Thursday, September 3, 2009

When Someone Loses A Child

Since Sage died our family has embarked on a journey we had never traveled before. So we were new to this type of grief and have learned many things.

As the grandparent you feel like your grief is compounded. Not only have I lost my grandson but my daughter as well. It’s the most heart wrenching thing to watch your child suffer. The pain associated with the loss of a child is not only emotional but physical. Some day’s it hurts to breathe. It’s almost as if my daughter died that day too because she is not the person she was the day before her son died. A part of her died with him that day.

Everyday I go to my Heavenly Father in prayer, sometimes all day, asking that I will be able to help my daughter and son-in-law through this difficult time. In my efforts to find answers for Crystal I have reached out, via the internet, to many mother’s who have also lost a child. Not only have I found myself trying to help my daughter but other mother’s daughters as well. I am shocked and saddened at how many babies die everyday and how hard it is for these mothers to find someone to talk to. They just want someone to listen. Crystal called me this morning and asked me if I would write about this on Sage’s blog.

One of the most recent topic’s of discussion was how people have treated them after their baby died. All have sadly endured very insensitive comments. A few people are just rude and insensitive but I feel the majority of them just don’t know what to say. Therefore their comments come out sounding insensitive. They don’t mean to hurt but hurt it does. That’s what I wanted to write about and hopefully help people understand just what it is Crystal, and other grieving parents, need from their family and friends.

What Not To Say: The following are some comments made to Crystal and others I have talked to who have lost a child.

1. “Aren’t you over this yet?” -NO and I never will be. I have been thrown into this new world. A world of living without my child. I will never get over it. Everyday I’m having to learn how to live in this new world of mine. My grief, as my love, has no end. My tears represent my love. Asking me to stop crying is like asking me to stop loving him/her.

2. “At least you have other children.” -They are not cookies! Well I had 5 cookies on this plate and now one is gone. Thank goodness I have 4 left. Here since I have 4 more do you want one? This is my child you are talking about. While I am thankful for all my children I love and miss this one. I want all of my children with me. I want to see ALL of them on Christmas morning opening their presents, I want to see his name on the kindergarten graduation program or a wedding invitation, instead his name is carved on his head stone.

3. “They are in a better place” - Yes Yes this is true. But even the most religious of us don’t want to be told this. We know where they are and we really don’t need to be reminded of it. The fact remains we want them with us, in our arms to love, hold and kiss. Heavenly Father understands this. It’s okay to miss them it is okay to cry doing so doesn’t mean we lack faith or that we don’t know where they are.

4. “Your young you can have another one” -While that may be true each child is different. They are individuals and unique. You can not replace one with another!

5. “You still cry?” -Dah…he’s still dead. Guess what he will remain that way until Christ comes so expect the parent to cry up until that moment.

6. “Your going to bury him? Why? He was only 8 months old!” - Well what in the world do you want us to do with his body? Should I throw him in the garbage? Tell me you really didn’t just ask me that?

7. “At least you didn’t know him very long it will be easier to get over him” -There is no timeline on grief. Parent’s will never “Get Over It”. See #9

8. “We have some scrap wood may be we can make him a box” -no matter how old the child is the parent is entitled to the funeral they feel that child deserves. Whether they want to buy the most beautiful casket out there, make them a hand made casket or cremate them it’s their choice. Please don’t trivialize their wants/needs at this time. The funeral is about the parents/family honoring their child in the way they see fit. The funeral and head stone is the last physical act of service they can provide for their child on this earth. It’s important to them so don’t make them feel guilty for wanting a nice casket/funeral.

9. “Your lucky you really didn’t get to know them after all you only had him for ______ weeks/months” - When I looked into the face of my newborn babies I had this unexplainable feeling of “Hay I know you! or Deja Vous” it was as if I had always known them. By the way Deja Vous is French for “again you”. I couldn’t imagine living my life without them or really even remember what life was like before they came along. A mother is connected to their children before they ever give birth to them. All a parent is thinking about when that child dies is all the things their child will miss out on and that they were robbed of getting to experience all their “Firsts” and that the parents were robbed of getting to watch them experience life. They are not thinking, “Oh thank goodness I only had you for 8 months because if I had known you longer it would have been much harder.”

10. “Oh I know how you feel after my ________ (Divorce, dog died, grandma died,) - Please do not trivialize their pain. Listen to them, be there for them and be IN THEIR moment not yours. While divorce or death of any kind is painful it can not be compared to the pain of losing a child. Every death and situationi is different. What Crystal and I have wanted to say back is “Oh really well I had a hang nail once!”

11. One mother received a phone call as she was walking out the door to view her daughter’s body. The caller, her own mother, said, “Aren’t you feeling better YET?” - There is no time limit on a persons grief. Time does not heal. Time does not make the pain go away. But to say this to a mother barely 24 hours after her daughter died is unimaginable.

12. “Your just having a funeral to get sympathy” - “Really? Are you serious?”

13. And the most cruel comment ever “SIDS doesn’t exist you killed your baby” -Yes believe it or not this has been said to many parents of SIDS, SUID, and SUDI babies. It’s just plain cruel and so far from the truth. These parents feel guilty enough. Did my child suffocate? Did they have a heart condition I didn’t know about? Was there something I missed? How could I not know my child was in trouble? Why didn’t I wake up or notice he wasn’t breathing sooner? I should have had a sleep monitor in his room! They are torturing themselves enough.

14. “I could never lose a child. I don’t know how you do it” - This is said a lot. I know there is no harm meant by it but to the grieving parent this is what they are thinking. “I didn’t choose to do this it was chosen for me. I didn’t have a choice in the matter so what choice do I have but to “Do This”.

15. “Now you know what a mom feels like when she sends her son on a mission” -Yes there are many similarities. We know Sage is on a mission but his mother won’t be receiving emails every Wednesday, letters or a phone call on Mother’s Day and Christmas. His mother can not mail him a care package or birthday gift. He will not be returning in two years. His mother does not have the hope of seeing him get married and become a father. Instead the parent who’s child died is thinking, “Oh tear! Your child is on a mission…how sad for you.” They are biting the inside of their cheeks in an effort to not say their thought out loud. After all they wouldn't dream of hurting your feelings.

The things grieving parents want the most - Don’t forget their baby. Don’t be afraid to talk about their child. Just hearing someone say their child’s name comforts them. Their child died they don’t have the plague. We understand that most people don’t know what to say to someone after a death but don’t see them in the grocery store, park, or church and turn around and walk the other way in an effort to avoid an uncomfortable/sad moment. Just love them and be compassionate and patient. Say hello. Just be a friend.


Mama Byrd said...

I have several poems about this. I would like to share them. Please email me at

debra said...

I love this... many of these apply to what its like losing my husband.
Yes, I know its completely not the same loss.. i think even those who have had the same loss at the same age from the same circumstance still dont grieve or feel the exact same.
I think one for me is, my husband is out of town I know how you feel. Um - No you dont, did he call and say goodnight or I love you to you or your children. Did you hear his voice? Is his vacation permanent? Its not the same! (sorry for venting)
Your list is perfect and (sadly)I think overtime you will need to add more more.

The Reluctant Crunchy Mama said...

I came across your blogs soon after Sage's passing. I will not claim to understand the pain, as I have not lost a child. But I am a mother and so I know that the death of a child must be the worst thing a parent could experience. I have a very special place in my heart for families like you. It is very sad that so many people are insensitive. Disenfranchized grief, where the people grieving feel like they are grieving alone, is, unfortunately, very common. My hope/goal is to some day write/publish a paper about disenfranchized grief, specifically about pregnancy loss and child loss. I wish I could say or do something that would make the pain go away. But I know that is impossible. I send all of you lots of hugs, my thoughts, and my prayers. For what it is worth, even though I do not know you, I think of Sage almost every day, perhaps because I have a little one myself.

Liz said...

Debra You are absolutely right! Even though everone's loss is different it's a loss none the less. I had so many more comments I could have added but decided my small "book" was already long enough. LOL Thank you for your post and I'm SO sorry for your loss.

Tamra and Jim said...

I can't even imagine how hard it must be. It's hard to know the right things to say, too. I'm sure most people don't mean to say the wrong things. It's just hard for anyone who has not had a similar loss to know what to say. I think losing a child has to be the hardest thing to endure. Death is hard but I think especially hard when it is a child. Hang in there. I think you're all doing the best you can and dealing with it in your own way. That's all anyone can expect.

Royalbird said...

I wanted to say (though I don't know you, but have followed your family's story) that I've heard of a blog for parents who've lost children. It's a private blog and the majority of families who are on it are LDS. I am not part of the blog, but I heard about it through another friend of mine who lost her baby boy to a tragic accident. She heard about it from another person, and that is the person I am linking you with to find out more about it:

Send her a note if you are interested in joining it, I think it's called Angels Among Us, and she can hook you up. If you hadn't heard about it through the grapevine already, that is.

Jessica Caldwell said...

I remember it was just a few days after Sage had passed and someone was telling Crystal that they knew what she was going threw because her divorce had been very hard for her. I wanted to scream at her and tell her that NONE of us have any clue what Crystal is going threw. Even though her broken marriage sucked it is nothing like lossing a child.

I had the chance to see first hand someone from Crystal's ward treat her like she had a disease when she ran into her at a store that poor lady couldn't get away from Crystal fast enough. I felt like screaming at her that your children won't die if you say hi to the Eldredge's. They are still human and a simple HI how is your school year going? or I think about you and your family everyday I'm so sorry for you. Running away is such a mean thing to do.

Anonymous said...

You are so right that sometimes just being there as a friend means so much more....nothing compares to what we feel when going through grieving for someone we so loved...nothing....we love you and your family...

Marie said...

My goodness...I cannot believe some of those comments. "You're only having a funeral to get sympathy" ARE YOU KIDDING ME?? Someone actually said that??

I've heard some doozies myself - one mother who lost her 2 year old son was told at the viewing "At least you won't have to toilet train him." And a family friend who lost her 19 year old was told "At least you won't have to plan a 21st party." I'm still shocked about that one.

I think often people have the best intentions and don't mean to say the wrong thing, but some of those comments go above and beyond the awkwardness of not knowing what to say...some of those were downright cruel.

Liz and Crystal do you mind if I share this post with some other moms who have lost children? I think you have shared some great points that might help them also.

Liz said...

Marie you are more than welcome to share our post. As each day passes we learn more and more about the lonely road grief can be. Most people just don't know what to say that is true. But then others are just mean or simply don't think and of course a lot of it comes from nerves and not knowing what to say. I have heard another woman say they were told how lucky they were to be spared toilet training too! That parent would give everything they have to have that child back to toilet train or for their 21st birthday party. The Sympathy coment was not made to Crystal but to another mother of a SIDS baby. She was at her daughters funeral when someone in the pew behind her leaned forward and whispered that into her ear. Like I said in the post there are SO many more coments we have heard by people that are really shocking.

Marie said...

Thanks Liz, I know a few moms who have experienced the same insensitivity and I will share your thoughts with them, I know they will relate.

I guess the people who say "At least..." are desperately trying to find a positive in such a terrible situation. But honestly, as a nanny I have toilet trained dozens of kids and it's nothing so it's a ridiculous thing to say. I think the only "at least" that helps at all is "at least they will be spared the pain of this world." Not really a consolation but perhaps there is some comfort in knowing Sage will never feel pain, have a broken heart, or suffer loss.

As for the ones who ignore must be so painful for her but I don't think they intend to be cruel. I think they are just SO afraid of being one of the people who blurts out "At least you don't have to toilet train." So they turn away in panic. Or they are just so afraid to make her cry. I do hope those people read this site and think twice before ignoring Crystal again. Just say hello and tell her you've been thinking of her! Invite her for a coffee!