Amongst the shared horror stories of raising heathens and debating Bible doctrine, both of which we do on a regular basis, we also like to make up our best "10 Things Not to Say to..." For my friend that blank is army wives. For me it's mothers who have lost children.
And, for the edification of those who want to know...here is some of my list. Because at some point, you will know one of these women...or you will meet one. I want you to be someone they remember with a sense of peace, not sorrow.
1. "You are so strong. I just don't think I could do it."
All variations of this are just wrong. I didn't think I'd ever have to survive one of my children, let alone five! It is not something that any of these mothers plan for, expect, or want to happen. And they are only as strong as they have to be.
We only get up to care for our families, or go to our jobs, or do the grocery shopping because it has to be done. Not because we have some super deep reservoir of strength that outweighs yours.
2. "God just needed another rose for his garden." or the ever popular "God needed another angel."
Again, not helping. I personally do not believe that my children are inanimate objects on some bush in heaven...or that they are angels. Beyond my personal beliefs, though, is this truth....God did not need to take my children for anything.
3. "God's got a plan." and "Someday it will all make sense."
I addressed this briefly in another post - the idea of God's plan. And, do not misunderstand me...I believe there is one. But, in this particular instance - this phrase is not comforting! Because, I can tell you without a shred of doubt: this is never going to make sense to me in this life.
4. "When are you going to get over this?"
I don't think that there is really any explanation needed for that one, but I will provide a note.
You do not ever get over losing a child. You move on, or you heal (mostly), or you learn to live with it...but you do not get over it.
And I have to come to understand that people wanting you to is a measure of their discomfort over your loss.
5. "You're so lucky you only have two (one, three, etc.) Just imagine if you had (fill in the blank)!"
I do not consider myself lucky to have ‘only’ two. And, neither would they. They love their children. Just as I do mine. And they would not consider their lives easier to have lost even one of those precious children.
A Final Note
I believe in the good intentions of most people. Perhaps it is my rose colored glasses, but I do not believe that I am surrounded by people who want to hurt me. But sometimes they do.
In this particular situation there are only a few phrases that really count.
I love you.
I'm praying for you.
I'll call you tomorrow to see how you are.
What can I do for you?
You can write a card on their child's birthday or due date. You can make the family meals so they don't have to. You can send her a card on Mother's Day or him one on Father's Day.
You can be unafraid to ask how they are - and unafraid to accept an honest answer.
You can let them know they are not alone.