Posts Tagged ‘grief’

Knowing What To Say

Tuesday, November 10th, 2009

Last week, a friend lost a pregnancy less than 48 hours after announcing it to her friends in a public manner. I don’t know how she’s doing now, because she posted a request not to talk about it and I’m trying to respect her wishes. I sent a text, figuring it was better than a Facebook message and less intrusive than a phone call, but it feels cheap and impersonal. In the past when someone I know had a miscarriage (it’s reported that between 20-50% of pregnancies result in miscarriage,  but even those statistics seem low…or my friends and family have just suffered more than their share) I’ve sent cards, sometimes called, but more often than not I’ve ignored it in favor of silence. I have a tendency to put my foot in my mouth and make things worse when I’m trying to make them better and my anecdote about how I once had a cat that died so I know how they feel is TOTALLY INAPPROPRIATE.  Because I don’t know how they feel. The pain someone feels after a loss is not about me. I am sad FOR a friend but in no way am I suffering the way they are.

There are people who take every opportunity to bring themselves closer to a tragedy, make it more personal, make it all about them. They love the attention grief brings. They feed off the sympathetic looks and comments. They gather around tragedies the way some people gather around celebrities.

I hate grief groupies. In fourth or fifth grade, one of the men who attended my church was killed in a plane crash. I knew his daughters through Sunday School and his wife a little bit, but I didn’t know the man well enough to remember his name now, a decade later. I saw how devastated his family was and how they wished more than anything that they were further from the tragedy, that it wasn’t in their life, that it had happened to someone they didn’t know. I saw the church community offer love and support and shelter from the well-meaning but pushy grief groupies who lived just down the street or went to the same grocery store or who once flew on a plane that took off from that same airport. And I punched a kid in my homeroom who spent the whole morning following the accident going around telling everyone HE went to the same church TOO and was SO SAD and maybe it could have been HIS dad on that plane, except for, you know, IT WASN’T. And now that I’m an adult with adult friends who have adult problems and adult tragedies, I worry my attempts at sympathy will be seen the way I saw that kid’s actions.

I think the hardest part of supporting someone through a miscarriage is not knowing how they want to be supported. Maybe they’re done grieving and my phone call will rip the bandage off a healing wound. Maybe they’ve already used up their monthly allowance of “I’m doing ok”. Maybe they aren’t as sad as they feel they’re “supposed to” be and hearing condolences over and over just makes it worse. I’m sure dealing with the reactions and responses from friends and family can be almost as painful as the actual miscarriage. I just don’t know what to say. Do you have any advice?