Words 

27 weeks + 1 day pregnant

“Don’t cry” why do we say that? It’s a useless thing to say. It suggests that if the tears stop the pain stops too. It suggests that tears are invalid and unwanted. It does nothing to acknowledge the affected person and nothing to soothe their pain. It instead makes the person feel burdensome and emotionally weak.

“Don’t cry,” a colleague said to me today. Then worse than that, “It’s not good for the baby.” Not only did my tears feel hurried away but an element of guilt had also been added. Most people mean well but I think the fact is that people are generally uncomfortable with emotions being brought into the light and prefer them to be hidden in the darkness. 

I cried at work today. I didn’t mean to but a situation caught me off guard and I was shocked at how quickly my mask slipped to reveal my raw under layer. A colleague who had been pregnant at the same time as me brought her baby into school. It wasn’t the fact that it was a baby, or that it was a baby round the same age Nieve would be, but the association that it had with Nieve and my last pregnancy. 

“Go and take some time to yourself,” was another well-intentioned comment from another colleague, and something people often say when a person is upset in a way of offering them space. But it felt dismissive. Like she was asking me to compose myself, to take my pain away from her because it made her feel uncomfortable. Sadly, I think this is the harsh truth of the matter but it’s often wrapped up in good intensions of striving to preserve the person’s dignity. 

“Think of the lovely baby you’re going to have now.” …Distraction… a comment to try to compensate for my loss… a comment to remind me to be positive, to be grateful for all that I have… but a comment that suggests that one baby replaces the other, that minimises my loss of Nieve because now I have Sprocket. A comment that makes me feel misunderstood.

What I want to tell them all is this, “Most of the time I stay strong and I do this partly for your benefit, so that I don’t burden you with the pain that sits in my heart every day. Sometimes the weight of my loss is hard to carry and it seeps out of me and overflows into tears for the little girl that has left a giant hole in my heart. Please don’t dismiss my pain. I can learn to hold back the tears but that will never take the pain away, so even when my eyes are dry, even when I wear the mask of a smile, there will always be the sadness lingering behind. The greatest thing you could ever do is to acknowledge the validity of my pain. And that is all you can ever really do. Words can’t compensate, they can’t distract, they can’t ‘replace’, they can’t force me to see the positive. But words can validate, they can acknowledge, they can empathise and they can support and those are the most precious gifts I think you can ever give to a bereaved person.”

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