It’s a given, all those who are born eventually pass through the veil and return to the God who created them, the time we are each given in this life is varied and can not ever be predicted with exactness.
Sooner or later we all come in to contact with death, directly or indirectly. When people we love are in the midst of such turmoil our immediate reaction is to rush to comfort them, but what do you do when they want to be left alone? Sometimes, we need to evaluate our reasons for wanting to comfort them especially if we’re offended by their request: is it for their benefit or our own?
13 years ago I lost a child, and even though she passed out of this life the day that she was born the air in my lungs stopped still and I can only describe the feeling as though somebody had hollowed me out: I was a shell. A part of me died that day.
With that in mind, perhaps some day you will be in the position of ‘friend or comforter’, here are some things I recall – you may like to take them in to account:
- “Are you OK?” A stock standard question I was often asked. The only real answer is “no”. I could think of some more appropriate questions to ask somebody who has just lost a loved one, so please don’t do it. When people asked me that question in my mind I would say ‘My baby is gone and I can hardly breath, what do you think?’ but being so darn polite I’d say “I’m okay, thank you for asking”. Don’t force somebody who is mourning to candy coat their honesty to protect your feelings. It might not seem like this is what you’re doing, but as somebody who has been on the receiving end of this question, it sure felt like it to me. There is also this option: don’t ask.
- “How are you feeling?” Well, I had no idea how I was feeling. All I knew was that my daughter was gone, and I didn’t know how to be. I would tell myself “don’t forget to breath”. Years later I have learned, it’s okay to not know how you feel. Nobody has the right to tell you “it’s time to cheer up now” or “it’s a bit early to be happy.” Whether you can verbalize how you feel is none of their business. Period.
- We all mourn in different ways, but if a person who is suffering loss says “I need space” then recognize that you need to go away, and go away. I screamed, a lot. In my eyes was a blank stare and pretend appreciation, in my heart I screamed. I screamed in my sleep and woke with empty arms and eyes full of tears. Finally when the crowds would leave I crumpled up beside the bed and screamed till my lungs gave out. If I’m completely honest, we are thirteen years on and I still wake sobbing with empty arms and a pillow wet with tears.
- Mainly, what saddened me is that lack of understanding or simple sensitivity that would prompt statements like “time heals all wounds”. I’m sorry to break it to you but time does not heal all wounds. Every year on the 11th of July I can not breath, the world goes dark and cold and I need to be left alone. Other days I function just fine, but on the anniversary of my daughters birth and passing my heart aches beyond words. In case I haven’t made it clear enough, please don’t call our home on the 11th of July.
- Despite not being so religious back then, I always knew that there was a divine plan and that I would see my daughter again. There has to be hope, otherwise what is it all for? I believe that God has provided a way for us to be together forever with those that we love, and it gives me great comfort.
The best way to comfort me when I was in the midst of turmoil did not require words. Some days it required only a blanket, a box of tissues and somebody to hug. Other days, it only required a blanket and tissues.
Words are not required, because unless you have walked in the shoes of somebody like me, in my mind you will never understand.
And that’s okay! You don’t have to understand, it’s a bit much for me to ask you to have your heart walk around outside your body making you utterly and completely vulnerable and then have it snatched out of your reach for this life and its entirety, just so you can understand my pain.
When Lazarus died the Savior did not say to Mary & Martha “what are you crying for? He’s gonna be fine!” Even though He knew that Lazarus would be made whole again, he simply wept with them. Likewise, we do not need to fill the air with unnecessary words.
In every experience there is learning, and while one may be learning how to live with grief and loss, others will learn to love or comfort in a way that is sensitive and understanding: sometimes it won’t require words.
For more information about stillbirth or if you need support you can find more information with the Stillbirth Foundation Australia here.