Her Baby Died Before Birth and No One Wants to Talk About It

Just yesterday a woman called me and told me that she had lost her 24-week-old fetus, and when she told those whom she thought cared about her, most didn’t want to talk about it. Or even worse, they responded with comments like: “well, it was never really born, so…” or “you’re young, you can have more children.” Even her closest friends were at a loss for words. She was devastated by their lack of compassion.

I was not at all surprised. Most of us today shy away from talking about death. We are uncomfortable with this topic, because we have no idea what death really is. Oh yes, we know that when the heart stops beating and the lungs stop breathing, the body dies. But no one knows what happens to the non-body part of us, which we call the soul. No one knows what happens to us after we die, since no one has come back thirty days after they died, to give us any information. We have beliefs, it is true. Some of us believe in Heaven and Hell, some of us don’t. But nobody knows for sure.

Between that lack of knowledge of death and the fear we all have of it, silence reigns supreme when someone dies. And I suppose it is even worse when someone “dies” even before their birth, or when there is a miscarriage, or a stillbirth.

What makes this such a painful experience is that such a death can be called a “double death,” and it is this doubling of grief that complicates the mourning process.

First, the baby died. That in itself is a tragedy. Mom carried the fetus for however long she carried it, and to now be faced with the grim reality that what was growing in her body is now gone, has got to be hard for her.

But in addition, this death is also the death of her hopes, dreams and expectations for this unborn child of hers. She was already dreaming about his growing up and making friends in school, moving on to college life experiences, her marriage and the birth of grandchildren. All this too has now come to an end. This is the “double death” that Mom is now feeling. And nobody wants to talk to her about it. Or worse, they treat this death as something less than important, unworthy of caring about it.

And the tragedy of it all is, all she needs is for those close to her to reach out and listen to her, to treat this as “real,” not something she made up. She needs hugs from her friends, not silence or condescension. She needs to know they still love her, so that she can begin again to love herself and to properly prepare for the rest of her life.