COULD YOU JUST PLEASE LISTEN?
Could You Please Just Listen?
My baby has died. Please don’t tell me you know how I feel. You don’t. You
can’t. I hope you never do. Don’t tell me that he’s with God and I should be
happy. How can I be happy when every time I go into his nursery all I see is
an empty crib and toys that will never be played with? How can I be happy
when my arms ache to hold him?
Please don’t tell me God needed another angel. It’s hard for me to
understand why God would take away this little one who was so loved.
Maybe I’ll understand later. But for right now…let God fine another angel.
Please, please, please don’t tell me I’ll have other children. Maybe I will…but
my son was not a puppy that ran away…he cannot be replaced.
Maybe you could just listen when I remember out loud all the things we did
together…the walk, the early morning feedings, the first time he rolled over.
Maybe you could just sit with me while I cry over the things we’ll never do
Please don’t tell me it could be worse. How?
I really don’t want to hear about your grandfather’s death. It’s not the same.
Don’t think my pain will be eased by comparison. Of course I’m glad he
didn’t suffer, but I’d be a lot happier if he hadn’t died at all.
I know it must be hard for you, but would you mind looking at his picture
just one more time, we don’t have many of him and I’m just a little bit afraid
that I might forget what he looked like. He wasn’t here that long, you know.
Could you just please listen?
Don’t tell me I’ll get over it. There is no “over it,” only through it. Maybe
you could just be with me while I take my first steps through it. Please don’t
tell me I should be glad he was just a baby, or that at least I didn’t get to
know him. I knew him before I ever saw him. He is a part of me. And now
he is gone. I haven’t just lost a seven-month old baby. I lost a part of
I know you mean well, but please don’t expect me to tell you how to help
me. I’d tell you if I knew, but right now I can hardly put one foot in front of
the other. Maybe if you look around, you could find some things to do, like
take my daughter for a walk, or doing the dishes, or making some coffee.
PLEASE DON’T TRY TO REMOVE MY PAIN OR DISTRACT ME FROM IT.
I HAVE TO FEEL THIS WAY NOW.
Maybe you could just listen.
Debbie Gemmill 1988
Someone very special to you has just experienced the death of a precious child. This is
an extremely difficult situation because most people never expect a child to die and after
the initial grief, they do not know how to interact with the grieving parent. As a parent
whose baby recently died, I would like to mention some things that might make the
situation easier for you and the grieving parent:
1. Realize that saying “I’m sorry” at any time after a baby has died is never
inappropriate or too late.
2. Understand that the length of time a baby is carried or the amount of time a child
lives does not determine his/her value or the impact that the child has on the
parents’ lives. To ignore what has happened in hopes that the grief will pass is to
diminish the worth of a child that was loved from the time of the awareness of its
existence, long before its birth.
3. Realize that just as no one can replace a mother who dies, a new baby cannot
replace a child who has died. All children are individuals, conceived separately,
born separately, and loved separately. It is no different with a child that dies
before, during, or shortly after birth. A parent cannot and should not be expected
to “save” the love they have for their dead child to give to the next child. The ability
to create another baby is not a way to resurrect a dead child therefore, it should
not be thought of as a complete comfort. Not only is it unfair to the dead child, but
it makes the next child a substitute.
4. If you are uncomfortable about discussing the death of the child with the parents
because you think they won’t want to talk about it, don’t shy away. Simply say
something like “I just want you to know that I want to listen if you need to talk”. Call
frequently to ask how the parent is adjusting. If you live close to the parents, take
the initiative to get together for lunch or some sporting activity (offer frequently, but
don’t force it). Let the parents set the pace but constantly show them that you are
open and interested. It may be horrifying for you to hear some details of the death,
but it is much worse for the parents to experience the trauma and then have to
keep it to themselves because they know it will be hard on you. When they tell you
how they feel, refrain from making judgments and setting timetables.
5. Realize that a child is still the product of the parents’ love and the joy of their lives.
There is joy and pain. The joy doesn’t end when the child dies, and the pain
doesn’t end as soon as the funeral is over and the cards are sent- accept both.
Don’t try to take the pain away. Parents need to feel it, hard as it is to see their
pain, they need to grieve.
6. If the child has a name, use it. Try to remember the parents with a note or a
phone call on their first Mother’s Day or Father’s Day, as well as the baby’s
predicted due date and the first year anniversary of the child’s birth and death
(even the first few monthly anniversaries).
Finally, if I can convey one thing to you in hopes it will make a difference, it is this: please
make an effort not to underestimate the depth of the pain, the length of the grief, and
most importantly, the difference your support and involvement can make during this
painful adjustment. There may not be any other time when you are needed more than
now. If you distance yourself because you’re uncomfortable until you think a reasonable
amount of time has passed, you may find a different kind of distance and hurt between
yourself and the grieving parent. If you share the experience, everyone will come out of it
Praying that God will guide and strengthen you.
National SHARE Office, St. Joseph Health Center, 300 First Capitol Drive, St. Charles,
SUPPORTING A GRIEVING FAMILY
How to Help:
1. Be supportive-Visit or call to say, "I care and want to help."
2. Treat the bereaved couple equally. Men need as much support as women.
3. Be available. Parents need direct help providing a meal, doing errands, and baby-sitting their
4. Allow the parents to talk about their child; ask but don’t pry.
5. Learn about the grieving process. There are many books available.
6. Don't be afraid of reminding the parents about the child. They have never forgotten. Letting
them know you remember is comforting.
7. Be liberal with touching a grieving parent. They often have a need for contact.
1. I'm sorry.
2. I'm so sad for your loss.
3. I know this must be terribly hard for you.
4. How are you managing all of this?
5. What can I do for you?
6. I'm here, and I want to listen.
7. Talk as long as you want. I have plenty of time.
1. It's all happened for the best.
2. You're young. You can have others.
3. Now you'll have an angel in heaven.
4. You're better off having this happen now, before you knew the baby.
5. This was God's way of saying something was wrong.
6. You should feel lucky that you are alive.
7. Forget it. Put it behind you and get on with your life.
8. I understand. (If you have not had a similar experience)
National SHARE Office, St. Joseph Health Center, 300 First Capitol Drive, St. Charles, MO. 63301
Catherine Lammert, National SHARE Office, May 1999