“Will this one be OK for her?” was the funeral director’s necessary, but ill-timed question to me. “She’s very tiny. I don’t think we can customize one much smaller than this.” I guess it is obvious to say the question was ill-timed. That’s because there is never a convenient time for you to discuss what type of casket you need for your stillborn daughter. Just having the conversation is a dreadful experience. Surreal. Nightmarish. Numbing. That’s the best I can do for words right now. But they are inadequate. You’re supposed to pick out a new pair of jeans, a baseball glove, or the latest CD of your favorite band. You are not supposed to be making a trip to a funeral home to pick out the look and size of your baby’s casket. That is not something you ever want to place into your schedule. But in a fallen world it has to be done sometimes. Original sin is devastating. It’s the reason parents have to pick out caskets for their little babies.
Sometimes a stillborn baby is carried full term and is fully developed. Sometimes they come early. Either way, you anticipate seeing your precious little one with all the joy and excitement that come with expecting. The same as any other couple who is expecting. And then ………suddenly, and often without any warning, you have just lost your precious little boy or girl created in the image of Almighty God. Gone. In the blink of an eye. Just…..gone. You are undone. Your pain is so real that you feel like you could cut right through it with a knife. You feel numb to all pleasure. And even the simple task of smiling feels like a dream world. Your emotions feel as still as your baby’s body being held in your arms shortly after birth. All you can do is imagine what your baby would have sounded like when they cried. Or at what month they would have said “mama” or “dada.” Or when they would begin walking on their own. Imagination is all you have at this point. And it doesn’t work very well. You want your baby. But of course, your baby is gone. And now, what you need more than anything is for people to understand your pain. You need them to try as best they can to have empathy with your situation.
During the summer of 2016, I wrote about the horrific experience of losing my baby girl Ariana, who was a stillborn. I’ve also written about some of the difficulties I faced when dealing with people’s reaction to her death. If you want to have a better context with which to understand the following advice, then I would recommend you read at least one of the linked articles above. Knowing the experience better, and having the right context helps out tremendously when it comes to successful application. The more you know about someone else’s pain, the better equipped you will be to minister to them. Or at least to understand them better. And when you take the time to understand, the less chance there is of you doing more harm than good. With that said, losing a baby during (or just before) birth is really hard to describe to someone who hasn’t gone through it. And on top of that, there is a lot of ignorance and misunderstanding on the subject of stillbirth. But I believe that ministering to parents of stillborns will be greatly improved with knowing just a few things. Things that most people do not think through, and are not educated on when it comes to stillborn babies. Because even if you mean well, you can cause unnecessary pain to people who are going through unspeakable grief.
All of us need to be more aware of and empathetic of those who have had much different experiences. And having myself gone through this particular trial, I’ve been the recipient of both the good and the bad. Of both the empathetic, and the indifferent. I have dealt with those who think before they speak, and those who do not. And I am certain that others in my situation can relate well to what I’m saying. So, some guidance is obviously needed. I’ve compiled a list here of some things I believe will help you, if you are faced with the rare difficulty of ministering to a couple under these tragic circumstances. And since it is so close to my heart, I’ve decided to make an entire blog series out of this topic. I want to be thorough, and devote enough time to each point. So instead of writing one massive blog (which would end up like a mini book!), I will explain each point on a separate blog post. So, I have included the list below, just to give you some time to mull it over for a few days. Then………I’ll move on to deeper emphasis.
With that said, keep in mind that my words are flawed. They have no power to change anyone. Only God’s Holy Spirit can do that. All of us are imperfect, but Jesus Christ uses imperfect people to accomplish His will. My hope and prayer is that God would use something……anything……….I write to help you become more aware of this pressing need.
So, let’s get to it!
Parents of stillborn babies want you to know…………..
1. We want you to know that we are greatly suffering, and we need you to acknowledge this fact with words of compassion.
2. We want you to know that we love our babies as much as any other parent loves their own children.
3. We want you to use our baby’s name as much as possible. It is like beautiful music being played in our ears.
4. Just because we had only a very short time to bond with our baby (our lifeless baby), this does not make the grieving process easier. In some ways, it makes things harder.
5. We want you to know that we love talking about our babies as much as any other parent loves to talk about their own kids, and we want people to at least try to listen more when we do.
6. We want you to become more comfortable in conversation, and not change the subject so quickly whenever we talk about our precious babies.
7. When we bring up in conversation that we had a stillborn, we want you to know that simply saying “I’m sorry” is a much better option than total, dismissive silence.
8. We want you to acknowledge the powerful bond that we have with our babies, and want you to refer to us as their parents.
9. We want you to ask questions about our baby (eye color, hair color, height, weight, did you get to hold the baby, did they look like mommy or daddy, do you have pics, etc.)
10. We want you to know that, even many years later, we still feel the loss and miss our babies very much.
– – – – – – –
So there you have it. A little something to whet your appetite. Until next time, please be reflecting on these things. And as you do, remember that parents of stillborn babies do not expect you to be perfect in your dealings with them. We don’t expect you to “have it all together.” Death is hard, no matter who it involves. We know that you mean well, and you don’t want to hurt us. We know that sometimes all of us say the wrong thing. None of us are perfect. Only Christ is. And only by His strength can we put any of these principles into practice. I need His strength to minister to others as much as anyone. So above all things, do not neglect the Word of God. I’ll get more into that in the coming weeks.
So follow along with me, as I begin to go deeper on each point. Next time we meet I’ll be discussing Point #1 in depth: “We want you to know that we are greatly suffering, and we need you to acknowledge this fact with words of compassion.”
Stay tuned for much more in the coming days and weeks!
Thank you so much for taking the time to read this! If you enjoy my articles, you can subscribe to this blog by email. It’s free! And no spam at all! Simply find the box that says “Stay In Touch!!” and enter your email address. The box will be on your upper right (computer), or bottom part of your screen (phone). I appreciate your support! (-: