It breaks my heart–week after week, I meet with clients who are struggling with getting pregnant, a recent loss, or maybe a new pregnancy after previous losses. They’re making progress, but are suddenly completely derailed by a simple (yet unnecessary) question or comment from a stranger. I’d believe more often than not, the stranger has no ill intention by commenting or asking a question, but I would like to challenge everyone to consider what others may be going through that you don’t know about before speaking up. Just think: how often you have asked, or have heard someone ask, “When are you due?” or  “Are you guys trying to get pregnant?” or comment on someone’s cute baby bump?

The Importance of Consideration

Recently, I had a client (we’ll call her “Sarah”) who had just delivered her baby at 37 weeks, but the baby passed away shortly after birth.  Although Sarah was prepared prenatally for the loss of her daughter, the grief and overwhelming sadness was a lot for her and her husband to handle.  Two weeks after losing her baby girl, she decided she needed to face the world again and went to the grocery store. In a mere 30 minute trip, Sarah was approached by two strangers who made seemingly benign, yet very hurtful comments, given the situation.  The first asked when she was due – she was two weeks postpartum, so she naturally still had a “bump,” but she sadly did not have the baby.   After tearfully walking away from that stranger, she tried to summon the courage to get through her shopping list.  Then, as she was paying for her groceries, the cashier said, “Oh, I love your little bump – enjoy the rest of your pregnancy, it’s much easier than parenthood.”

Coping with Fertility & Pregnancy Issues

We don’t realize how hurtful our words can be, even hen we’re just trying to make small talk or show interest. In reality, we don’t need to know the answers to these very personal questions, and simply by asking or commenting, we risk hurting or upsetting the person we’re talking to. Imagine asking a couple that has gone through three rounds of IVF—unbeknownst to you, “When are you going to have kids?  While you think you’re simply making conversation, a simple question or comment like that can be very upsetting.

Support After The Loss of A Baby

Each week, my clients ask me how they should respectfully respond to these awkward and uncomfortable encounters.  Ultimately, I tell them that they do not owe these strangers a response, and that they do not need to make the stranger feel comfortable, but rather remove themselves from the conversation in a way that will cause the least hurt or pain for themselves. If you are made to feel uncomfortable, you can simply walk away from the questions—of course, this is easier said than done, but don’t feel like you need to invite a stranger into your life.

Grief & Loss Counseling to Heal the Heart

As someone who deals with clients who seek counseling for pregnancy loss, premature babies, complicated genetic testing, and infant death, I know that hearing about the pain, hurt, and grief my clients experience has challenged me to think twice before I ask questions or make comments, and I challenge others to do the same. This helps ensure that you aren’t accidentally causing more pain or anguish for the person you’re talking to.

If these scenarios sound familiar to you and you need help dealing with these complex issues, the Blossom Method is here to help. We’re a counseling center in Chicago that supports families dealing with infertility, in vitro fertilization, miscarriage and pregnancy loss, stillbirth and full-term baby loss, complex diagnoses and much more. When you need help, we’re just a phone call away.