Friday, April 8, 2016

Don't Judge the Path

There is a phenomenon present in social media that spans almost every public page.   It is the need to assert one's own opinion.  (I realize I am writing this on my very own blog that expresses my very own opinion, but bear with me for a moment.)  Some posts call for an opinion.  An example being People Magazine asking their followers who they think should be the Sexiest Man of the Year.   All the people commenting would have experience thinking someone is sexy and base their answer on that experience.  That's an appropriate use of an opinion.   Sadly, opinions are not always used that way.  Most often, they are not.   The more common use is that of "hey, I know nothing about this topic, but I am going to assert my own thoughts about it because, you know, it's my opinion, man!"

This is everywhere.   From men commenting on women's health issues to people without kids telling others how to parent.   It's obnoxious.   Jef Rouner wrote a really good article about this called "No, it's not just your opinion.  You're just wrong."   Yeah, it's your opinion.   Yeah, you are certainly entitled to it.  But, you have to realize that your opinion - and your reasoning behind it - can be wrong.   "It's just what I think" isn't a good defense when you are talking about something you haven't experienced.   

To be clear, I am not talking about what type of pizza topping is the best or what television show deserves the Emmy.   I'm talking about actual issues and experiences of other people.   If you haven't been there, you cannot tell those who are how to handle it.  Period.

I see this all the time in relation to the Loss Community.   I am elbow deep in that community, both by fate and by choice, and I know the women who live there with me.   I know their lives because I live it too.   We are all a part of an unwilling sisterhood - a sisterhood that understands the deepest, darkest depths of each other's hearts.   We remember what it was like before loss - and we live each day in the after.  Not a week goes by where someone I know isn't told how they should be feeling by someone who has never lost a child.   Not a week goes by where I don't see someone with 100% living children make an assumption about what it is like to lose a child.   In the past few days, this has happened excessively - which is what prompted this post.  

You know, I've never dismantled a nuclear bomb, but....I think I'd probably cut the red wire first.

That sounds like a pretty stupid statement, now doesn't it?   That's because it is.   That's because there is no validity when there is no experience.  

There is nothing more frustrating in the loss community than an "outsider" telling us how to feel or how they think a situation should be handled.   This happens a great deal on articles regarding memorial photos.   People call them "creepy" or "morbid".   People say things like, "If I lost a child, I'd never do that." Or, "This mother just needs to let go and move on."   Almost always, their comment is prefaced with "I've never lost a child, but..."    A recently written article, which I won't reference here because I don't want to give it traffic, included a statement from the author (who has only had healthy, full term pregnancies) that said she thought taking pictures and holding onto keepsakes from a pregnancy that ended in miscarriage would be a "painful reminder" and she wouldn't do it.  The community raged against her and she didn't understand why.   Here is why.

You don't know how this feels.  You don't know how it feels to break into a million pieces of pain and attempt to put yourself back together.  You don't know what it takes to heal from a loss.   It takes more than anyone could ever explain - and the only way you would ever know what this is like is if you had experienced it.   To make a claim about how you would act after losing a baby when all of your babies are alive and well is an insult to all of the mothers who are living every day with one or more of their children in an urn - or simply in their memory.   It's like sitting on top of a pristine white horse and telling the people trudging through the mud what you would do if you slid off.   You're on the freaking horse.  You're riding around all comfy and clean.   You don't know how this mud feels.   You don't know how it coats your skin and weighs you down.  You don't know how it dries inside your ears and between your fingers - how it seals your eyelashes together and tastes like death.   You don't know what it is like to wake up every day without your child and get through each moment with that hole in your heart.   You don't know. 

I am all for discussing babyloss.  I am an advocate for awareness and education - clearly.   I love it when people outside of the community want to open up a dialogue and discuss miscarriage or stillbirth.  I appreciate the desire to educate and inform.    But - educate, don't speculate.   Don't decide for Loss Moms how they should feel.   Don't presume how you think you'd feel or what you think you'd do or want in that situation - because you don't.   (When my nurse asked to take photos of Kenley, I gave her a horrified No.   What in the world?  Why would I want those?   Today, they are the most treasured keepsake I have because now I know just how important they are.)  When a Loss Mom comments about how maybe - just maybe - your opinion is wrong - believe her.   She has been where you have not.   She has been where you truly never want to go.    She has taken the pictures of her dead child.   She has baked a cake on their first, second, or twentieth birthday.  She has created an alcove for their ashes.  She has made a shadow box of the outfit they should have come home in.   She has done all the things you want to say you'd never do.  And yet,  the one thing many people say they'd most definitely do - she has not at all - because she is still alive.  She has fought to live in the face of grief - and she has done that by doing all those things she is constantly judged for.   

So, when it comes to judgement calls regarding how to handle loss, if you've never had to do it, take a seat.   Take a seat and listen to the voices of those who have.   Don't try to shut us down and tell us who you think we are and how you think we should feel.  This is not your life.   And if you simply can't refrain from offering your opinion about how we choose to grieve, wipe your brow with relief that you don't have to make these choices, get back on your damn horse, and walk away.   



  1. Beautiful. Thank you, my friend.

  2. Beautiful thank you for sharing that. As a greiving grandparent no knows how it fills unless you have walked in there shoes. As a mother watching her child greive the lose of her child it hurts because you cant take her pain away.