Saying Nothing vs Saying the Wrong Thing

Forgiveness is something I admit that I have really struggled with since Ollie passed away. Death brings out the best and also the worst in people, often the latter. I have read that one reason for this can be that death makes people much more aware of their own mortality and feel that subconsciously death can be contagious, which causes them to flee to protect themselves. To an extent this is understandable, but I am yet to accept the fact that it is okay to ignore the birth of a friend or family members child. Ollie was born at 06.40am on 16th October 2021, he passed away at approximately 11.15am on 15th October 2021. On 17th October we left the Maternity ward without our baby. On 18th October I registered his death. On 19th October I became very aware that people knew what had happened, the people who mattered to us knew what had gone drastically wrong and yet my phone was mostly silent. We received beautiful bunches of flowers and gifts and handwritten cards and some truly heartfelt messages, which we were incredibly grateful for. But I could not help but notice the radio silence or lack of effort from a number of people. Some who had even attended his baby shower, who had commented on my pregnancy throughout those 9 months, who had bought gifts for him….

For a while we made excuses to disguise the hurt we were feeling about the lack of acknowledgement of the birth of our boy.

‘Oh they didn’t know what to say’

‘It must have been hard for them to hear the news’

‘I’m sure they don’t even know what’s happened’

‘They might be busy’

‘It makes people uncomfortable’

But actually as the days went by, those excuses were no longer acceptable to me or to Reece. The time came where we struggled to find a single excuse for the lack of contact. Whether that be via friends or family or via social media accounts or through the post or even calling directly, it was not okay. 4 months later we still grieving and I still have days where I struggle to get out of bed, that lack of contact still exists. Life goes on, I can understand that but sending a few words takes a few seconds.

Do not ignore us. Baby loss in most cases is not contagious, we are not freaks, we are not ghosts, you can see us. We are living human beings and we have lost children, which let’s be fair is basically one of the most traumatic things that can ever happen to a person. Just because our baby died does not mean yours or your future child’s will, just because we are grieving does not mean we are invisible. Had our baby lived we would have received the opposite reaction; balloons would have arrived, cards, well wishes, text messages, congratulatory phone calls, flowers, banners, gifts. But because our child passed away, some people believe it is okay to do nothing. Radio silence. Whilst one size does not fit all and some families absolutely prefer to take some time away, which is completely understandable, and grief is very personal. I have found that ignoring our children is simply not okay. I don’t accept that any single person cannot spare 10 seconds of their time to even google ‘what to say to a bereaved parent’ or ask someone for advice. I have continually been disappointed by people, who even now still continue to ignore messages and invitations and requests for help. Who refuse for their own selfish reasons to not acknowledge our beautiful little boy who was a human being, who was born and who existed? Because it made them uncomfortable? I have come to accept that some of these relationships are now damaged beyond repair.

Some of the most beautiful, kindest messages and gifts we received were from people we had not spoken to in many years or people we barely even knew. I make sure I acknowledge every single one of them. One school friend who I have not seen for 9 years sent us a beautiful book and a handwritten card, another university friend who I had lost contact with got in touch and sent me a beautiful message about Ollie and let us know she was thinking of us and a lady who I discovered on Instagram who had lost her daughter made Reece and I the most wonderful handmade memory box filled with personalised items for Ollie. It is not about money or expectations of gifts; it is about words. And words cost nothing. Sometimes there is no right thing to say and like I said previously, what one person finds offensive or upsetting, another person may not. But to me saying nothing, is worse than saying the wrong thing.

If you’re thinking about them, let people know. Again whilst one size does not fit all, it brings Reece and I comfort to know that Ollie is in people’s thoughts. He was a very special little boy who has made a huge impact on the world already. All of the children people have lost whether that be via miscarriage, stillbirth, IVF implantation failure, SIDS, neonatal death, premature complications – have made an impact on the world and there is no footprint too small that does not make an impression on our lives.

Our situation has also made me consider my own actions when I too experienced close friends and family going through similar or the same situation as us, I admit I failed to acknowledge a close friends missed miscarriage in the right way and did not identify the pain that caused her and her family. Almost 2 years later I have now apologised for not being as supportive as I could and should have been, and have worked with my companies HR department to change the narrative in our policies around miscarriage.

All we can do is learn, we are all human being’s and we are all trying to navigate our lives in the best way we can. I understand that life goes on, that our family is of course one of many and that people’s lives are busy. Whilst we don’t expect a constant stream of messages or visits, a little check in once in a while via whatever communication platform reminds us how much our boy was loved. But don’t be that person, send a message, or a card, or letter, or an email or whatever form of communication you like. But please, do not ignore our children.

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