I have had some people come into my life recently that don’t know that I lost two babies. I interact with them a lot, and for months I have wondered when it will come up. I wasn’t avoiding the topic, but it isn’t something that necessarily arises in casual conversation either. Yet I knew – when the moment presented itself, I would say something.
It came up recently with one of these new people. He is younger than me (definitely in the “Millennial” camp, whereas I am proudly Xennial) and we were discussing tattoos: what we have and why. I described the tree of life tattoo on my foot with seven birds winding up my calf for the seven members of my family. I told him that I had a stillborn baby in 2015, and then another second trimester loss in 2016. I said that trauma changes a lot of things – like what tattoos you might put on your body to honor the children you no longer have.
He told me that he was sorry. And then changed the subject.
I said: “Nice segue from an otherwise uncomfortable topic.”
I continued. “Little tip from someone older (?) (wiser?) … Don’t shy away from the uncomfortable stuff. It may suck for you but I promise it sucks more for the person living the experience. And what sucks the most for that person is silence from the people they care about.
Surprisingly, he did not shy away again. He acknowledged where he should start.
I let him know that I have spent 3+ years trying to educate people on what NOT to do with someone who is grieving. Our culture is woefully uneducated on the topic. I told him to ask: “How are you doing? Do you want to talk about it?” or simply say “I am thinking of you.”
He replied “How are you doing?”
How am I doing? Three years out, I can be in a place to help and educate others. One year out I was not. Three years out looks like a very different place, where I can have these types of conversations and hope that they make a difference. Because now that one person knows how to treat the next person, who will know how to treat the next person, and that knowledge will keep growing and expanding and we can be better at supporting those who are hurting.