Intent

Definition of Intent: Intention or purpose.

Synonyms: aim, objective, goal, target.

Constantly I’m having to decipher between people’s “good intentions.” If their goal is to make me feel better, but it actually does the complete opposite and they fail at that goal – at what point can I make them aware of their shortcomings?

This was one the largest disagreements Jonathan and I had at the beginning of our marriage. He would do or say something that really upset me. Then when I would voice this pain to him, his rebuttal would be: “Well that wasn’t my intention! You know I would never purposely hurt you, therefore you cannot be mad at me.” Yes, I know my husband would never cause intentional pain to me, but that thought process doesn’t take away my hurt. Here is my favorite quote from the wise Louis C.K. :

“When a person tells you that you hurt them, you don’t get to decide that you didn’t.”

YAS Louis! So after many arguments of defining intent and hurt, Jonathan and I finally came to a place of understanding. That we need to listen to each other when one of us says: “It hurt me when you did or said BLANK.” Then understand the hurt, apologize for the hurt, learn from the hurt. And hopefully in the future that same kind of hurt won’t repeat itself.

So when people continue to do or say insensitive things in regards to my son’s death, I’m taught that – well their intentions are good, so you can’t really be bothered by it. But how many times am I suppose to choke back tears and pain from these hurtful words when I’m already hurting from the loss of my son? In the way that Jonathan and I did for our marriage, where we came to place of understanding through discussion and learning from one another. So when is it time for others to hear about this hurt and learn from it?

As a society we desperately need more education when it comes to pain, death and grief. As a culture we do not accept pain for long periods of time. We allow ourselves to feel it for a very brief second, then we pick up and tell ourselves “life goes on.” We find pain messy, sticky and uncomfortable. We never sit in it or let the pain just be. So it’s easier to tuck it away and to just keep swimming. I find this extremely unhealthy and experts would agree.

I read a fascinating book on grief called: I Wasn’t Ready to Say Goodbye. The author Pamela Blair who has a PhD is Philosophy and is a licensed therapist, gives a history on our grief culture. Citing that in 1927 Emily Post reported a widow’s mourning period should last 3 years. Yet by 1950 it declined to only a 6 month mourning period was considered acceptable. By 1972 she advised the bereaved to “pursue or try to pursue social course within a week or so after the funeral.” Then came 2001, the attacks of 9/11 and our entire country was hit with grief and mourning. So while much has changed in terms of how our society deals with grief because of this awful attack, much has still stayed the same. Leaders eventually encouraged Americans to “get back to normal”, but nothing is normal in our country since that day. Same goes for me, “normal” died the same day my son did.

“I’m trying to fix my pain with certainty, as if I’m one right choice away from relief. I’m stuck in anxiety quicksand: The harder I try to climb my way out, the lower I sink. The only way to survive is to make no sudden movements, to get comfortable with discomfort, and to find peace without answers.” – Glennon Doyle Melton

So I feel urged to tell these “good intentors” (yes I know it’s not a word, but go with it) educate yourself on grief before you say something that is actually very hurtful. Also don’t try to fix or take away the pain of my son’s death. Let me have this pain, because the pain is all I have left of him. Like Glennon said, “get comfortable with discomfort.”

And yes, everyday I’m trying to find peace without answers:

  • There is absolutely no answer as to why my friends delivered living babies this year and not me.
  • There is absolutely no answer why my son’s umbilical cord would wrap itself around his neck, causing his death in my womb.
  • This is NOT God’s plan. No loving God would take the life an innocent child. Just as he doesn’t cause children to die of cancer or have them starve to death either.
  • “You will have children one day.” I hope with every fiber in my being that this is true, but YOU don’t know that.
  • “You have to move on, you have to get out of bed, you have to get a full time job” – No, I will never “move on” from my child. Will you move on from your living one? Some days I can’t get out of bed, I’m not a switch that can be turned on and off. A 9 to 5 will not “distract me” from the death of my son. I’m doing what I need to do and that is enough, that is more than enough.
  • “I’ve had a miscarriage, I understand your pain.” I’ve also had a miscarriage and it in no way compares to my son’s stillbirth. To carry your child for 30 weeks, feeling them move & kick, giving birth to them and then holding them dead in your arms … they are two separate experiences, that I can assure you.
  • “I hope you can find happiness and be grateful for what you do have.” Being happy with my husband or having gratitude for my supportive parents, does not replace or negate the loss and pain from my son dying.

I could go on and on with the painful things people say to me on a daily but I will stop there. This is not to shame anyone or to make someone feel guilt if you may have uttered these words to me or someone else who is grieving. This is to educate. Most of these phrases have been spoken by people who have not experienced this kind of loss. So acknowledge that. Acknowledge that you don’t know this pain, therefore you don’t have the answers – no one does. Also, everyone’s pain is different, no matter how similar the experiences are.

Intent is no longer your ‘Get Out of Jail Free Card.’ So in lieu of giving advice or comparisons, just ask “how are you really doing?” Then listen, acknowledge and repeat.

3 thoughts on “Intent

  1. Hi Kelley. First, I would like to say thank you for sharing your story and how sorry I am for your loss. Your blog really hits home as we lost our son, after just one day back in June.

    You are so right. This is NOT God’s plan, despite what people say. The comment I despite (and I mean despite) is when people say, “I’ve had a miscarriage, you’ll be fine or have another.” As they wave their hand to say that my dead son is a bus pass or an earring that I can just buy another. People don’t know if we can another child. We don’t even know that. I hope I never experience miscarriage as I know women who have, and it’s devastating. These are two very, very different losses. Every loss is different. All grief is different.

    I work with the public. Each day I am faced with patients asking me how my son is or they heard what happened and are thinking of me. Each day I’m told I can just have another, you’re young still, be grateful for what I do have, having prayer verses spouted off to me, asking did you bury it? Yep, they called my kid an it. Lastly, asking if my husband and I are “actively trying.” That last one is my favorite. The list goes on. Some people know no bounds.

    Your blog speaks to me and my heart. Thank you for being the brave voice that some of us bereaved moms don’t have yet. It doesn’t go unnoticed nor unappreciated. From one Bravo-holic to another, take care.

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    1. Hello fellow Kelly! Thank you for reading and following my blog. I’m so incredibly sorry to hear about the loss of your sweet son in June.

      Yes, when people share about their miscarriage in regards to my son, I really struggle. I never want to discount their loss, because it certainly is a great loss but like you said every loss is different and all grief is so different. We lost our son in May at 30 weeks, then experienced an early miscarriage at 6 weeks in October. Two different experiences entirely. I think we could learn so much from another to listen, rather than compare.

      I’ve even seen that status constantly shared on Facebook about “a rainbow baby is a baby born after miscarriage, stillbirth, infant loss etc. let’s honor and celebrate these rainbows and share!” First, can we just honor the children that are no longer? And second, acknowledge that not everyone gets a “rainbow” … they aren’t mutually exclusive. Yes, unfortunately no one knows what the future will look like for us as parents, so please stop saying as such.

      I’m so sorry that you continue to endure insensitive comments, it’s just not fair after everything you’ve already been through. I can’t even begin to defend anyone who called your son “it.” But I believe people’s obsessions with platitudes and solutions, is to make themselves feel better about our situation. In their mind, they are putting a happy spin on it, so they no longer have to feel sad. Try to remember it’s not about you, it’s about them. Not that it makes it right, or takes away the pain from these comments … but I try to remind myself of it so I don’t go completely crazy.

      I feel even more connected to you that you are a bravo-holic! If you ever need to chat about Vanderpump Rules or grief, I’m here 🙂 Thanks for sharing your story and heart ❤

      Like

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