Recently, I was listening to Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle. This woman has been through a heck of a lot, mostly self-inflicted, but I will give her a lot of credit for having the courage to heal through the haze and pain of her own life. I was listening to the book and I almost drove off the road when she began to talk about so-called helpers in her life, people who just hindered her healing with their efforts.
With recognition and appreciation for Doyle’s really good book, I humbly offer what I call “Five Pregnancy Loss Helpers From Hell.”
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1. The Comparer
Glennon Doyle says that Comparer needs to deflect your personal pain by refusing to accept that your loss is personal. They are not great at validation or empathy. They file you into a category for which that person has a reference. Like the person whose grandmother had an early miscarriage during spring planting, but they just got right back on the tractor and got pregnant again. The Comparer just KNOWS that you, like Grandma, will get pregnant again. They talk about how they are the same as you because something bad has happened to them in their life, like a job loss or a bad breakup with a crummy boyfriend. ‘Cuz your pain is about them, too. The Comparer can’t deal with the intense feelings and situation that you are living in, and is easier to talk about someone else who also has a really, really, really hard story.
According to Doyle, the Fixer is certain that your terrible situation is a question and they know the answer. In fact, this person has A-L-L the answers to how to heal from your dilemma. Note that I called this a dilemma, not your grief and pain. This is just a project to be figured out and there’s a formula. All you need to do is to listen to this person, do what is suggested, be grateful, and you will be A-OK. Doesn’t that make you feel all warm and fuzzy from your head to your toes? And you better feel better real quick. The answers have been offered. What are you waiting for? Get to it. The Fixer needs you to take the advice and get well because he or she is already thinking about their own life and it is too difficult to even imagine what you are going through. They can’t even. Better to work on you as a goodwill project than consider the possibility of grief and pain in their own lives.
3. God Reps
I can already feel some of you tensing up on this topic. The God Rep is here on a gauzy, trail of thoughts and prayers, straight from The Big One Upstairs. He or she knows how you feel or, better said, how you should feel. God knows what is right for you, according to the God Rep, and they feel called by the Lord to tell you that God needed an angel, etc. etc. etc. I can’t tell you how many devout people I have seen over the years who want to punch God Reps in the head. Did you know that you can have a conversation with God directly? Yes, you can. You don’t need a middleman. And you can feel however you feel toward God. The Big One can handle your feelings and hold you, too.
The Reporter wants all the juicy details. Mmmmmm. Yummy. Tasty, delicious info. They have more questions and they await your detailed answers. This is a regular collector of data. Think New York Times reporter with a little recorder and a spiral notebook. The Reporter is like Kristen Wiig’s Saturday Live Character who can’t keep a surprise. She’s just bursting to share the info with others, to share your big, horrible story with others without your consent. “Did you hear (fill in the blank here)?” The Reporter shares and shares because she or he is just so darn worried about you. Oh My. Really, it’s easier to tell a story than to feel the pain of others.
The Victim has heard about your terrible news and they feel just terrible…that you did not share your news directly with them. They had to hear secondhand. Well, well, well. They thought you were close. They are truly hurt to be left out. They feel a need to tell you how they feel. Please note that they have not expressed empathy for YOUR pain and grief. Theirs is bigger.
Now, who is a Real Helper when you feel vulnerable and destroyed?
It’s the person who just listens. Who gives you a hug and doesn’t say a word. The person who cries with you, because your hurt is palpable and they have a heart. It’s the person who offers empathy, not judgment or advice. This person brings you dinner and leaves it on the doorstep, so you have something to eat, if you can eat. They don’t need a thank you for it, either. They hold hope for you and your future when you feel hopeless and can’t imagine a future. They give what they can give in the hope that it is helpful to you somehow, maybe now, maybe later. And this person keeps checking in, offering a smile or an open ear.
The Real Helpers do exist. Please open your heart to them. And the Pregnancy After Loss Support community is here for you, too.
*Photo credit: Dr. Deborah Simmons