It took me approximately 8 years to decide I was okay with telling people I have 11 siblings, but 10 of them are living. I was 6 when my little brother was born and died in the space of 5 days, and even though I was pretty young, I was old enough to realize that people get skittish talking about death, especially when the deceased is a baby.
Whenever I gave the “honest” answer about my family, I ended up consoling the person I was talking to: “Oh, no, it’s okay. He was just a little baby, he was perfect, we’ll see him again someday . . . .”
I am sure that I’m not alone in this situation because my sister-in-law has the same issue. Her 2nd baby, a girl, was stillborn at 37 weeks. Every time someone asks about her kids she has to decide if she wants to get into the details. She has 5 kids, but 4 are living.
I’m thinking about this because this article made me realize that even with my experience, I could be better at loving those who have lost by letting them talk about it – rather than making them feel like they ruined my day. There’s no reason to squirm when someone tells you someone they loved died. People like talking about people they loved. I’m pretty sure of that. And if you let them, they’d probably be happy to have an excuse to remember their loved one without feeling like they need to apologize for it.
It was after I wrote a paper about Matthew in 8th grade that I decided it was more important for me to recognize him as a part of my family, as my brother, than to spare someone the reality that babies die. If you asked me, I would tell you about how my family used to go to his grave every Sunday to sing to him, because he liked it when we sang to him when he was in the hospital. I would tell you about the polaroids the nurses took of each of us holding him. I would tell you that my mom likes to give a gift to a new baby every year to celebrate his birthday.
It’s hard to know what to say to someone when they tell you their baby died, but maybe start with, “Do you want to talk about it? How do you remember them?”
It might just be as simple as that. #loveinreallife