There are many times in my life when I am frustrated at my inability to say what is in my head at the time that it needs to be said. So in order to get something out that should have been expressed then, here it is now.
I was speaking with someone recently about the death of my son and she nodded and said “I know exactly how it feels to lose a child, I had a miscarriage.”
Well, let me start by saying that no, it’s not the same thing. That may not be a polite or compassionate thing to say but it’s the truth. The polite thing is for me to say “thank you” and express sympathy for her loss. Which is what I did. But what I wanted to say was that it’s not the same thing, thanks very much for trying to connect and empathize but this sentiment in particular infuriates me.
Now I’m not saying that one type of loss or grief is better or worse or harder or easier or more or less. What I am saying is that comparing the loss of an unborn child to a death of a 16 year old is not maybe the best way to express sympathy. Having had miscarriages myself, I can relate to what that loss is like, and trust me, it’s not the same thing. When a pregnancy ends, it’s traumatic. You lose a life, no doubt about it. A life that is connected. literally, to you. You lose what could be, the potential, the “someday” of a child that is growing and becoming. You lose the dreams that you have for that child, for your life with it, your family that you see forming already in those first few weeks. But let’s be clear, to use that loss to empathize with a mother who has lost a 16 year old child is not appropriate.
To lose a 16 year old child is different. It’s to lose a child that you carried, gave birth to and held as an infant. A child that you sat up nights with and held while he cried or threw up or was so congested with colds or croup that his breathing was a raspy struggle some nights. A child that you watched try to learn how to hold a spoon or a crayon or put on his own socks and shirts. A child that you watched his joy and giggles as he experienced the magic that we as adults forget about in everyday life. A child that you spent hours upon hours teaching to read and the to see the pride in his face when he read a full sentence all by himself – and understood what that meant! A child that you patched up scraped knees and elbows after every new bike or skateboard attempt. A little boy who still ran to you and threw his arms around your legs when someone new talked to him. A boy who it scared you to let him walk to school alone, but you did it anyways because he wasn’t that little anymore. A boy whose personality grew and solidified and became more and more “him” every day as he got older. A boy who was outgrowing every pair of pants and every pair of shoes almost as soon as you bought them. A boy whose voice cracked and deepened those last few months as his shoulders broadened and his height shot up. A child that was becoming a young man that was still your baby no matter that his 16th birthday was just a few months past.
To lose that is not the same as to lose the thought and the potential of that. Plain and simple. I get it, people don’t know what to say, they are uncomfortable and they try to find something to say that will “help”, but this isn’t it.
One loss isn’t worse than or better than, they’re all different. I can’t relate to losing a partner even though I’ve lost a son. It’s a different type of relationship; to lose someone romantically and intimately connected to you in the way that a partner is, is inherently different. The relationship a parent has with a child is so vastly different from one that is between two people who love each other in a committed relationship. It’s not about comparing, it’s about recognizing that all loss from death is not the same so let’s stop trying to say we understand if we don’t…and the next person who says they can relate because they’ve had a miscarriage is going to get a response from me that speaks my mind and may not be all that polite.