Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Dear Frightened Woman,

You approached a grieving parent, a friend of mine from my support network. You told her she should "warn" people before telling the story of her daughter who was stillborn. You mentioned a woman who had to leave the room, a woman whose daughter was in labour. The kicker is, you sincerely think you are doing the world some kind of service, but the opposite is true. And here's the worst part - you don't even know it!

But we do.

Our families' stories upset you. And so they should. Our stories are upsetting - mostly to us. If it makes you sad to hear them, that's because it is sad. We don't tell our stories to upset people. We tell them because we love our children, we are proud of our children, we need to share our experiences, we need support, we want to help other families, we need to break the silence. We no longer live in a place of ignorance. We tell our stories because we have to. Your fear spreads fear and makes you lack compassion. Did you even pause to consider the feelings of a grieving mother? Your ignorance is hurting people. Does that even concern you? Please learn to practice mindfulness before you speak to anyone vulnerable, ie. anyone, but particularly when you know you are speaking to a bereaved parent.

Here is a simple guide for you (it's not a complete list but it's the best I could do on the short notice my anger gave me):
  • Stillborn babies are not shameful secrets. They are people who died much too soon.
  • Bereaved parents have a right to tell their stories.
  • Bereaved parents are almost never looking for advice from people with no dead children.
  • Try to be part of the solution, not part of the problem.
  • Get support for your own issues. You might not be ready to face everything and that's fair enough, but try to find the courage to take maybe one step towards it. Courage means feeling the fear but doing it anyway.
  • The stigma of stillbirth harms everyone. Any stigma harms everyone.
  • Life doesn't come with a warning and neither will our families stories.
  • At the end of our lives, whenever that is, we all die. 

Toren's mother, Andrea

ps. For further reading, please see what Oliver's mother had to say on the same subject: It's Only Funny If You're A Mom - When Your Life is a Trigger Warning.


  1. AMEN. Great post! Honestly, I thought people that feel offended by a grieving mother's story must be rare. But as time passes, I'm realizing it isn't. Here's to hoping it is a temporary thing, and writing about it and telling our stories can change this.


    1. Yes I'm learning that if I experience something because Toren was stillborn, it's pretty much guaranteed that I'm not alone in that experience. Bereaved parents all seem to have similar stories to share. The rarer experiences seem to be stories of compassion. I don't think I'll ever get used to it. Thanks for sharing your story. xo