Thursday, January 14, 2010

No big deal

So, my friend, B, who is 26 weeks pregnant called last week to tell me about her struggles to name her unborn son. A little side note: We were pregnant with our 3 1/2-year-old sons together (born days apart), suffered early miscarriages back-to-back (mine first), and then she got pregnant towards the end of my pregnancy with Addison. I must confess that I was incredibly grateful when she found out she was pregnant this time with a boy. She really wanted a girl, but I know how hard it would have been for me if she was having a girl. And it IS all about me, right?

So B tells me that they have a first name, but they're working on a middle name. She and her husband have decided they would like it to be a family name. There are very few males on her side of the family, so it will likely be a name from her husband's side. So she emails her MIL asking for a list of family names. Well, apparently, B's husband has an older brother who died before he was born. MIL had a son Eric who died at 4 years old, and later had B's husband. (I regretfully admit I don't remember how/why. My concentration is somewhat limited these days.) So in the email, MIL says that her brother (B's hubby's uncle) feels like they should use Eric as the middle name.

She didn't know how to respond to the email because she doesn't like the name Eric (and has an ex-bf with that name). My suggestion was that she email MIL back and thank her for the suggestion and tell her that they would definitely consider it. In my opinion, naming the baby is 100% up to B and her husband (dead baby in the family or not), and although it would be an absolutely touching gesture, they are under NO obligation to use the name. Okay, so easy enough.

However, I was stunned when B started in on this whole idea that MIL is over the death of her son and it's just not a big deal in the family because MIL isn't an emotional kind of person and it was a long time ago. Now, this is a very dear friend of mine, who knows all the intimate details of Addison's birth, death, and the week in between. So I couldn't believe that she would actually say those words to me. And that she would think that ANY mother--even 30-something years later--would consider the death of her child to be "no big deal." I tried to be as gentle as possible when I told her that there is no way her MIL doesn't think about Eric on a very regular basis--even now. B really didn't buy it, and pushed back on that idea a little, and that made me sad.

It made me realize how little empathy we can sometimes have for others. Without feeling a specific type of pain or loss, it's really hard to imagine ourselves there--and hard to imagine the deep, intense pain it would cause. More than that, I think it's just too much work to let yourself go to that imaginary painful place, so we generally choose to live in ignorance. To a degree I get that, but at the same time it made me sad that B will never really understand what I've gone through and what I'm still going through. That she thinks someday I will just "get over" losing Addison and it will be "no big deal."


  1. This is a very interesting post. Unfortunately, I myself don't seem able to empathise with someone going through an experience, unless I have had that experience myself. How many people can? Before my mother died, I had no understanding of how painful bereavement can be - and that the fact that a person is elderly, and is expected to die - does not appear to ammeliorate the pain of losing them. I am making no comparisons with the loss of your dear baby, for which I offer my heartfelt sympathy. All I am saying is that I thought my world was collapsing when my mother died, and only some of my friends - usually the ones who had lost their dearly loved parents - could empathise with that feeling.

  2. my husband's grandad had a sister who died when he was 6 years old.

    now, more than ever, i understand that he must still grieve for her, even though he's not the kind of person you can imagine grieving at all.

    some people don't understand. can't understand. and to be honest, i wouldn't wish that understanding on anyone.

    i don't know what else to say. because it was a really insensitive thing for her to say, cruel even. but... she doesn't understand. she can't understand. it's not fair though that she would choose to say all that to you.

    thinking of you.

  3. I know I didn't understand just how hard this was before I lost Matilda but I'm pretty sure (I can't seem to remember what my thoughts were on this used to be) I had enough empathy to realise that people didn't 'get over it' in a lifetime.

    I also can't believe your friend said that because my friends who don't seem to understand just how big this is and how much time it's going to take before I can integrate this into my life don't have kids of their own.

    I'm going to write a guest post for a blog (not a baby loss blog) and one of the things I want to include is that this is something we'll hurt about forever. We don't ever get to reach a place in our lives where we won't imagine what our babies would be like now.


  4. Wow. It's still amazing to me that people think losing a child is something you just "get over". I'm sure I will never get over Calvin's death even fifty years down the road. What I don't get is that she is a mother and must know the bond between mother and child and how strong and precious that is. Hopefully B will never have to experience what we've gone through, but sometimes I wish people on the outside could have a moment of understanding where they could feel the depth and breadth of the pain we are in when we lose our children. Maybe then it would change the minds of those who think it is "no big deal". Hugs

  5. I was just reading the UK SANDS website and found this - I don't know if you would send it to your friend, but I found the stories heartbreaking. It might help her to understand - maybe not, but I thought I would show you the link anyway.