Sunday, January 8, 2012

What Not to Say to a Grieving Parent, Part 5

Oh, you'll have more children...

I couldn't heal until I had another baby...

I suspected this was the case the day they told me that Garrett had died: barring a major medical breakthrough, Autumn will be our only biological child. I'll do another post later with all the details, but that's what it boils down to.

Oh, you'll have more children...
What bothers me about this first What Not to Say is the dismissive nature of the person who shrugs and casually tells us we'll have more kids. First, they make the assumption that we can have more children and that isn't always the case for a variety of reasons. And second, even if we had 20 more children, none of those children would be Garrett. I would imagine women who have had miscarriages at different stages face this...but the reality is that whether the loss is at 10 weeks, 25 weeks, 34 weeks, or any time after birth, that baby is that baby. There's no replacing a life. Ever!

I couldn't heal until I had another baby...
I've had more than one mother who lost a baby say this one to me. I sort of get it, don't get me wrong. But I wish, wish, wish that people would think before they say such a thing. After the first time I heard this one, I went home and told Mike it was ridiculously depressing because it felt like being smacked, that no matter what I do, I'll never really recover because I can't give birth to another baby. I know this isn't true but those are the irrational thoughts that flow through my head sometimes. And the look of pity on the person's face when I hesitate and say that we can't have anymore children...that's even worse. Because even if I know I'm going to survive, it feels like that person is condemning me to a life of misery and regret.

I've come to terms with our medically imposed infertility but those first few weeks of dreading the above statements or "when are you going to start trying again?" or "are you pregnant yet?" were a whole lot of not fun. Really, all of these What Not to Say posts can be boiled down to one thing: think before we speak. It's a lesson I am teaching myself as well because heaven knows I put my foot in my mouth all the time. Both of the comments regarding children could have been avoided if the speakers had considered that there might be a reason I can't just go out and get pregnant again or, heck, that I might be too darn scared! Again, for the most part, I don't think people (most people, at least) say any of these things to be malicious. And you'd be surprised the things a person says by mistake that are softened by an obvious heart of love and concern. Actually, I generally choose not to be angry because I know that people are only looking out for the best.

Coming soon! The winding down of What Not to Say to a Grieving Parent and What's Next for the Colleys?


  1. Hi, I'm a stranger but I found the link to your blog from the Dear Prudie website which you posted a couple of weeks ago. Just wanted to tell you how sorry I am of dear Garrett's loss. I have not lost a child but as a mother I can only imagine the kind of grief and sorrow you must have endured.

    I don't think having another child makes you "get over" the loss of another. Maybe it distracts you from your grief because parenting is so busy and consuming. But it's ridiculous to think that you can replace one child with another. If I lost my dad I won't "get over it" if my mother remarries and I get a new stepdad, right?

    Thank you for posting a link to your blog, it was a privilege to read about your lovely family. God bless you and a stranger across the world is praying for you and your family.

    PS- sorry if it seems kinda stalkerish to follow your blog, I usually don't follow blogs but I clicked onto yours out of interest and something about it was so touching I couldn't help coming back. If you do not feel comfortable with a stranger following your blog I will not visit it again.

  2. Hello and I am so glad that you commented! Please feel free to follow this blog. Your interest is a huge encouragement to me...I started this and made it public as part of my own healing process, but also in hopes that someone might be encouraged, too! Thank you so much for your prayers.

    You probably already saw this, but we're about to go into the next step in the adoption process! We are all so excited about it. I don't think we were ever meant to be a one child family so this feels right. I wouldn't call it not being able to heal until I have another (biological) baby (which is what the two friends meant) but, man, you're right that parenting is consuming. It's going to be really great to get to do all those baby things we were looking forward to (and the things we dread, ha!).