What do I say to her?

**Disclaimer: If you know me personally and you recognise anything in this article that you have said or not said to me, please do not worry. We are humans, we are not perfect. I know that all anyone wants to do is support me**

Today I received an email from the hospital to invite Adam and I to a meeting where we will be delivered Mavy’s post-mortem results. The subject of that email is this: “Pregnancy loss appt”.

At what point was my daughter lost? Did she go missing? If so, why did I have to birth her and bury her? Why does she have a birth certificate and a death certificate? She was not a lost pregnancy; she was my little girl. She was a full-term baby whose heart stopped beating. Her name is Mavy Nola Kellegher and she weighed 8lb 10oz and was born on Friday 6th November 2020.

The language we use is hugely important, particularly in baby loss. This email came from a bereavement midwife, who would likely be horrified to know the hurt and upset she has caused by referring to my baby as a “pregnancy loss”. This is why it is necessary to talk openly and to be honest with health professionals, friends and family when they say something that doesn’t sit right with us.

I have always been a bit of a people pleaser, not wanting to rock the boat so accepting things others say, that I don’t particularly like or agree with. We all have different views and I accept that so just letting things go has never been a big problem for me. Since losing Mavy this is becoming harder to do. I realised early on that I needed to set boundaries with my friends and family, so they knew what language was acceptable to use around me when talking about my darling baby girl.

A couple of common sayings I really cannot accept, were mottos that before losing Mavy, I had lived by my whole life – “Everything happens for a reason” and “What’s meant to be, will be”. Please never say this to me or any bereaved parent. It’s absolute bullshit and it leaves that parent wondering, what was the reason my baby died then? Was I not worthy? Did I do something wrong? Why is your child “meant to be” but mine wasn’t?

“You could try for another baby”. Yes, I could. Will that take my pain away? Will it change that Mavy died? No. The conversation of a sibling for Nola and Mavy is a separate part of my life, a discussion all its own. Take into consideration that some bereaved parents may not be able to have a baby. Their baby that died may have been a longed for – last chance – IVF baby. They may have had medical complications that prevent further pregnancy, or their baby may have died due to a genetic condition that they cannot risk happening again.

 “Are you back at work yet?” a friend asked me innocently 8 weeks after Mavy died. It hurt me. Was I expected to be ‘over this’ and back at work? I have no baby to look after so I think people often wonder why I wouldn’t be back at work by now. What they don’t see is the pain I am still in from birth and carrying a baby for 9 months as well as the physical pains of grief. I often have headaches or feel sick. Sometimes life feels so overwhelming, getting dressed in the morning is an achievement.

Another friend asked if I wanted to “talk about it”

“Sorry, what is ‘it’? Do you mean Mavy?”, I replied.

It may seem that I’m really picking here, and I am. Unfortunately, this is how my mind now works. Waiting to be offended, for someone to say the wrong thing. I hope it eases in time; it isn’t nice to live with.

There is also the lack of language to consider. The silence. The people who put their head down when you walk past or those that see you for the first time and they rattle on about mundane things when really you just want to scream at them and say “ACKNOWLEDGE MAVY’S EXISTENCE!!”

If your friend lost a grandparent, when you next saw them you would say “I’m so sorry to hear about your Grandad, how are you?” Astonishingly, after losing Mavy, this wasn’t always the case. I received many heart-felt text messages, but face to face contact felt awkward. These people just felt so sad for me they didn’t know what to say.  A part of me understood but it became intolerable for me to ignore the fact my daughter had died just to make that person feel comfortable. If you don’t know what to say, tell me you are sorry, and you don’t know what to say. I’m still me. I’m still Emma. I’m just a very sad version right now.

Some of the most helpful conversations have been from well-meaning work colleagues who have bumbled their way through what must have been a horrendously awkward chat for them. I appreciated that they didn’t know whether they were saying the right thing, but they were honest about that. These chats make me feel less alone and less frightened about entering society and working again one day.

My family & close friends and I have all cried together, the tears fall from a place of love. Love for me, Adam & Nola and love for Mavy. It is easy for me to forget how much they loved her too and I must also choose my language carefully around them, to let them know that I know they are also sad. They all lost someone they loved too. I always feel lighter after those heart felt moments.

Choose your words carefully. If you aren’t sure if something is appropriate – explain that you aren’t sure how to word what you want to say. Saying something is always better than saying nothing.  

Here is a list of phrases that aren’t helpful and in brackets are the responses my grieving brain thinks when I hear them:

  • Are you okay? (obviously not)
  • Maybe she wouldn’t have survived if she had been born, it was kinder this way (I didn’t know you were a Doctor?)
  • These things just happen sometimes (No shit, Sherlock. I’ll be okay now then)
  • If you have another baby, you might feel better (I would love another child just as much as I love Nola and Mavy, but it will never make me feel better about losing Mavy)
  • You will get over it, one day (No, I won’t, and I don’t want to)
  • At least you have Nola (Could you choose one of your children, if you were only allowed to keep one?)

Here is a list of phrases that are kinder to use when speaking to a bereaved parent:

  • How are you coping right now?
  • Are you happy to share Mavy’s story with me?
  • How do you feel, physically?
  • Can I offer support in anyway?
  • I can’t imagine what you are going through and I’m so sorry you lost your little girl.
  • I’m sorry, I just feel so sad for you I can’t find the words. I just want you to know I am here for you.
  • I love her name; how did you choose it?
  • Does Nola talk about her little sister?

I hope this article doesn’t come across that I am unappreciative and negative. I really haven’t meant it to. There are some wonderful people in this world, and I have been shown so much love and support. I only want to raise awareness and help others to help the bereaved and understand their triggers.

Sending love to all those loss parents and the friends and family who support them.


Emma xx

14 thoughts on “What do I say to her?

  1. Oh Emma what a great post … so true all of it … I have many people say I don’t know what to say when they hear of any death , so they avoid it and I always say That s worse for them …! Just say you don’t know what to say , be honest and acknowledge it and hug them !
    I can’t believe the e mail from the hospital , that heading definitely needs addressing . Such a sensitive matter should have more thought put into it …it’s not just any routine e mail !
    As your auntie it is good for me to see the phrases and your interpretations. I always try to think about everything I write when I text you and I know I prob will get things wrong , which can worry me . So this insight is good and I also understand your thoughts going that way in your head !
    Mavy was my great niece and I loved her from the minute I saw that first scan pic you sent me . As i did Nola . The excitement of another beautiful neice . She will always be my great niece always have a place in our family . She will never be forgotten.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Once again Emma such a beautiful post from the heart. People don’t always know what to say as they don’t want to upset you but knowing (and I do) that you do want to talk about your beautiful precious daughter Mavy 💗 hopefully makes it better for people to be able to do that. She will always be the 4th member of your family . XXxx

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Emma
    Its me your favourite step uncle.
    What can I say that hasn’t already been said. You truly are an amazing strong woman to address your grief so openly in the chance to help others is a true credit to you. Speaking on behalf of myself, Susan, Josh and Daniel we were all devastated when we heard that your beautiful little Mavy passed away. We all truly regret that we never had the chance to meet her and welcome her to our family. It has also a regret that we have not been able to come up to see you, Adam and Nola due to covid, but as soon as we can we will be up.

    Having read your latest blog i must say that you are so right. people do not know what to say with fear of upsetting you or as you said saying something that was meant to give you comfort that actually upsets you more. the insight you have given as to how you are feeling and coping is enlightening and will give not just us your family and friends the advice to help us comfort you better but also people who are unfortunately in the same situation can show it to their extended family and friends and say “this is how i am feeling, these are the things i dont want to hear, this is how you can support and comfort me”.

    Keep up the blog it is a fantastic way to help you through your grief and it helps the people close to you to give you the support and love you need.

    love and hugs to you all and we hope to see you soon

    Noelxxx

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you so much Emma for writing this 💕💕 like you said people don’t always knows what to say (me included) and just knowing what words can offer support is comforting. Mavy and Nola really are very lucky to have such a wonderful mum and dad Xxx

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Emma, your girls are so so lucky to have such a strong, fierce and loving mummy. Even if you don’t always feel feirce and strong yourself at the moment. I cannot imagine how you and your family are feeling right now.
    Your list of kinder approaches to questions is really useful and has at the very least made me consider how I word things.
    Sending love xx

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Sweetheart, you truly are brave and I am SO blessed and proud to be one of your Nan’s. The words in your blog are so helpful and brave. Truly I believe that one day many of your blog posts and advice will be printed into a book because your honesty, courage and advice need to be heard by all who find it impossible to process such a tragic loss.

    None of us can change what has happened, nor will we ever understand why. Trying to make sense of something so painful as the loss of your dear little Mavy is impossible. However, what you are doing in raising awareness and being open and honest about your waves of emotion coupled with the advice about comments you find helpful and comments you don’t will become a lifeline to others who go through this most terrible tragedy as well as those who seek to bring comfort whilst so often saying the wrong thing, or avoiding the loss completely out of fear or not knowing what to say.

    The only people who can fully comprehend what you are going through are those who have been through it too. If your Great Nana Mackay was still here she would cuddle you and share her own painful pathway after her dear little Sylvia died. That was over 80 years ago now, yet my sister Sue and I still hold Sylvia’s memory in our hearts, and now Mavy has joined her, never to be forgotten. Mavy’s special legacy will be to turn us all into better, kinder and more forgiving people, and your courage in sharing your deepest sadness, loss and feelings will bring comfort and compassion to others who go through such a tragic loss.

    Mavy’s tiny footprints will be forever etched upon our hearts and she will remain a most precious member of our family, written into our family tree and treasured for ever.

    Sending big hugs and love across the miles to you, Adam and Nola, and upward to Heaven for my sweet great granddaughter Mavy. xxxx

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I could of written that word for word with my misscarrage.. i know its a hole lot different with your daughter but it still hurt and that was still my baby. I had a Missed misscarrage at 12 weeks.. baby died at 10weeks… the one thing i hated people saying was oh well maybe you cant carry boys.. that made me so mad. sorry for yourselfs and your familys loss I would say the years get easier but they dont each year feels as fresh as the day it happened. Thinking of you all. Love me and wayne. X

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The things people say that are supposed to make you feel ‘better’ are shocking. I’m hoping through my blog I can show how painful these comments can be and what would be better to say.
      I’m so sorry your baby died Chantelle. Be kind to yourself ❤ sending love xx

      Like

  8. My son Judah just died at 3 days old and I can totally resonate with this post! I especially like your suggestions on what people should say instead. No one ever asks how we chose his name or about labor or his story because I think they think it’s too awkward, but those are happy memories I’d love to share.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Kate. I’m so glad you have found me but I’m so sorry you had to.
      I’m so sorry to hear about losing your son, Judah.
      I’d love to hear all of that stuff if you ever want to message me. I’m on instagram and Facebook if that’s easier than on here 🙂 xxxxx

      Like

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