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Let’s Not Ask a Mother “What Happened” to her Child

This question is so natural. It’s the first question everyone asks once you tell them your child has died. I have been asked to recount Harper’s death more times than I would like to say. I have gotten down what I can share without crying at this point, but in the beginning, I really wanted to say that God failed me and now I am shattered.

When someone asks me what happened to Harper, they are trying to understand the entire circumstance and in some way, they want to make sure that whatever happened to me NEVER happens to them, so understanding where the human fault was in the situation is our natural instinct. None of us can imagine living without a child.

The facts are that Harper died of a cord accident. She had a knot in her umbilical cord that didn’t tighten until May 14th at noon while Mike and I were at lunch. I had no idea that’s the last time I would feel her alive. She had wrapped herself around the belly with her cord and the knot cut off the circulation between she and I. There is absolutely no one to blame. Cords are not detected in ultrasounds, I had a healthy pregnancy and she was in perfect health. Those are the facts.

What really happened that day? I felt as though God failed me. The healthcare system failed me. My instincts failed me. The universe failed me. Everything I knew to be true in the world, failed me. No amount of money could have saved her or I would have spent every last cent. How was I supposed to live 60+ years without her? A few months of this kind of pain I could maybe manage, but the thought of a lifetime without her was not an option.

Does it really matter what happened to someone’s child? No. The point is, they are no longer here and now there’s an irreplaceable hole in their life. The mother of this child is experiencing the kind of pain that can’t be put into words. So, if you are curious, I get it, your mind wants to know how you can avoid the pain, but let’s not ask the mother of the child what happened. That mother may feel responsible for the death depending on the circumstances. It brings us right back to the moment when someone had to tell us that our child had died, the worst possible thing that could happen to someone. Those early days/moments are pure horror so let’s not ask anyone to relive them. Let’s instead share how sorry we are, offer to help and ask to share about their child if they wish. I like to ask “I would love to hear about your son/daughter if you want to share.”

Curiosity is not meant to harm anyone, but it could completely take an okay day to disaster in just a few moments. Instead of asking the child’s mother, ask another family member or friend. Let’s be the light in lives of those experiencing loss. Let’s shower them with love, be with them in their pain, cry with them and not rush them through their tears. Let’s be a guiding light in a time of need.

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