words. they are thoughts, ideas, and feelings that move from within our lungs, rise into our mouths and float weightlessly in the air. ironically, they carry immeasurable weight. they are heavy with meaning. words are far more powerful than you may realize. they have started wars. built new countries. destroyed marriages. they can convey undying love from across the world. forge friendships. honor lives lost. build bridges. the problem with words, is that many people forget their heaviness, the intended and unintended meaning that travels with them. this happens because they are not involving the brain in the process. words, as harmless as you may intend them, can be a knife to the heart. i will always remember these words as i walked my journey with loss and infertility, these words that had clearly made a left off the path to the brain.
“when are you guys going to have another?”
“you don’t want to wait too long!”
“he needs a sister already.”
incidentally, these phrases still assault me today from nosy strangers. since when is my sex life or reproductive habits or family planning decisions any of your business? one of my friends who struggled to have her first child used to tell people “well, we are trying every damn day!” with an awkward laugh… i used to tell people with a blank stare “i’ll have another baby when they stop dying in my uterus.” that would shut them up pretty quickly. what? it’s their fault for sticking their nose where it most certainly doesn’t belong.
i remember these words after telling people i lost a baby…
“it wasn’t meant to be”
“it’s better this way, clearly there was a problem”
“it’s so much better you lost it early rather than late”
“don’t worry, you’ll have another”
wow. just wow. minimizing the fact that i lost a future child makes me feel so much better. you’re right, this child is totally replaceable. i didn’t want to have and love THIS baby. next time your loved one dies i’ll be sure to tell you “it wasn’t meant to be” or “don’t worry, you’ll have another dad.” oh wait, you won’t, that’s right. and i will never have that baby either. just because my baby did not live long enough to take a breath does not make it unworthy of the same grief and sympathy you would give to one who had put his feet on this soil. words can hurt. regardless of the best of intentions behind them.
the truth of the matter is this… most people just don’t know the right words to say, when it comes to loss. infant or adult loss, there is really no difference. people get all weird and uncomfortable and feel like they have to say SOMETHING, and oftentimes verbal diarrhea spews out of their mouths. let me let you in on a little secret… there are no “right” words to say. the only words that are appropriate are “i am sorry” and “how can i support you?” i have been so blessed to still have my parents alive on this earth, but one of my best friends lost her dad years ago and i will never forget what she told me following his death. she was incredibly hurt when people would say to her “he’s in a better place now.” in her time of sorrow, platitudes and cliches made her feel even worse.
so please, the next time you want to know when Fertile Myrtle is going to have her 8th baby or Barren Betty her 1st, please hold your tongue and think about your words. it truly is NONE of your business after all, but more importantly, your words may twist a knife that is already piercing her heart.
(i apologize for the lateness of this post, [again], i’m playing catch up. let’s just say i had one helluva week and am just now able to rejoin the living world. i would have grouped this post with other challenge days, but this one deserved it’s very own dedication.)