The last few weeks have been pretty hard ones for me. We've reached a really big milestone that kind of just snuck up on me. Gabriel's 8th birthday is on Sunday the 9th. My nieces are turning 8 and one is even planing to be baptized on the day that Gabriel would be baptized if he were here. It's really hard to believe that he's been gone for almost 7 years. It really just isn't fair if you want to know the truth. I'm still anxiously awaiting the day that I can see the whole picture and see exactly what this was supposed to teach me, and how it was supposed to help me. For now, it just hurts.
I've had friends who've had to bury babies since Gabriel's death, and one who is preparing to do it shortly after birth. As I think about these mothers, and the things that they have and will face, I remember the things that were said to my husband and I and our parents following Gabriel's death. I realize that most people really do want to help in some way, and want to say something comforting. For the most part, they mean well. I know that! HOWEVER, almost everything that was said to us was wrong. There isn't really much information out there for people on how to deal with these types of situations, so I think that people just try to wing it. Please stop. In an effort to help anyone put in a situation where you feel you need to comfort a grieving parent, here is my list of things NOT to say, in no particular order. (And yes, people did say these things to me.)
1. "God must have needed him more than you." or "He was needed in heaven for some important work!"
In that moment, and probably for the rest of my life, nobody needed him more than me. Hearing that only made me mad. It isn't possible that anyone could need him more than his more than his mother, and you will never convince his grieving mother otherwise.
2. "He isn't really there, his spirit is gone, that's just his shell!" or "That isn't him! He's already in Heaven!"
I realize that his spirit is no longer there. But I loved every aspect of that tiny person. Not just his spirit. I loved his body too. That was the part that I grew inside of me, that I nursed late at night, that I watched sleep, that I cleaned up after, that I bathed, that I loved to smell, that I snuggled in the early mornings after daddy went to work. That was even the part that I had to swat on the bottom when his strong will ignored mommy! Don't tell me that isn't him! That is the him that I won't be able to hold and hug for a really long time, and I am constantly aching for. Hearing that will just make me mad.
3. "At least you have _ (insert number here) other kids." or "You have _ other kids that need you."
Really????? You're right, I do. HOWEVER, they are all alive, this one isn't! I know that they are still important and need my love and attention, but for right this second, I'm going to focus a lot of my time, energy and emotion into grieving for the one who isn't alive. If you have a problem with that, you can kiss my back side! Those kids are welcome to come and join my pity party, but I am not going to go on with life like nothing happened just because I have other kids. Hearing that will also make me mad.
4. "I know how you feel. When my mom (dad, grandma, grandpa, dog) died..."
Guess what?... You don't know how I feel. Did your 14 month old get run over by a car? No? Then don't tell me that you know how I feel. Your sorrow when you had to put down the family pet is not something you should ever compare to my child dying. Your husband leaving you is not the same kind of emotional pain as when my son died, so don't you dare tell me that you know how I feel. Even those people who had children who died who said this to me made me mad. Their situations weren't the same. Their kids were 15, or 30 or even 5. Mine was only 14 months old, so to me, it was different. Hearing this made me mad.
5. "You are so lucky! You got to be the parents to someone so perfect that his mission on earth only had to be a few short months!"
I don't feel so lucky. If this is luck, I want out of this lottery. This didn't bring me comfort, just mad.
6. "At least you have the knowledge of the Gospel."
I realize that people think that this will make me feel all warm and fuzzy. It doesn't. Yes, I know that we are an eternal family, and that I will be able to raise Gabriel someday. I guess in a way that is comforting, which is better than utter despair, but I am mortal. Part of mortality is imperfection. One of my many imperfect qualities is my lack of patience. Someday isn't good enough for me. I want him 7 years ago. I want him to be preparing for his baptism next month. I want to be grounding him for sassing me and not doing his chores, and breaking things. I want him to be laughing, or fighting, in the other room with his brothers and his sister. I want his younger sister and brother to know who he is, to know that he is an actual person, not just a headstone! So, unfortunately, that isn't really a great thing to say either.
If you really want to comfort a grieving parent, here is my advice. Give them a hug. Tell them you are sorry. Pray for them. Put them on they prayer rolls at the Temples. Take them a meal, but don't stick around and talk unless they invite you to. Most importantly, two weeks after the fact, when everything has died down, when everyone has gone back to work and the kids are all back in school. When the meals stop coming in, and all of the flowers have died, and the visitors have stopped. The mom is going to be all alone. That is when she will really realize that the world is going to continue without her baby whether she wants it to or not. That really sucks. This is the time that she will really need your comfort. Please give her a new hug. Take over a fresh meal so that she can have one more day of crying. Send over a fresh bouquet of flowers so that she doesn't have to throw all of them away. (nothing worse than having to throw out dead flowers after burring your dead child. Sounds weird, but it was awful for us. Thanks Kinders for that straggler! It saved us!) Take her other children for a play date so that she can have a few more hours of personal grief. It is really hard to start life again after death. Love and friendship will do so much more than words, I promise.