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Question of the Month
When is it all right to tell people about my baby? He was 2 1/2 months old when he died. I went through labor and a c-section. Sometimes during conversations, I feel like I want to mention him but I don't want to make anyone feel uncomfortable.

Sherokee IlseSherokee Ilse

There will be moments and days when you can't help telling others about your baby - it is perfectly fine to do this, at any time, when you need to. There is no special or specific time. People are so different and every situation will vary. I understand your reluctance to mention your child, worrying you will make others feel uncomfortable. It is so easy to put the other person first and ignore or hide your needs. But really, though some people may indeed be uncomfortable, you are giving them a chance to learn from you - you have survived the death of a child. You walk, you talk, you function, and yes, you cry sometimes, but gee, you are a testament to perserverance. You have survived! They may know someone else who has had a similar tragedy and you could inspire them to talk with that bereaved person. They may wonder if there are support groups and good books and you could enlighten them. They even may wonder what you have done to survive to this point so they can pass that information on. It is even possible that may have their own loss someday and will learn from you something that they will hold onto that might help them. Are you really sure the only outcome will make them uncomfortable? Or are you depriving them of some valuable information AND possibly a chance to offer you some comfort (even if you are a stranger to them. Move beyond your assumptions and do what you need to do when you need to do it. Trust that you will say it well (practice if you want) and then let them be an adult and handle it however they need to.

When we try to control things to "take care of" or "protect" others we aren't really respecting them as adults, allowing them to respond as they will. Now for some personal examples: Shortly after Brennan died I was shopping in a store in my community. The clerk, whom I had never met before, asked when I was due and I burst into tears and told her my story. She was so moved and handled it so well, even comforting me. Not too long ago she recognized me and stated that she remembered me from that one time we had met. Her comments were kind and she noted that she had thought it was so wonderful that I could be so open with her. Wow - who knew? At various other times while traveling on planes I would talk with seatmates and bring up my babies. Instantly some people changed the subject, yet others talked openly with me for the entire trip, apparently thankful the subject had been brought up.

To summarize, the best advice I have is to work on YOUR attitude. Don't try to protect others. Share your baby with them as you will. Trust your instincts and in the end it will work fine.

Blessings,
Sherokee

Laura Randolph

It is completely normal to want to mention your baby. This is particularly true if your loss has been recent. You may feel the need to tell your baby's story, from the pregnancy through his death, over and over as you try to process his life and death and integrate them into your life's story. In our society where death is not an open part of our lives or our conversations, this can create a painful dilemma. Looking back at my early grief with almost four years perspective, I can see times when perhaps I should not have mentioned my son and his death and times I am happy that I did mention him.

Now, nearly four years after my son's death, I am feeling much more confident in deciding when to mention him and when to keep him only in my thoughts. Sometimes my decision is to prevent an awkward situation, and at other times it is to protect my son's memory or to prevent myself from being hurt.

There is no easy formula as to when to mention your baby and when it is best to keep him quietly in your heart. I do believe that in time as you see the many varied reactions, ranging from sympathy and understanding to uncomfortable silence or unsympathetic words, you will become more comfortable in knowing when to mention your son.

I encourage you not to let fear prevent you from ever mentioning your son, for it would be better to endure a few awkward situations than to bury the joy of your son's life and the sorrow of his death. There are still times I regret mentioning my son because of what was said to me afterward, such as statements implying because he was young his death should not have hurt. However, there are also times that healing has taken place for me and for the other person because I have mentioned my son. One such instance happened this month. At an activity for my preschooler I mentioned I had lost a son. Even as I spoke I wondered if I should be mentioning him. My regret did not last long because the woman beside me spoke with total understanding when she said, "I lost a son too; he was stillborn." As we watched our preschool daughters play there was a bond that was formed and a small bit of healing that took place.

In time, you will probably notice your struggle of wondering when to mention your son will lessen. In the meanwhile, giving yourself a safe place to talk about your son such as a support group, a trusted friend, clergy member or counselor may prove valuable as well.

Laura Randolph

Ann DouglasFrom Ann Douglas . . .

Most of us who have been through the death of a baby rapidly develop a finely tuned radar that guides us in deciding when to share our stories with other people. If we meet someone at a social function and it's clear that she is only going through the motions when she asks, "How many children do you have?" I generally respond by telling that person about my four living children. If, however, I meet someone under different circumstances and they seem generally interested in getting to know me, I might also mention that we also had another child who was stillborn at 26 weeks due to an umbilical cord knot. I'm more inclined to share this information if the other person has shared something about himself or herself, e.g., if they have mentioned that they themselves have experienced the death of a child or a sibling.

You will probably find that you want to share your story with people who will be genuinely supportive, but you shouldn't feel obligated to put your heart and soul on the line -- and potentially leave yourself open to hurtful or insensitive comments -- each time you meet someone new. While the majority of people understand that experiencing the death of a child through miscarriage, stillbirth, or during early infancy is a terrible loss, not everyone is as understanding as we would like.

Ann Douglas

Marilyn HeavilinMarilyn Heavilin

I don't think there is a definite time table or specific situation when it is all right to talk about your little boy. My test is based on whether I think the person wants to hear or if I think I will see the person often enough that it is important for them to know about me and my baby. I also tell my story whenever I have a feeling I would be betraying my son or his memory if I didn't mention him.

I would just say feel free to talk when you believe you are ready.

Much love,
Marilyn Heavilin

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