|Flynn's hands and feet forever stamped in ink|
"At least you can have another one."
"Do you have any more children? Oh that is good then."
The other day I was having a conversation with someone about the insensitive (while maybe well intentioned) things that the non-bereaved say to the bereaved. In the discussion we made the distinction non-bereaved to bereaved probably due to our own bias as bereaved individuals (I mean the bereaved would not get it wrong, right?). The person with whom I was conversing asked me about my loss experience and I told them about Flynn. They asked me how he died and when I told them that he was born premature and did not survive they commented "oh so he was only a baby?"*
* Sadly that is not an uncommon response and it happens so often that I never say I had a baby that died but rather that my son died to avoid a preconceived idea of what that should mean.
When that bereaved individual said "only a baby" I responded from a place of wanting to educate, as that is where I am in my grief, knowing that no-one has walked in my shoes. I said that "he was my child and long awaited and that his death shocked me and continues to have an impact." The person then asked if I had other children?*
*I have come to realize over the years that this line of questioning is a means of providing comfort to the person asking the questions, as they look for some kind of happy ending from me.
I responded that I had three boys at home. Then came the response that is even more common then only a baby. This bereaved person smiled kindly and said "well at least you could have more." What do you say to that? This all took place in the context of a conversation about the insensitive things that people say to the bereaved. This person was bereaved themselves and yet they did not seem aware of the insensitivity of this statement. Still, I could not claim to be completely shocked by their response because what we say to bereaved parents of miscarriage, stillbirth, perinatal death, and infant death is very different then what we would say to any other type of loss.*
*Actually, I should include another demographic, young widows get similar messages that they can still remarry or start over.
In our society, we do not do a very good job of recognizing or legitimizing these deaths.
Conversely, the difficulty continues because you may have another pregnancy, another baby or remarry and then somehow to society (or even just your family and friends) you must be "better" or "over it." In fact when our third son was born people said things like "glad to see you getting on with your life" or "it was time to move on." Which really means your grieving time has passed and you should be focusing on this new joy. Of course we were happy when our son was born but we were also reminded of what we lost and what could not be undone. Flynn had a space carved out in our family that was his alone; a period in time where he existed and from which his memory carried on. There was no getting over that.
If I could go back to that conversation and do it over, I think I would gently remind that individual that when I was at a place in my grief and my journey, I did have another child (2 more), but that I could not and will never have another Flynn.
I have included a link to a lovely video that was created on just this idea: