This blog is an uncensored look into my soul. I am writing this as part of my healing process, but am leaving it public so others can follow me through my journey.

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Saturday, February 27, 2010

What To Say? What To Do?

(Warning...This is a little long!)

So I know I've let you all in on my personal beliefs, feelings, struggles, etc. having to do with the loss of a child, my child.  But I also know that when a lot of you send me a comment or want to send a comment you're probably concerned with exactly what to say, not wanting to hurt or offend me.  It's such a difficult topic and everyone is so different as to how they deal with it.  I've decided to compile a list of ideas and ways to approach someone who has had such a great loss.  Honestly, even though I'm currently going through it, I still really don't know exactly what to say to someone else who's suffering the same or a similar loss.  So cut yourselves some slack and know that I love hearing from you!  

The first and most important thing you have to keep in mind is that everyone is different. I am not speaking for everyone here and I'm not guaranteeing that all these ideas will comfort someone else.  These are just ideas of what I prefer from my own experience, so please exercise caution and don't assume that what one person prefers to hear is the same for another.  No one likes to have to talk about something like this. Just be honest, especially if you know the person well.  Tell them that you don't know what to say.  Ask them if they like to talk about their loved one or if they prefer to keep it to themselves.  

For me, I LOVE talking about Hailey.  I LOVE when people ask about her or tell me memories of her.  I feel like it validates her and her life.  It validates that she was a living human being who was deeply loved.  It validates that she is and always will be a part of our family.  I LOVE hearing people's dime stories.  I've had people tell me they weren't sure if they should share them or not because they felt that dimes were my thing and they didn't want to take that away from me.  But honestly, I absolutely LOVE hearing them.  The thought that seeing a dime would make you think of my little angel is such an honor for me!  Sometimes your stories are the dime that I was looking for that day!  I've received stories from people about how finding a dime changed their day or way of thinking in a situation as they thought of Hailey.  What an honor!  So as for me, I'm asking that you keep them coming.  I save EVERY single story and/or dime I'm given!  Now, that being said, there may be people who would feel that their "sign" is very personal and sacred to them and therefore wouldn't necessarily want others to be a part of it.  That's totally fine too.  Just ask them.  

I've learned that there is no wrong way to grieve.  I have a friend who passed away when I was on my honeymoon, almost 8 years ago.  Her mother still has her room exactly the way it was when she died.  They even buy things to put in it when away on vacations, etc.  It seems to really give them comfort, which I think is absolutely wonderful!  They have found what works for them.  I have another good friend who's father passed away last May.  She was telling me how she still hasn't been able to cancel his cell phone service.  She likes to call it to hear his voice.  Again, I think that is so neat!  As for me, I put Ava in the same crib that Hailey passed away in.  Some people would find that absolutely crazy and that is completely okay.  However, for me, it worked.  I had the crib blessed and felt that it would be safe and watched over by her angel of a sister.  I also haven't touched Hailey's clothes yet...they still lay folded in her drawers and hang in her closet and they may stay that way for years, who knows!  (I have also come to the realization that Ava won't be able to wear Hailey's hand me downs...the memories are just too painful.) The most important thing is not to judge.  You can NEVER know what you would do in such a situation until you've been there.  Again, everyone is different and needs to do what comforts them and gets them through each day.  
I know this is getting a little lengthy and I could write about it for days, so let me get to my list I made.  (And once again, I cannot remind you enough that these are my personal preferences...not necessarily everyone else's.)

WHAT NOT TO SAY and/or Do:
(First off, if you've ever said any of these things to me, please don't worry about it.  Honestly, I don't remember and I also don't get offended very easily.  I know that everyone means well and would never say anything intentional to hurt me.)

  • She's in a better place. - Although I do believe that, I selfishly want her here with me.  I don't think anyone truly wants their loved on in that better place?
  • Time heals all wounds. - I don't necessarily agree with that.  The pain may be less intense, but the wound is still there.  (Like a cut that has formed a scar.  Although the cut has healed and the pain lessened, the scar will never go away and that skin is now more sensitive.)
  • One day you'll move on. - I won't. To me, "moving on," implies that I'm over it. I prefer the term "moving forward."  I feel like moving on is something you do after a breakup...I'll never move on or get over this, however I will continue to move forward in my life.
  • All things happen for a reason. - Honestly, it doesn't matter what the reason is, good or bad, none is good enough for me to have to live without my daughter.
  • R.I.P. - This reminds me of old gravestones in a scary cemetery on Halloween.  
  • Are you going to have more kids? - That's not the first thing on my mind right now.  Just wait and see...
  • I know, can imagine, or understand how you feel. - Unless you've lost a child, trust me, you don't know, cannot imagine, or understand how I feel.  And even if you have, we're still very different.
  • Don't expect a call or message back. - It's not that we don't want to return your call or email, but honestly, it gets so overwhelming sometimes.  I guarantee you that your message was received and extremely appreciated.
  • Don't judge or criticize.
  • Don't ask what happened or pry for details. - Especially if you don't know the person well.  Trust me, they'll share if they want.
  • Don't disappear. - We desperately need you.  Even if we don't respond to you all the time, please don't give up on us.  I tell my friends that I'd rather have them around and/or say the wrong thing than not be around and/or say nothing at all.

WHAT TO SAY and/or DO:

  • I'm so sorry. - I think that's the most honest thing anyone can say.
  • Share a memory. - If you knew the person who passed away, share a good memory you have of them.  I LOVE hearing memories that others have of Hailey.  (One of my most cherished gifts that I received after Hailey passed away was a letter from her nursery leader sharing some of her favorite memories of Hailey.  I would have never known that the Sunday before she passed away she went to her nursery leader and said, "Teacher." To which she replied, "What Hailey?"  Hailey responded, "Me know Jesus."  I cannot tell you what that memory has meant to me.)
  • Just listen. - Don't try to give advice or fix the offense, but you can't!  
  • Send a card, email, text, etc. Continue to let the person know you're still thinking of them and haven't forgotten their pain or loss.  Mark the yearly anniversary of the passing or the person's birthday on your calendar and make sure to acknowledge it.  (I have a friend who is the parent of one of the children in Lexi's class.  She knew Hailey well and I see her everyday when dropping our kids off.  One day she emailed me and said, "I decided that from now on, every time that I see you, I'm going to say a little prayer for you in my heart."  I found that to mean so much!)  (I also randomly received a beautiful rose tree from two of Hailey's therapists in her honor.  It can out of the blue, on a day that I really needed it.  That's something that I can tend to and nurture as I think about my little girl!)
  • Admit that there are no words or you really just don't know what to say.
  • Talk about the person who passed.  - Acknowledge their life and what they meant to you and the person who's grieving.
  • Be honest and tell the person how you feel. - One of my closest friends wrote me a letter telling me how she felt seeing me go through this.  She expressed her concern and sadness that I may never be the same again.  She shared with me how she wasn't sure how to act around me or what to say.  She told me about how she was afraid to vent to me about her children anymore because it would hurt me.  I was honored that she felt close enough to me to be able to do that.  We were able to talk and I was able to clear up some of her concerns and misconceptions, which really helped our relationship stay as strong as before.  There was never any awkwardness when we were together.  (FYI: Make sure you know the person very well before doing something like this!)
  • Visit the cemetery and leave something...even if it's just a little note. - I cannot express the joy and excitement I get when I go to visit Hailey and see that someone else took time out of their day to remember my baby girl!  It's the best feeling!
  • Do or send something special or unique to the person who passed away. -  The Sunday after Hailey passed away her nursery leader had given each child their own little bag of Lay's potato chips for a snack in honor of her.  She didn't know that we would stop by to see that and she definitely didn't know what that little gesture would mean to me.  I will never forget that!!!  It made me feel like Hailey was someone there and meant something.  
Once again...these are just ideas and suggestions and may not be appropriate for everyone.  Use your own discretion.  However, I hope they will give you a little guidance if you ever need it.

Lastly, to those of you who have dealt with a devastating loss, really try to cut others some slack.  It's such a difficult, uncomfortable situation and no one ever wants to say anything rude or hurt your feelings.  Remember we're all different.  If someone says something that bothers you or offends you, try to take it with a grain of salt and remember that they would never intentionally hurt you.  


  1. Thank you for sharing your feelings. It is a really tricky thing to know what is right. I have to agree with you about the need to talk about the child/baby to validate them.

    When I found out at a scan that our baby had died it was a week until my surgery. In that week while I still carried my baby and looked pregnant I met up with friends at a park. For the first two hours no-one looked me in the eye. No one mentioned that my baby had died. I sat awkwardly wondering if anyone cared. When I finally turned to the friend next to me and told her she looked so upset and said she was afraid to ask me in-case I cried. I burst into tears and explained that I was devastated but really needed to talk about it. I could tell that for this bunch of friends they just wanted to help but didn't know how.

    No two women are the same but I think a kind word and a hug or someone telling you that they are so sorry for what you are going through can mean so much at a time when you are so fragile.

    Thank you for always writing so honestly and for helping us to know your journey. Who knows when we may need to support someone close to us in a similar situation...

  2. Wendy, you are the "voice" of those who cannot express their feelings.
    It is a gift you have. God Bless You!

  3. You continue to amaze me with your words!
    Always thinking about you!

  4. You have no idea how many people you have helped with your blog but this posting on "what" and "what not" to say is perfect - most especially for those who don't know what to say or what to do at times like this. Even me, your mother, has learned from this and will use your words wisely when dealing with a friend or family member who suffers a loss of their loved one.