Category: Notes for the Support Team

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Notes for the Support Team - Words Matter: Original statement: I can't imagine… Rewritten: Try. -Miranda Hernandez, Adrian's Mother

I can’t imagine

When someone has experienced tragedy, it is common to say, “I can’t imagine” how they are feeling. But the truth is, you can. Please take a moment and try.

Notes for the Support Team - Words Matter: Original statement: I know how you feel… Rewritten: I don't know how you feel, but I'm here to listen. -Miranda Hernandez, Adrian's Mother

I know how you feel

Humans are hardwired to find points of comparison. It’s how we build community. It makes us feel less alone. In some cases, though, comparison feels minimizing. This is especially the case in loss. This is something to say instead.

Notes for the Support Team - Words Matter: Original statement: Everything is going to be fine.  Rewritten: I'm not going to tell you everything is going to be fine. I understand grief is hard, and no amount of positive thinking is going to make up for the loss of your child. So I will simply tell you that I love you, and I'm here for whatever you need. -Miranda Hernandez, Adrian's Mother

Everything is going to be fine

When someone you love is in pain, it’s natural to want to comfort them; to reassure them that everything will be okay. Unfortunately, when you are dealing with permanent changes like death, sometimes this simply isn’t the case.

Notes for the Support Team -  It is far easier for you to reach in than it is for the bereaved to find the strength to "reach out".

“Reach Out” or Reach In?

There is this trend in modern times, of building all these mental health resources and installing hotlines, but we don’t talk enough about how hard it can be for those who are struggling to pick up the phone. When I was in my darkest place, I didn’t have it in me, most days.

Notes for the Support Team -  It's hard to feel sad and helpless when someone you love is struggling after loss. It's hard to sit there in the darkness and support them when they are most in pain. But if you can do that—your support means everything. -Miranda Hernandez, Adrian's Mother

Accept that you feel helpless and you will be so much more helpful

It’s hard to feel sad and helpless when someone you love is struggling after loss. It’s hard to sit there in the darkness and support them when they are most in pain. It’s hard, but if you can do it anyway; if you can accept your helplessless and move forward, you will be more helpful than you know.

Notes for the Support Team - Words Matter: Original statement: He/She is with you in spirit. Rewritten: It must be so hard that he isn't physically here with you. What do you think he might be doing today if he were? -Miranda Hernandez, Adrian's Mother

He/She is with you in spirit

One of the many aspects included in the loss of a child are the missing milestones—first smile, first kiss, and the years in between. These physical things that can only be done by doing. These missing memories. Telling me my child is with me in spirit is NOT the same.

Notes for the Support Team -  Be cautious of projecting your experience or your feelings onto your loved one.  Even under similar circumstances, their experience is likely to be different than yours. -Miranda Hernandez, Adrian's Mother

Be Cautious of Projecting Your Feelings

It’s a hallmark of our culture that we like to share stories. It makes us feel less alone in the darkness & this is only good. What hurts, though, is when someone makes assumptions. Be cautious of projecting your experience or your feelings onto your loved one.

Notes for the Support Team - Words Matter: Original statement: Have you thought about adoption? Rewritten: I understand the idea of having children after loss is complicated. I'm never going to push you or ask you questions you aren't ready to answer. I'm here though, if you ever want to talk about it. -Miranda Hernandez, Adrian's Mother

Have you thought about adoption?

Adoption is an inordinately beautiful thing. It is also often used as a generic straw solution to the “problems” of child loss and infertility. Please don’t push adoption on the infertile or the bereaved. Listen to their feelings. If it’s right for them, they will bring it up when it’s time.

Notes for the Support Team -  Your pain is important. Their pain is MORE important. Don't ask them to bear the burden of comforting you. -Miranda Hernandez, Adrian's Mother

Your pain is important. Their pain is MORE important.

If a loved one comes to you in pain, take a moment and acknowledge your own feelings about the situation. You are allowed to have these feelings. You are allowed to grieve this second-hand grief. But please be cognizant of not reflecting it back on the person who brought it you.

Notes for the Support Team - Words Matter: Original statement: At least… Rewritten: I'm so sorry this happened to you. It isn't right or fair. Nothing can make up for the loss of your child. -Miranda Hernandez, Adrian's Mother

At least…

When I was new in my grief, I had a good friend tell me, “at least you can pregnant.” He almost immediately became my EX-good friend…There is literally no statement that can follow the words “at least” that is in any way supportive or gentle or kind. Nothing. It simply isn’t possible.

Notes for the Support Team - Words Matter: Original question: Why didn't you…? Rewritten: I have no idea what I would have done were I in your place. I will certainly never second-guess your decisions. -Miranda Hernandez, Adrian's Mother

Why didn’t you…?

“Why didn’t you…”

Have you ever said these words? Many people have. It’s a common question the bereaved experience after loss, particularly if or when a loss may have been preventable. It’s also a form of distancing; of inserting a barrier in the conversation.

Notes for the Support Team - Words Matter: Original statement: You should be thankful for the children you have. Rewritten: Parenting after loss is an eternal balance. I am always available for babysitting or help around the house if you need a break. It's okay to tend to your grief for your missing child too. -Miranda Hernandez, Adrian's Mother

You should be thankful for the children you have

If you know a parent with both a living and deceased child, it’s something to be aware of. Because the most supportive thing you can say in that situation is to acknowledge the work that goes into raising and grieving, simultaneously.

Notes for the support team - Nobody is born knowing how to deal with grief. We are all just figuring it out along the way.

Nobody is born knowing how to deal with grief

Before Adrian died, I had very little sense of the impact of death. It was an abstract concept to me. I had known people who had died, but nobody close enough to trigger intense grief. And so, when someone in my circle lost a child, I misunderstood.

Notes for the Support Team - Words Matter: Original Statement: Having a birthday party for a dead child is weird. Rewritten: I've never been to a birthday party for a deceased child, but I'd love to honor him in this way. How can I help? -Miranda Hernandez, Adrian's Mother

Having a birthday party for a dead child is “weird”

Grief is hard, both for the bereaved & their loved ones. But however uncomfortable you feel, think about the impact of your actions & words. You don’t have to understand to support. And your support means everything. If a bereaved parent invites you to birthday party for their child, please come.

Often when I share about my deceased child, people rush to give advice or hugs. I don't always need that, though.  Often, all I really need is for you to listen. - Miranda Hernandez, Adrian's Mother

Often all I need is for you to listen

Often, when I share about my deceased child, that’s all I’m looking for: An ear. A person to open their heart to experience. Someone to take a moment in their day to read and acknowledge, without trying to analyze me.

Notes for the Support Team - Words Matter: Original statement: I wish I could take your pain away.  Rewritten: I understand your feelings are important. I would never want to minimize or try to take them away. I will always be here to listen. -Miranda Hernandez, Adrian's Mother

I wish I could take your pain away

I think something that isn’t realized about loss is that pain after loss is sometimes important; it’s a measure of the strength of the love that remains. Instead of wanting to remove that pain, consider giving it a place. Listen without judgement. Let your loved one’s complicated feelings exist.

Notes for the Support Team -  Pregnancy after loss is one of the most beautifully life-affirming and also simultaneously terrifying events your loved ones can experience.  If your loved one has shared this news with you, it is likely because they trust you. Be worthy of that trust. -Miranda Hernandez, Adrian's Mother

Mirror Reality in Pregnancy After Loss

Pregnancy after loss is one of the most beautifully life-affirming and also simultaneously terrifying events your loved ones can experience. If your loved one has shared this news with you, it is likely because they trust you to be there for them, in the bad as well as the good. Be worthy of that trust.

Notes for the Support Team - Words Matter: Original statement: Let me know if I can do anything for you. Rewritten: Can I bring you dinner this evening? Can I help you with the laundry? I'm going to the store this evening; can I bring you anything? -Miranda Hernandez, Adrian's Mother

Let me know what you need

When the bereaved are deep in their grief, they often don’t know what they need. Please consider offering specific things:
I’d like to bring you dinner this evening. Is that okay?
Would you be interested in a walk in the park tomorrow morning?
A simple change in phrasing makes such a difference.

Notes for the Support Team - Words Matter: Original statement: Look on the bright side. Rewritten: I know that nothing can lessen or make up for this enormous loss, and so I won't try to point you to any bright side. Instead I will simply be here. I'm so sorry for your loss.  -Miranda Hernandez, Adrian's Mother

Look on the Bright Side

We are conditioned within modern society to look for the silver lining in every crappy day. For some things, this is fine. But when it comes to extreme loss and pain, there often isn’t a bright side.

Notes for the Support Team - Words Matter: Original statement: Let's cheer you up. Rewritten: I understand your grief is heavy right now. I'd like to support you in whatever ways you need. Would you like to tell me about him? Or maybe we can go for a walk. Whatever you need. -Miranda Hernandez, Adrian's Mother

Let’s cheer you up

Loved ones often want to cheer you up after loss, but sometimes, you don’t want or need to find cheerfulness. Sometimes (often!), you need to just sit and grieve. “Let’s cheer you up” can be hurtful after loss. Acknowledgement is so much more supportive.

Notes for the Support Team - Words Matter: Original statement: It's time to move on. Rewritten: I understand you grieve for and miss your child. What can I do to help you honor them today? -Miranda Hernandez, Adrian's Mother

It’s time to move on

There is a myth in our society that we need to “move on” and “heal” from loss and grief. But grief is eternal and no one understands that better than the bereaved. Acknowledge & honor this need to maintain connection even after death. Acknowledge that grief, like love, lasts as long as it needs.

Children. Aren't. Replaceable. Speech bubbles: "Don't you have other children?" "Are you guys trying?" "Things will be so much better when your new baby gets here" "My cousin adopted" "Blah blah blah"

Children. Aren’t. Replaceable

Children are not replaceable. I know you probably don’t think they are…⁠
(DO you?)⁠⁠
I know you probably don’t think you can grab one baby out of a parent’s arms and then give them a different one with no consequence.⁠ (You DON’T think that, right?)⁠
But this is what we are sometimes hearing.⁠⁠

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