I could write a lot about things that people have said that have hurt or angered me but I have tried hard to always think of the intention behind their words. I try to see that while the words themselves may be clumsy or not fitting with my views, the intention was to help and comfort. And so, I take what was intended and leave behind the method of delivery. It is harder to do this when someone doesn’t say anything at all and doesn’t acknowledge the loss of my baby in any way. So I would say that even clumsy awkward words are preferable to none at all.
Simple words have been helpful: I don’t know what to say; I’m so sorry for your loss; I’m sorry we didn’t get to meet Isobel; You must be devastated; This must be so hard: I know how much you wanted her; She was so loved; She would be proud of you. Questions have been helpful: How are you really feeling?; Do you want to tell me what happened?; What did Isobel look like?; Can I see her picture?; What weight was she?; How did you choose her name?; How are you coping?; What can I do to help? Gestures of empathy have been much appreciated too – cards, flowers, food, jewellery, teddies, visits, walks, brunch dates, offers to come to appointments and so on.
My favourite thing that I’m finding strangely comforting though, is when someone tells me how they have been emotionally affected by Isobel’s death. Either how they felt when they first found out she was gone, or how they have thought about her since – maybe going somewhere that reminded them of her, or hearing a song on the radio and getting upset. Sometimes it’s someone with living children who comments about how they are more appreciative of their children because of our loss. It feels wrong to admit that I like people being upset, but I think it’s because it shows me that Isobel has been present in their mind, that they care about her and that her little life is mourned by people other than just Simon and I as parents. As time goes on, I think it will be more and more important for people to let me know that they still think of her sometimes, that she is not forgotten. Her memory is all I have and I need to keep it alive. People understanding that, to me, is the most precious empathy.