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Rules for Responding to Parents Suffering Loss, No Matter How Famous They Are

I wish most of this did not have to be made explicit, but here it is:

  1. People are allowed to write/post about lived experiences. When those lived experiences are ones that have been taboo in society, we say "Thank you for sharing your pain with us," and... that's it. Props to anyone who shares honestly, even if that stuff is hard. If someone puts something out in the world that you don't want to see, scroll on by, or unfollow. Don't demonize.

  2. Don't say anything like, "Are you going to have another kid?" or "When can you start trying again?" or "You're still feeling sad about that?" There is no timeline for grief, especially for those of us who see the shadows of our departed dancing among the children with whom they might have been playmates. Don't try to force someone to "move on." And, by the way, just because someone decides to have another child after a loss does not mean the book has closed on their grief because they "have a replacement."

  3. Miscarriage, stillbirth, and infant loss are not all the same experience -- but because they are all silenced in our society, they are often grouped together. It’s frustrating for someone like me who suffered infant loss to be grouped with these other categories; they are not the same, they should not be treated the same. The fact that they are grouped together is symptomatic of the larger problem that all of these losses are marginalized, and in order to get any attention must be presented together.

  4. October is Pregnancy, Stillbirth, and Infant Loss Awareness month. Reach out to someone you know who has suffered. We are seeing posts go by daily on social media reminding us of our losses, and no matter how long ago it happened, it still feels raw.

  5. Most importantly: NO TWO LOSSES ARE THE SAME. If you have suffered, too, your loss may be the worst thing that ever happened to you. Mine too, but they aren't the same. Find people who have shared experience with you, offer support when you hear that it's happened, but please DON'T ever start a statement with, "The same thing happened to me." Doesn't matter if your losses were the same day, at the same age, with the same diagnosed conditions. And, please, don’t compare your experience with the loss of your grandmother to my loss of my son. Worse, never make it sound like your loss was worse than mine. You’re entitled to say anything you want about your grief, and to experience it in whatever magnitude it hits you. I'm not judging your loss. I want you to confide in me, but it is not a contest of whose loss sucked more.

If you have suffered a loss, but you don't know who will listen, please feel welcome to reach out to me. If you know someone who has suffered a loss and are not sure how to respond, please feel welcome to ask me those questions, too.

In the past year, I have committed to radical honesty with my own loss, posting publicly more than is sometimes comfortable, in the hopes that others will feel they no longer need to hide. Throughout this journey, several individuals have reached out to me to share their own, mostly-buried stories. These stories, unwitnessed and unacknowledged, weigh heavily on those around us. I have said many times this year, I pray that no one ever suffers a loss like ours again; but when they do, I will be here to listen.

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