Reflecting on Words of Condolence

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I have unfortunately lost a few loved ones in my life and one thing I found interesting is the words of consolation that people use. I found that when people were trying to console me after my daughter Zoë was stillborn most likely have been well-meaning but some things weren’t exactly helpful for Rob and I; these things were said maybe out of not knowing exactly what to say which is understandable.

Some of the phrases used were:

  • “She’s with Jesus” – Honestly that didn’t help at the time it was said as I just wanted her with me and it felt unfair that Jesus got to be with my firstborn child when I couldn’t. I believe it now, but in that time of raw and numbing grief all it seemed to do was increase my anger at God.

 

  • “You will have another child” – While for Rob and I this was true the people that said it didn’t really know that for sure. What if we had been like some couples who couldn’t have more children, this particular phrase could have been really hurtful. Another reason this wasn’t exactly helpful was the fact that another child could not/would not replace the baby we had lost.

 

  • “She wasn’t meant to be” – This was said when after she died and when informed some people about what the diagnosis was (one of the reasons we told few people when we knew). This phrase probably upset me the most; if “she wasn’t meant to be” then why did I get pregnant with her in the first place, “if she wasn’t meant to be” then why did I carry her to term when I wasn’t expected to and I ended up needing to be induced.

 

I’m sure that for the most part when these phrases were used they were said with the best of intentions; however even if something is said with the best of intentions it doesn’t always mean it will be helpful. For example when I’m in my darkest of moods I can get upset with someone simply saying “I’m Sorry”. Grief can make a person illogical and take offense at the smallest of things.stages of grief

There are times when the phrase “I can only imagine how you must feel” is used. Truthfully when it comes to losing a child no-one can truly imagine and I wouldn’t want anyone to know what it feels like to lose a child. Even when you’ve lost a child you can’t truly imagine what another person is going through, even if it’s a similar situation their reactions could be different to what your reactions were and everyone acts differently.

I can remember times I’ve said that losing Zoë was like losing a part of myself, yet I have never lost a limb or the use of one in reality don’t know what it’s actually like. I guess I use that phrase to try and get across the awfulness of losing a child – so it’s more a metaphor than a fact.

One more thing that used to get to me after any of my losses was when people would say “they were there for me” It got to a point where I would shrug it off as something people feel they have to say – even subconsciously – the reason being was if I did need someone, I must have asked the wrong people as the ones I asked never seemed to have the time for me or wouldn’t get back to me when they could. This experience unfortunately made we weary about calling on people when I needed someone.

There’s something I also noticed about going through the loss of a loved one is that it’s not just in the first week or so you need support but also in the following weeks after the numbness of grief has passed and reality hits – that’s my experience anyway as there were times when I felt left alone in my grief and didn’t want to be a burden to anyone.

These are only my reflections on looking back over my past experiences so doesn’t necessarily mean I feel alone now.

Have a great day

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