10 Ways To Turn Minimization Into Validation
“At least you lost it early”
“You’re so busy, maybe it’s for the best”
“You can always adopt”
A few days after my surgery, I was reading through Devotional 4 out of “Grieving the child I never knew” (which is located on our home page). As I began reading, the words on this page in particular spoke truths that jumped right out of the page at me. This chapter provided a list of things that people might say to you after loss that have a tendency to turn validation into minimization without them even realizing it. Here are a few of my own that I’d like to add to the list that I’ve heard on multiple occasions over the last few months.
“At least you got pregnant in your second month of trying.”
“You really dodged a bullet on that one.”
“Oh 8 weeks is way to early to connect to anything so you’re lucky”
“3 months isn’t that long to wait to start trying again”
First i'd like to add the disclaimer that what I do know, is that the things people say, for the most part are out of an honest to goodness loving place. A place of unfamiliar territory and of searching for the “right” words to say in a situation that just doesn’t make sense. So many people love hard and they want the very best for you. They really want to encourage you, they just don’t always know how to verbalize that.
Over the past few months I have had many people tell me “I just don’t know what to say.” Which makes sense! My dear friend had even told me that after our loss she went to google for helpful ideas on how to respond. Now I don't claim to be an expert by any means. I am simply speaking from my own experiences and from a commonality i've found amongst women walking through similar circumstances. This post i've created as more of a guideline if you will, to help encourage you if you're searching for ways to help someone you love who is hurting.
So here we go….
1. Let me just start by encouraging you to avoid beginning a sentence with “at least.” Automatically with those two words it turns validation into minimization.
2. Do your best to not pretend like it never happened or try to avoid the topic. They are already feeling like the farther away it gets the more people forget and the more alone they become; avoiding the topic all together only validates that fear.
3. Do your best to not give them a timeline of when you think it has been “long enough” to be “over it”. Each women processes their grief in their own time and in their own way. So no matter how long it might take them, let them know that that is okay and that you’re there for them.
4. I encourage you to avoid comparing their pain to someone else you think is going through worse in order to try and make them “feel better” or “see the bigger picture”. Allow them the freedom to grieve their loss without feeling guilty for it.
5. When talking about it, do your best to not change the subject; let them be the ones to do that if and when they’re ready.
6. Pray for them..... and I mean make it known that you are covering them in your prayers. And when you say you’re praying for them, don’t just say it but actually DO IT. In these moments they’ll need more prayer now then you’ll ever know.
7. Listen and listen well. There are no “magic” words to fix the situation. Just being there and listening all the way through their thoughts and words can make a world of a difference.
8. Commend them. Their world has just been shaken and the good & bad days eb and flow. Commend them when you recognize those good days because it is very likely that it’s taking all of their effort to create goodness in that one day.
9. Be patient with them when they don’t seem like themselves. Recognize that they may be smiling because that’s what everyone else around them needs in order to feel comfortable but inside their screaming for someone to hear them. So pour out bottomless grace in the moments where they might not be as graceful.
10. If you’re looking for a gift to get them or something nice to do for them. Consider gifting them with something that makes them feel like their loss is real. A onsie or baby blanket of hope. Something that says, “I recognize the loss your going through, this represents hope for your future family no matter what that might look like.” Surprise them by picking up or cooking a meal or doing something helpful for them around the house. In some cases actions can speak much louder than any words you could say.