Experiencing the loss of a baby/child is one of the most devastating things that can happen to any parent. When, at age of 41, I lost my long awaited and only son Leo, our IVF miracle, I was overwhelmed by grief and couldn’t imagine a way forward. Many people around me, family members, friends, colleagues, neighbours, have tried to make me feel better by offering their words of comfort. Sometimes, however, their (well-meant) support and advice would make me feel much worse. Every parent responds to the death of a baby differently, and not everybody will share my feelings, but here is my list of the most hurtful things people said to me over the past two years following the loss of my son:
Your Son is Now Safe in God's Arms
I don’t want my son to be in God’s arms! His place is here, in my arms. This is the safest and the best place for him - in his mother's arms. Even if you find comfort in the faith and religion would you prefer your child to be in God's arms rather than your own?
It Would Have Been More Difficult to Lose a Toddler than a Two-days Old Baby
Yes, someone actually said that to me, a father of two. The death of a child of any age is a profound, heart-breaking and painful experience. Is there some higher emotional cost attached to the loss of a beloved toddler than there is to losing a beloved young baby? A grief is just as large, real and brutal in both cases.
Everything Happens for a Reason
What could be a good reason for a death of an innocent baby? I cannot possibly see anything-positive coming out of it. Some may say that experiencing the loss of a child makes you stronger long term; it changes your priorities and outlook on life - all of these may well be true, but they are nothing in the face of the heartbreak and devastation I still feel every day.
Not Saying Anything
Some people wouldn’t know what to say to me, so they would choose to avoid any interaction with me. Some would act like nothing has happened and they wouldn’t even extend their condolences nor acknowledge our loss. Speaking for me personally, this is one of the most hurtful behaviours. It’s like denying that my son ever existed, like his life didn’t matter, didn’t mean anything. To me, his mother, his short life meant the world. Everything.
No matter how much it hurts, I want to talk about Leo. I want to tell the whole world how brave was this tiny fighter, how sweet and cute he was, how beautiful, how much he changed us, how wonderful it was to carry him for 7 months and then to feel his warm body resting on my chest, and how much love I and my husband have for him. All I want is an opportunity to talk about my son. I want to hear other people say his name, to be ask questions about him, to remember his birthday... I don’t want him to be forgotten. I want to keep his memory alive. That’s all I have left of him.
This year, on the second anniversary of my son’s birthday, two of my friends, former colleagues, sent me cards with beautiful messages expressing their love and remembering Leo. I was so touched, so grateful. The fact that he was in their thoughts, that they kept alive the memory of him, means so much to me, more than anything else.
It Has Been Too Long; you Should be Over That Now
What does ‘too long’ mean? Everyone grieves in his or her own way and there are no time limits. Our love for Leo and our grief for him cannot be measured in weeks, months or years. And while it is certainly advisable to seek professional help if you've been in a dark place for a very long time, bereaved parents will never 'be over' their child loss and most of us continue to grieve for the baby we have lost for the rest of our lives.
Your Son Wouldn't Want you to be Sad
How do you know what my son would have wanted? Please don't use my dead child to pressure me even more during the most difficult time of my life.
It's not Normal
I keep my son's ashes in our bedroom. Two years on and we still haven't decided what to do with them. At the moment I want him to 'be with us'. It feels so natural to me. Some friends told me that it is not normal to keep your baby's ashes in the house and I should perhaps bury them or transform to a ring or pendant. I don't want to do that. I am not ready to do that. Is it normal? I don't know. It's normal to me.
Don't Worry; you Will Have Another Baby
Let's forget the fact that after 9 IVF treatments, at 43 years of age my chances of having another baby are very slim. Let's forget that. But even so, even if it miraculously happens, it wouldn't ‘cancel’ out the grief of the loss of our son. Children are not replaceable and a new baby will never be Leo.
Happy Mother's Day
Don't wish me Happy Mother's Day. I know I am a mother too and your intention is to acknowledge my motherhood and make me feel better. But please remember that I don't have a baby in my arms. My son died. He is not with me today. I won’t receive a Mother’s Day card from him. I can’t hold him, hug him and kiss him. How can my Mother's Day be happy? Tell me instead that you are thinking of me today.
I Understand How you Feel
No, you don’t. Even if you have suffered a similar loss, you have no idea how it feels like to me.
Instead of giving me your advice and pointing out positive aspects of my loss, acknowledge that there is nothing positive about it. Give me the right to be heartbroken and devastated. Let me grieve the way it feels right to me. Be there for me. Show me your love and care. Give me a hug. Let me cry on your shoulder. Show interest in my baby. Don't be afraid to say his name. Ask me about him. Ask me to show you my pregnancy book or visit my website created in his memory. Help me to keep his memory alive. Show me that you remember his birthday, light a candle, let me know he is in your thoughts...
Today is the second anniversary of our son’s birth. He was with us only for two days, but tender memories and overwhelming love for Leo will live on in our hearts forever.
Our son’s birthday is a wonderful gift and an occasion to celebrate, so we traveled to London to release helium balloons with our letters to Leo. We decided to launch them from Tower Bridge walkway overlooking London from 42 meters above the River Themes. On this unusually beautiful, bright and sunny October day, a perfect wind gently carried away our messages up to the sky. As we watched them disappear, we felt overwhelmed by sadness.