How to tell someone your baby died

"Wait. You've had two c-sections? I thought you only had one kid."

It's that quick. Now you have to tell them. My baby died.

"Um. Yes. Well, you see..."
My baby died.

"How old is he?"

"He was three months old. I had a perfectly normal pregnancy..we had no idea anything was wrong..."
My baby died.
That's how it usually starts. Or "how old are your kids?" I had to answer that question just the week before. It depends on my mood, normally I don't mind sharing Corbin's story, but I hate the uncomfortable feeling that appears whenever they realize my baby isn't alive. The look in their eyes. The shape in which their mouth forms as they realize that my answer is way deeper then they thought.

I have to take a deep breath, formulate my answer, and hope they don't react in a way that makes me feel worse.
I always start into what happened. I don't just dump out "my baby died". Personally, it hurts me to skip past his amazing life, the way he fought to live, and how his legacy lives on through Corbin's Bill. I take the time to explain his heart problem, his fight, and how we helped pass a law in his name. I tell his story because I want them to know.

See, I know how I feel. I've been living this reality for that past two years, but your are just now learning about Corbin, about his heart problems, and how he died. You have just milliseconds to react. You can't hide your initial reaction. I see it all over your face. I know you're uncomfortable, or you feel pity. Please don't just say "Oh, ok." and change the subject. That makes me feel ill and incredibly uncomfortable. Please ask me his name and about his story. Please tell me you are sorry for our loss. Don't turn away or change the subject. I know my son died. I will never, not for a single instant, forget that. It's ok. I can talk about it. Just don't ignore that my son lived. That hurts the most of all.

I know some says it never gets easier. Some say it gets less hard with time, or that it depends on their mood, but telling a stranger, a new friend, or even someone you have known for months that your baby died is HARD.

This is just me, but here is how I do it..
I say, "I have two sons, one is three and the other passed away two years ago. He was born with heart problems and had three heart surgeries, but they didn't work. He was three months old." 

Here is where it gets awkward or uncomfortable, but I keep talking...

"But there is something good that happened next. I helped pass a law. You know that little clip they put on the end of your finger at the doctor? That is called pulse ox. It can detect heart defects and I helped make in mandatory in WV. So my son has a legacy and I am very proud of Corbin's Bill." 

Afterwards some people ask questions, others just nod and say how sorry they are. I understand that you don't know what to say. I understand that you had no idea that we were about to have this conversation. Sometimes the conversation ends on a comfortable note and we can go our ways, other times I can see in their eyes that they feel awful for asking. They are probably mentally smacking themselves for putting me in a position that I would have to explain something that is obviously so difficult to tell. So I go back to them and say:
" I just want you to know that I don't mind talking about Corbin. Please don't feel bad for bringing it up because it is ok. I can talk about. You can ask me questions."

They visibly relax, give me a small smile, and may ask me another question. 

Even after telling you all of this, each time you tell someone (if you do), is going to be different. Sometimes I skate around the fact I have two boys so that I don't have to explain Corbin's passing. It's just not the right time, the right person, or appropriate for our encounter. But there are times where I have shared Corbin's entire story with a complete stranger! There is no way to explain when is the "right time". You just feel it, or decide that it is the right time to share. 

There is no easy way and I can't tell you how to do it. But when I do decide to share, I do it slowly, and take the time to explain Corbin's full story. 

Loss parents: how do you tell other's about your angel?


Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing. It helps those of us who are the receiving end of your conversation know what to do to. It is hard to know what to say, never as hard as being the one to say it of course. But I want to know how to make it easier for someone to have that conversation. So thank you for sharing.

Anonymous said...

Our Baby Joshua died on March 27, 2013. He was five hours short of turning exactly forty seven days old. He had a very complex heart defect and apnea and Digeorge Syndrome.

I like to talk about Joshua. I agree with you that ignoring my baby's life hurts the most.

I have had strangers comment on my "babies" growing up and that it goes too fast. I agree and tell them yes, it does go too fast: my oldest baby is 15yrs old, my daughter is 10 yrs old, and I had a baby just a few months ago in February. But he died in March due to a very complex heart defect. We just don't have enough time with our babies.

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