As many know, October is Infancy and Infertility awareness month- a hefty subject, but one we feel is absolutely necessary to discuss- especially during this time. Unfortunately, 1 in 4 women in the United States alone are affected by infertility or infant loss, or both! When our mothers were growing up, infancy loss was a very hush-hush topic and an inward battle of pain and grief. Now, (thank heavens!!) the struggles of infancy loss and infertility are no longer a taboo subject and more and more women are sharing their private stories of loss; not, for show, but to build and strengthen others. Mallory Hutchins is one such woman who experienced devastating personal loss with her family and now- openly shares her experience with other mothers to grow and strengthen this motherhood community. We are so blessed to have Mallory share her knowledge and heart with us today.
The Unexpected Grief
When my daughter passed away unexpectedly at 10 months old, my heart shattered. I was beyond broken… I was shattered beyond repair.
They say it takes a “village” to raise a child…
At that moment my “village” is what kept me alive…
There were some amazing things that were said to me, in the early days of my grief that were very helpful…
We’ve all been in a situation where we are wanting so badly to help someone, but we just don’t know what to say. Now that I’ve been on the other end of this situation, I want to shed some light on eight ways you- a caring friend- can help and what can be said to a grieving mom or family after the loss of a child.
1. SAY THEIR NAME… and say it often.
Try not to use the term “baby” or “pregnancy”. These women lost a child, and that child has a name. A name the parents spent weeks and months picking out.
2. HARD TRUTH
Many times people don’t want to bring up the lost child because they don’t want to make their grieving friend sad… Sorry, but they are always thinking of their child. You are not reminding them of their deep loss. I promise the one grieving is more afraid of others “moving on” or forgetting about their child, than you making them “sad”.
3. SHARE YOUR MEMORIES
Share things that you will never forget, share things that remind you of them. This is very important in the weeks, months, and years after.
4. WHAT TO TEXT
A simple text saying you were thinking about___ (fill in the blank). I can’t tell you how much strength these sorts of texts helped me. There were sweet texts from friends where they said they had a moment where they thought of my Mackenzie or felt her presence with them. Or, sharing the sweet comment their child made about Mackenzie at the breakfast table. These are things that give me the strength to go on. The fact that my daughter is still remembered and making a difference in this world, after such a short stay here is so very important to me.
5. TALK IN PRESENT TENSE
Even though my child isn’t physically with me, she is still a very large part of our family. She still has beautiful eyes & she still loves to float in the water.
I find comfort in speaking about her knowing her sweet spirit is still with me.
6. VALIDATE THEIR PAIN
As humans, we want to be fixers. We want to make things right and better. This is our natural response to a hurting person. This is the exact opposite of what a grieving mom needs.
Allow her to be broken.
Sit with her in her pain.
Let her know that you agree.
This isn’t fair.
She doesn’t deserve this.
And this does freaking suck.
My husband has a line he uses to express all these to me when I’m breaking down. He says, “YOU’RE NOT WRONG.”
It makes me feel like I’m not totally crazy, that my emotions are valid and that my grief, while at times overtakes my mind and body, I’m not in the wrong feeling the way I do.
7. THANK THEM FOR SHARING
One afternoon, a few months after losing Mackenzie, I was talking to a mom I just met in the baseball field bleachers. We both have two boys and a daughter that followed them. I felt prompted to share Mackenzie’s story with her and felt that she needed to hear it. She was very respectful and listened with such love. She asked questions about my daughter sincerely trying to love my daughter, whom she never met.
Later that night I received a text message from her saying:
“Thank you for sharing your sweet Mackenzie’s story with me tonight. I really felt your love for her.”
Those simple words meant so much to me. My story wasn’t burdensome or a dark cloud in her day. It felt nice hearing that from her firsthand.
8. SAYING NOTHING AT ALL
The scriptures teach us to “mourn with those that mourn“. One exceptionally hard evening after Mackenzie passed, my husband went back to work. Two very amazing women came and sat on my couch with me. I don’t remember what was said or the advice given, but I do remember them crying and sitting with me. They didn’t bring elaborate gifts or have profound words. They just sat with me. But the comfort and support I felt from the sitting in the room with me, that they silently gave were priceless.
Grief is different for every person, and not everyone will feel the same way or needs the same type of support.
But showing up,
time after time,
on big days as well as the normal Thursday…
this is what is vital and important.
If you are sincere with your actions and words and your goal is to help alleviate the physical suffering, not to heal or eliminate the immense pain of grief, then what you do or say will always be the right thing.
— Mallory Hutchins
Thank you so much Mallory for sharing your journey with us. This is such incredible and invaluable advice. If I may be so bold, I would like to add two more points that I feel important when I was going through my mother’s unexpected death.
9. TAKING CARE OF THE BASICS
Gifts are not necessary, ever. But, when deep in the grief, the basic needs, like waking up in the morning or eating seem pointless. If you are the type of person who doesn’t like showing up to a house empty-handed… bring food. Something fresh or a treat for now or something they can easily slip in the freezer for another time. Comfort foods of any kind are perfect. On a particularly rough day, a friend said, “I’m headed to get an ice cream shake- on my way over. What are you in the mood for? Chocolate or something fruity?” She didn’t give me an option to say no- just a, “which can I get you?”
10. BE THE “ALWAYS THERE” FRIEND
One of my least favorite phrases is “if you need anything, call me!” Though, the comment is usually said in passing, because what else can they say to leave the awkward conversation? To their credit, they probably don’t know any better. But hopefully, after reading this article you will!
Be the “always there” friend who checks in on your friend. Text, phone call. Emoji, memes- whatever your language is every couple of days. Be the friend that is mindful of their posts on social media and LOOKS for the cries for help and then ACT! Be the friend who announces you are coming over with dinner when a friend texts you and says it was a rough day. Or dropping off chocolate at the doorstep. Be the “always friend” that is comfortable sitting in their home and listening. Cry with them. Clean with them. Whatever -they- need. After all, this isn’t about you and your comfort level, it’s about what they need. And be in-tune to that, for them, as the “always there” friend.
We hope that this article has been insightful and helpful for you. This topic is truly a difficult one for so many of us, but we pray that Mallory’s beautiful story is inspiring to you or someone who may be seeking such guidance. To mourn with those that mourn is not always an easy thing to do, but with a little practice, we can improve our skills and lovingly search for those who may need our help. We are grateful for Mallory and her willingness to share her story and bringing this topic of grief to the table. To learn more about Mallory and her amazing family, follow her on Instagram where they share tidbits of their life and the positivity of navigating life after loss.
Thanks for reading friends,