Friday, October 28, 2016

No Good Card for This

I'm not sure how many people read the comments on this blog, or how many of you saw Melissa's comment on my last post about the loss of her daughter, Evelyn. I read her comment and thought "There is nothing I can possibly do or say to make this easier for her."

I'm living this reality every day, but sometimes my first impulse is still to think, "I have no idea. I can't even imagine how someone copes with the loss of their baby."

It's not that I forget for a moment about Eliza, or about the reality that I've lost a baby. It's just that I don't know what I could possibly say that might be helpful in such an impossible situation.

I still get e-mails, blog comments, and sometimes texts or phone calls from friends or friends-of-friends or blog readers telling me that someone they know and love has lost a baby, and often they want advice: "What can I do to help them?"

I always feel completely blank at first. Then I try to come up with some advice... Don't say "Everything happens for a reason." Don't expect them to be okay again in six months. Or a year. Don't be afraid to say their baby's name even though you feel awkward. Don't make it about you. Put it on your google calendar so you remember and acknowledge their baby's birthday. 

My friend Beth was the one who said something like, "I know it's hard to hear about other people's kids, so I'm not going to talk about Lilly unless you bring it up first." I felt like that was such a gift--to acknowledge how painful it was for me, not to make me sit, tense, just bracing myself to "act normal" if Lilly came into the conversation, and not to make me feel like an asshole about not being able to talk about her daughter (who was just over a year old when Eliza died).

But when Beth got breast cancer, even though I'm almost six years into this so I should pretty much have a PhD in What to Do When Life Gets Shitty, the first thing I felt (besides scared and sad) was panicky that I was going to handle this wrong.

So if you've ever been in that place of "How do I help my friend?", here is a book that you can put on your wishlist (or gift list) (or both):

There Is No Good Card for This by Kelsey Crowe and Emily McDowell (It's not released until January, so it won't work for Christmas unless you give vouchers. But you can preorder!)

Related: I want to order half a dozen of those enamel pins she's selling now and keep them and wear them and give them away. They are so great. I especially like this one, this one, this one, and this one.


  1. The pins! Brilliant...I might order a bunch

  2. My go-to advice is always to bring dinner, particularly something that can go in the freezer. Don't ask if they want dinner. Just tell them you are bringing it and ask a good time to do so. I found it more helpful when people told me what they could do so that I didn't have to take any initiative.

    Also, saw those awesome pins a few days ago and had already forgotten them. Thanks for the reminder!

  3. I saw Melissa's comment and my first thought was "I have no words for that". Then it bothered me enough to come back again to tell her that I'm sorry. Because tomorrow will be three years to the day that Erin died, and you know what? I came back to work and hardly anyone said anything. At all. And as much as I was probably grateful that I could just hide at my desk and fight off tears (sort of), it took me months to realize just how hurt I was that everyone avoided the topic completely.

    I'm in a healthier place now, I guess. I mean, the whole office went out to lunch today and I brought it up and everyone nodded in support and acknowledgement. But still, sometimes there's nothing that anyone can say to help, but even an awkward stab at it feels better than ignoring it completely.

  4. I have gotten better, over the years, at confronting the fact that there are situations where there are no good words, and simply saying that. "I don't know the right words to say to help in this situation, so I'm saying this instead, so you know that I wish I could but I don't know how." Acknowledging that the situation sucks doesn't make it any better, but it does help make it not worse by pretending it doesn't suck or that trite words will make it better.

  5. Hi Brooke and everyone else on this thread. I just want to say how much I appreciate this conversation and the vulnerability and courage it takes to say how people do and don't meet you in your times of loss and pain. And like you all, I believe that it is the kindness that compels any of us to try that is remebered most of all. I am eager to learn from readers like you. Thank you. Kelsey