Friday, September 01, 2006

Loss is like a Plane Crash

Recently a lady blurted: "Oh, well how far along were you when your most recent baby died?"

The question seemed simple enough, but based on her tone I got the feeling that she was earnestly trying to determine if this loss was a big deal or not.

I simply replied (gently) "It isn't important ... what's important is that my baby, whom I hoped for and loved is gone. It's turned my life upside down." At that point her tone filled with compassion as she said "I'm sorry."

My question is: Why do people (even those who have lost babies) assume that the baby's gestation somehow determines how much pain, loss and love you ought to feel? I know more than 50 women who have lost babies. I've heard many make statements like:

"Oh, I shouldn't feel like this ... I "only" had a miscarriage, but you've been through so much more."

"At least your baby wasn't full-term. I know someone who had an umbilical cord accident ... how terrible."

"I feel so out of place. I never even felt my baby move. I don't belong at this support group meeting."

"Well my baby was born healthy." (said in a superior tone of voice)

In the introduction of my book, Stolen Angels, I write the following:

Have you ever secretly thought it probably hurts more to lose a full term infant than say a baby 12 weeks gestation? If so, you aren’t alone. I think losing a baby feels a lot like a plane crash. Regardless of when the baby died, families still must wade through the same wrangled mess.

Imagine you are heading for the destination of your dreams. Maybe that location is Tuscany, Florence or Brazil. As you settle into your seat during the flight, sudden turbulence violently wrenches your lids open. You desperately claw the armrest and try not to peek while the sky falls past your window. There’s no escape, the plane is going down.

The impact is the same whether the airplane crashes just after takeoff, during mid flight, or when the Tuscan airport is in plain sight. No one would ever think, “Wow what a devastating crash! Well, on the upside, at least it happened only two hours into the flight!” The same is true for the parent whose baby has died. Regardless of gestation, death has stolen an angel from our wombs, our arms, our lives, but never our hearts.

Choose to reach out with compassion when a parent shares their pain. There are no winners in our circle. We all have lost.

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