.
Jim says “hindi pang-tao yung pinagdadaanan natin.”
That’s why we can only thank God for helping us get through the pain and lifting the anger from our hearts.
The sad truth is, Saab and Jim are not alone. A number of parents go through the painful experience of losing their baby or child. And in such a sad and heartbreaking event, what is the proper thing to say or do? If a friend, family, or acquaintance is mourning over the loss of his/her baby, what is the best thing to say that’s helpful, and not hurtful? Well, here are a few considerations:
Keep it simple. If we are also at a loss over what to say, then keeping it short and simple is the next best thing. People handle grief differently, so even if we might think that we know what the parents are going through, we don’t. So don’t offer presumptions or our own stories that say something along the lines of, “We know what you are going through.” Instead, you can something like “we’re thinking of you and your family.”
Never say that “You can always have another.” Although some people might think of this line as encouraging, it’s not. It might seem like you are diminishing the parents’ pain or even dismissing the death of their child. Instead, you can try saying something along the lines of, “No one can replace him/her, but I hope that when you’re ready, you can get the healthy baby you deserve.”
Never say that “Everything happens for a reason.” This is another line that somehow diminishes the parents’ loss, along with other lines such as “Maybe it was for the best,” and “It was God’s will.” A child’s loss is a huge deal and there’s no viable explanation for it, and even trying to do so just does not help.
Never say that “At least you already have another child.” This line is somewhat similar to saying “Be grateful for what you have,” which is not something a grieving mother needs to hear. No matter if she already has older kids, or as in the case of Saab, a living twin, the death of a child is still painful and no one can discount that. And mothers who were pregnant with multiples and lost one baby like Saab, may also be dealing with conflicting emotions. In such cases, it is better to acknowledge their pain and feelings of loss and at the same time, express joy over their surviving baby.
Consider a lasting tribute. Aside from flowers and Mass Cards, you can also consider gifting the parents a “lasting tribute,” which can be in the form of a tree, plant, or a donation under their departed child’s name. At the same time, doing so can help the parents remember their child.
Consider bringing a meal to the grieving parents. Relatives and friends typically send meals to help new parents adjust to life with a new baby, and the same can be done in cases of pregnancy loss. Bringing meals to the grieving parents gives them one less thing to worry about while they’re coping with their grief, and at the same time sends the message that “Your loss matters and I am here for you.”
Keep in touch. The outpouring of support can come in the first few months, but then a lot of family and friends move on after and think that the grieving parents should do the same. But the reality is, people have different timelines in dealing and coping with grief. So mothers can take a couple of months or even years before she can say that she has “moved on” over the death of a child. So also refrain from telling the parents that “It’s time to move on.” Instead, keep in touch and try to ask them how they’re doing even after quite some time has passed. Because for most parents, the loss of a child is something that will stay with them forever.
The loss of a child is definitely every parent’s worst nightmare. And sadly, this is something a number of parents have to live with. Although we couldn’t take their pain away from them, we can definitely be sympathetic and supportive enough through our words and actions. As Saab said in her blog post:
This whole time, we’ve been nervous about bringing children into this scary world and in an instant, our world was turned upside down. Despite this tragedy, we have encountered so many heroes and kind people. We are thankful for family, for the doctors and nurses in the NICU, ICU and maternity ward, for the other babies and parents in the NICU that inspire us, for the strangers that smile at us. If you look hard enough, this doesn’t have to be such a scary world after all.
This world will definitely be less scary if we support each other more.
Source: Spell Saab