Things People Say: Helpful vs. Hurtful

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Things People Say: Hurtful vs. Helpful

When someone has gone through pregnancy or infant loss sometimes the things people to say can be hurtful even though they meant well.

I was only 20 years old when I delivered my stillborn son. Often times I was told I had plenty of time to have more kids. Sure, they were right, but I still wanted my baby back.

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Why Are Things People Say Hurtful?

Grief is a necessary emotional state to be in when dealing with a loss. But because it is so emotional, things that are logical aren’t always the best things to say.

Often times, the things people say aren’t bad or false, but they aren’t exactly helpful. I touch on this a little in my book, Joy In Suffering:

There was comfort in knowing Enoch had already made it to Heaven, that we didn’t have to worry about his well-being. He was, and is, in the ultimate safe place. I knew this, yet when people would try to comfort us—reminding me where he was and that I was still very young and had plenty of opportunities to have another baby—my heart would feel crushed. My face would smile at their thoughts, but I also felt as if what I had experienced, and lost, was being discounted too easily. I knew they were right and they meant well, but as Enoch’s mother, I couldn’t just dust my hands off and be done with my thoughts of him. Life was not fair; I felt as if my child had been stolen from me.

Oh, how I longed to have him in my arms again.

Rosemary Pope

Though people mean well, sometimes the things people say are not comforting at all.

It doesn’t change the fact that your baby is gone or that you want them back. It can almost seem as if they don’t care about your pain and that you need to move on. That seems dramatic to someone who has never experienced a loss of a baby or child. Especially when their intentions are good and are trying to help you think positively.

Honestly, there are no words to fix those problems, but there can be a better way for people to say they care.

How Can People Be Helpful With Their Words?

What would be a better alternative to the things people have said to me?

For me it would have been helpful for someone to meet me where I was at. I was deep in grief and the last thing I wanted was for someone to speak positive to me. I know it’s good to be positive- I titled a book, “Joy In Suffering”– but early on, more than anything I just needed someone to be with me.

  • It would have done wonders for someone to sympathize by saying, “I’m so sorry. I can imagine this is one of the hardest experiences to go through. I pray for God’s peace that passes all understanding to cover you.”

Thankfully, I did receive responses like the example I gave. In fact, having someone not sugar-coat the pain and actually acknowledge it gave me strength. My pain was being validated and when it was followed up by praying for God’s peace to cover me, I knew this is where my strength would come from. A response like this is what helped me the most.

things people say

A quote that has helped me:

I came across a C.S. Lewis quote this past year that has clung to me ever since I read it. It’s been years now since I experienced the initial grief from the losses of some of my children, yet because Lewis acknowledges the pain his words speak volumes still.

If a mother is mourning not for what she has lost but for what her dead child has lost, it is a comfort to believe that the child has not lost the end for which it was created. And it is a comfort to believe that she herself, in losing her chief or only natural happiness, has not lost a greater thing, that she may still hope to “glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” A comfort to the Godaimed, eternal spirit within her. But not to her motherhood. The specifically maternal happiness must be written off. Never, in any place or time, will she have her son on her knees, or bathe him, or tell him a story, or plan for his future, or see her grandchild.

C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed

What Are Some Things People Have Said That Hurt You?

I am planning on expanding this post, but I want to hear from you! Tell me: What is something(s) people have said to you that was hurtful regarding the loss of your baby? Why was it hurtful? What is something helpful they could have said instead?

Submit your answers below by clicking on the “Submit Advice” to be featured on the blog!

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