A Grieving Mother’s Wish List
by Sarah Grandfield-Connors
I need you. Even if it doesn’t seem like I do.
(And if you just don’t feel comfortable with being there for me, don’t stand in the way of others being there.)
2 – Don’t make any “at least” statements. There is no “at least” when it comes to my baby. He/she died- how are you going to rationalize that in a helpful way?
Also, stay away from statements about faith, God, etc — unless I make those statements first. I am in a fragile space and my faith has just taken a pummeling. I may not be open to hearing about how God works in even the most traumatic situations and may not want to deal with God right now. Reconciliation with the One who took your child is hard. Unless you’ve been through it, you have no clue. If you become too strident in your faith assertions, you may actually turn me away from wanting to be close to Him.
The best thing that you can do is listen. Take my lead.
3 – Help me in my home.
Bring casseroles or other freezer friendly foods. I’m not going to feel like cooking, or eating, for a while. And if I’m supposed to be cooking for others… They may go hungry.
Come help with household chores. Please. All I want to do is sleep. It’s the only place where my mind isn’t being besieged by “what-ifs”. Even an hour of respite can help so much. I’m going to say that I’ve got it. But I probably don’t.
If I’m recovering from childbirth, whatever the situation, this is especially important.
4 – If I have other children- could you take them to the park/library/to get a haircut? Just get them out of the house for me.
This way I can have a good cry without feeling guilty. They can have a good time without feeling overwhelmed by my sadness. Also, see #3. I feel terribly guilty about the condition of my household. I feel even guiltier about the fact that we had ice cream for dinner last night, and my living child’s hair hasn’t been brushed for two days. I may just need some help mothering them.
5 – Allow me to process my grief. Don’t assume that this is going to go away. It won’t. The more support I have, the more likely it is that I will be able to heal in a constructive way. The more I am allowed to express my feelings, the more likely it is that I will be able to heal in a constructive way. Also, understand that there may be times, even years from now, when I need to recoup. I haven’t just lost a person- I’ve lost my future. The process never stops. It just becomes more manageable.
6 – Remember my partner. Please. Most people focus their attention on mom. But he’s hurting too. He most likely had to go back to work immediately after our loss. He’s also carrying the burden of my grief — protecting me from the depth of his own emotions. Make sure to ask him how he’s doing. How he’s really doing. I have a lot of online support to help me navigate this journey. He doesn’t. He’s all alone, sometimes.
7 – Take my lead when it comes to speaking about my baby.
If I am silent on the subject, please don’t push me to talk about my experience. I may be having a rough day. Sometimes I cannot talk about him/her. Sometimes it’s just too difficult to remember.
If I am open and remembering, please remember with me. Don’t shy away from sharing those memories with me. If I am sharing with you, it means that I trust you enough to be exceedingly fragile with you.
8 – If my baby was born sleeping at any gestation and I was fortunate enough to write some photos, don’t make negative comments about my child’s photos — even to others. I will hear them. I treasure these images. They are the only photos I will ever have. I see only beautiful fingers and toes. When you say ugly things about my baby you turn my experience into something ugly, and I begin to doubt the beautiful things that I remember about him/her.
In addition, his/her photos may hang on the walls in my home, just like photos of other family members do. These photos are not “morbid”. They are of my baby.
(In addition, it’s been shown, many times over now, that these photos can help me heal.)
9 – Invite me out. And when I say no, invite me out again in a few months. And if I say no then- ask me again in a few months.
Eventually I will say yes.
Unfortunately many people drifted away when a family loses a baby.
By the time I’ll be ready to be social again, all of those people who have moved on will no longer think of me as part of their social circle.
10 – My child will always be part of my life. That is non-negotiable. What is negotiable is whether you will be always be a part of my life. I will never choose you over my child.
Adversity is the test of a true friendship. I hope that we can weather this loss together. Like I said before, I need you. Very, very much.
In 2010 Sarah’s unborn daughter was diagnosed with the life limiting condition Limb Body Wall Complex aka Body Stalk Anomaly. She chose to continue her pregnancy and delivered her daughter at 34 weeks GA. She survived for a beautiful 1 hour and 47 minutes. Since then Sarah’s “mission” has been to find families facing this diagnosis, and who have decided to carry their pregnancies to term, and to share their stories in hopes of encouraging others to continue their pregnancies after a lethal diagnosis.