Since losing Otis, not only have we grappled with agonising grief, but also comments off those around us (and even strangers) that just do not help our situation. I know that people don’t make such comments to purposely upset us and I also know their heart is USUALLY in the right place (some people are just downright nasty), but there are some things that just don’t need to be said to a bereaved parent – things people would never find appropriate to say to people when their grandparent, parent, sibling, uncle, aunty, and so on, pass away.
”God needed another angel.” Really?! He did?! I NEEDED my son more!
” At least you have other children at home.” Please, tell me which of your children you would choose to give back? Tell me which of your children you would choose to organise a funeral for instead of a birthday party? Tell me which of your children you can live without? YES, I have the girls, that does not make my little boy any less loved, any less wanted or any less missed than what he would be if they weren’t here.
” God only gives you what you can handle.” What about what I deserve? I know I have made mistakes in my life but I have always and will always do my best by my children. I didn’t deserve for my son to die, whether I am apparently strong enough to cope with it or not. And how do you know I can ‘handle’ this? If you must know, I spend my nights crying myself to sleep, and I only manage to sleep through pure exhaustion. Every time I close my eyes I see Otis, I see him being placed on to my chest for the first time and realising that the doctors were right, that he wasn’t alive. Every time I close my eyes I imagine what my life would be like and how different it would be if my little boy was here. Every time I close my eyes I think to myself ‘I should be being woken up by a crying baby needing comfort from his mummy’. I am NOT strong, I can NOT handle this. I cope for the girls because I have no choice.
”I know how you feel.” This is the worst one for me. Unless you have given birth to a fully formed baby with no heartbeat, unless you have planned a funeral for one of your children, unless you have sat with a doctor or midwife and heard those soul destroying words ‘I’m sorry, there’s no heartbeat’ do NOT tell me you know how I feel. Do you know how it feels to dress your child in to their second ever outfit, and their last? Do you know how it feels knowing that your child only has a second outfit because you want to take the first home, just to remind you of their size and smell? Do you know how it feels to dress your child in to their burial outfit instead of their coming home outfit? Do you know how it feels to go through an agonising labour to push out your cold, still, silent baby? Unless you do, do NOT tell me you know how I feel, because you don’t and I hope you never, ever do. I would not wish this pain on my worst enemy, so please do not wish it upon yourself by saying you know how this feels.
”At least you can have another baby.” Forgive me, are you a doctor now? How do you know this? What a lot of people don’t know, is that the condition that caused Otis’ death is genetic and it is VERY possible the same could happen again if I ever had another baby. I got stupidly lucky with the girls, like winning the lottery twice. When people say this it feels like they are telling you your child is replaceable, that when you have another baby you will suddenly ‘get over’ and forget that your child ever existed. I will think of my little boy for the rest of my life, I will move forward and I will learn to live without him, but I will never move on whether I do have another baby in the future or not.
”I’m here for you.” Please, do not say this to a bereaved parent unless you actually intend on being there for them. SO many people have told this since losing Otis. A lot of people wrote statuses on Facebook the day they found out our little boy passed away saying it, but have never once privately acknowledged me. It’s like people want the world to know they are a part of this situation, when in reality they really aren’t – for a bit of sympathy, I guess. People who hadn’t spoken to me throughout my entire pregnancy suddenly became ‘friends’ again when they found out Otis had passed away, and I’ve taken it upon myself to not let these ‘friends’ back in my life. Selfish maybe, but this is the one time in my life I have every right to be selfish and protect myself.
”He’s in a better place.” NO, no he is not! The best place for my son is in mine and his daddy’s arms. The best place for my son is here, on Earth, with his big sisters.
Otis Dominic Anthony Cullen; We miss you, we love you, we will do both eternally.