Thursday, September 4, 2008

Words We'd Rather Forget

On second thought...

A quick update on this post. I removed the list of comments today (5 Sept) that were orginally posted here. It was probably poor judgment on my part to put them there in the first place. I don't want anyone thinking, "Oh boy, did I say something I shouldn't have." Some of you have written and said things to that effect... "if I said anything that has been hurtful, please forgive me." Please, please know that you don't need to worry at all.

One thing that stands out to me in your feedback is that everyone has at some point been the recipient of those occasional or maybe all too frequent hard to hear words that we'd rather forget. So please, feel free to share your thoughts here, even if that means writing specifically about things that have been difficult for you to hear. I think that would helpful for everyone... yes? no?

[ original post below, minus the quotes ]

As much as we have been comforted by spoken words, we have also felt the sting of comments that were well-intentioned but ill-advised or ill-timed or not-so-well-thought-out. Honestly, 99% of what folks have said to us has been life-giving and truly meaningful. Unfortunately, we have on just a couple of occasions had our hearts wrung with words that shocked us so much that all we could do is ask ourselves, "Did you really just say that?" It would only be later that we would realize that, yes, that person really did say that. Those words are hurtful, penetrating, and sometimes hard to shake.

I really believe, though, that the "words we'd rather forget" come from good hearts, from loving and caring people who only want to help in any way they can. Sometimes in difficult situations we just don't know what to say (I've certainly been there before) and yet we feel obligated to say something. That's where the "don't say anything, just be present" thing comes in. Presence is powerful.

I'm not including names here, except for the very first statement. I am listing the approximate timeframe that these things were said, relative to Luke's death, just to give you an idea of how shocking they must have been to us.

I'm not really listing these things for any other reason than to let folks know what may be best left unsaid in those "what do I say?" moments. Again, and I can't say this too many times, virtually everything that has been said to us has been so very loving and kind and understanding. But sometimes the negatives are hard to forget... and hopefully I won't have any updates to make on this post!

The tongue has the power of life and death... (Proverbs 18:21)


Christina Covil said...

I am so sorry for your loss. Sometimes comments are made and not thought through well at all. I understand about the comments that should have been kept to themselves. When I lost my first baby through miscarrage I was told everything from, at least you won't have a "defective" baby, I am glad you haven't been able to get attached (excuse me ~ I had already planned this childs wedding!), its for the best. My boss even told me that I had to be back at work on Tuesday (I lost the baby Sunday morning during a holiday weekend) because I didn't "deliver" a baby and she wouldn't give me grievence time. I can go on for days. Sometimes just a pat on the shoulder and keeping your mouth shut is all one needs.

May God continue to bless and heal your family.

Robin said...

"God must really trust you because He never gives us more than we can handle."

The misunderstanding of 1 Cor. 10:13 is one of my biggest pet peeves. The correct wording is that God will not tempt us beyond what we can bear. That has nothing to do with what we can "handle". Of course we can't handle the things life throws at us. If we could, we wouldn't need Him. He is the only One who can handle them.

Bttrfly1976 said...

I know this is going to sound horrifyingly 'unchristian' but I would have punched that doctor in the face.

I learned of Luke through Angie's blog though I was moved by your wife's music long before I'd heard of sweet Audrey.

I pray for both your families often. I am of the conviction that God brings people, especially complete strangers, to your mind for a purpose. So, each time I think of you again I beg that He envelop you with His grace and peace.

I am so very sorry for your loss and perhaps not more so, but sorry just the same that you have been wounded even more by well meaning people who refuse to think before speaking. Words impale and I think we too often forget that.

I will continue lifting both your and Angie's family to our Father. I believe, through experience, that His comfort, though sometimes seemingly elusive, is a healing balm. May you rest in His arms today.

Kathy said...

I hate those comments, too, and I'm so sorry you've had to experience them. It's been just over a year now since my dear Mom died at the age of 53 after many years of illness. People have frequently said that we must be glad she's not suffering anymore. While of course, it's true, I am glad she's not suffering anymore and that she's with our precious Lord and Savior, the fact remains that nothing about this whole death thing is fair. God knows it, too. Even Jesus wept. He longs to fix it, and praise Him, He will someday. It's a promise I cling to.

Rebecca California said...

I am so sorry that comments are made. I went through a life altering tragedy and have to live with it everyday and the comments were shocking, but also people forget and they move on and its still always on my heart and mind and live with it constantly, it does not define me its just part of me and often I feel people just expect us to let go and move on. I love the limp comment, unfortunately eventually people forget the limp. so please know that you and your family even if we don't ever see you or know you will always be on our hearts and may those in your life help you and hold you up for the years to come. thank you for sharing your journey and your beautiful little boy with us.

PS my daughter always trys to steal pacis too i see her giving the child who has it the look

Anonymous said...

I, too, am sorry that you had to deal with people who didnt know quite what to say. That ER doctor must have been numb to that deal, but he should have realized that you were not. This is your blog, and you know better than anyone what should be said on here, but if I may suggest something, maybe you should tell Lukes whole story. To be honest...I dont know what happened to luke. From angies blog I know he died of SIDS but what really happened, and how, what were the events leading up and after? How do you feel about SIDS? Is it normal for babies to just die suddenly, or do people believe that there may be causes? These are all hard things to share, and I am in no way saying you should share them, I just think people might be more sensitive if they understood the whole story. Angies blog, for example, she writes with such detail of every moment, even the ugly parts, and I think thats what draws people in and feel 'connected' to her and her family. Again, we are all praying that you do find peace and comfort. May God continue to bless you and your family.

Jenny said...

I canNOT believe that your ER doctor said that to you. Amazing...

I'm so very sorry for your loss, what a precious baby boy.

Cheryl said...

I am so sorry for the thoughtless things that people say. I can't believe that the doctor would say that. I wish that I could take all these comments and just hide them away where no one who is grieving wouldn't have to hear them. I have been praying for you and will continue to pray for you and your family.


RZ said...

I think people feel like they have to say something but they don't know what the right thing is. I know there's no *right* thing but as you posted in the entry after this--there are things that are helpful and well received. It's those of us that really do mean well that sometimes come up with really wrong things. Although, that doctor obviously had no sympathy at all...I never know what to say when something like this happens, so I hope the few comments I've left for you (and for Angie) have not been hurtful. If they have, I am sorry

Megan said...

I think people, especially Americans, are very uncomfortable with other's grieving. We don't know what to say past that initial "I'm so sorry" and yet we feel like we should say SOMEthing, as if our perfunctory comments are gonna snap the person out of it so we can go back to having a "normal" relationship with them--whatever that is.

I have a dear friend who lost her mother to suicide a few years ago. For the longest time, I was uncomfortable to bring it up because I didn't want to make her think about it and become sad. I learned, though, that it was always a thought away for her and that sometimes it was a relief to just have someone ask her if she wanted to talk about it and to listen to what she had to say without judgment.

I think it is best to not project feelings onto someone who is grieving. "You must be so. . ." fill in the blank is rarely as helpful as a heart-felt, "How are you doing today?"

Hopefully, your post will serve as a guideline and help educate well-meaning people about what not to say.

Courtney said...

May God give you the peace and comfort that we desperately try with words to give but so miserably fail. You and your family continue to be lifted up in my prayers.

bek ingram said...

Even after losing a baby myself (though it was never born) I still struggle with the 'right words' when others have gone through the same thing.

Its ok to cry. I still cry for our little one and we lost it back in Jan. We have another one on the way but it hasn't eased the pain of losing our first.

I hope that I haven't said anything to further your pain...
People still say things to us that hurt, and they think it's ok because we are pregnant again, but it's not!

I'm praying for all 3 of you.

God bless

Kathy said...

I have never been where you are, but I have lost my 9day old nephew (due to my Sister develping HELLP syndrome and he had to come into this world 15 weeks WAY too early)and I know from this that some people feel they NEED to say something and you are asolutely right just being there is sometimes enough. There are many many times I am at a loss of words because I know there is NOTHING I can do or say that will ease her broken heart. My sister and I are very close and I often think to myself...if loosing Brody has left my heart and soul absolutely crushed and my life changed forever; I can not imagine the agony and pain my Sister and Brother-n-law are going through; then I hurt for them even more. As I pray for them I will also pray for You, Nicole, Angie and Todd as well as your entire family; for strength and peace for the days ahead.
Love in Christ,

sheila said...

Lord, I pray that the words that hurt will fade into the background and be forgotten. Thank you for the encouraging words, love, and timely compassion that is reaching the Spondbergs. Continue to shower them with your mercy and love.

After I miscarried at 13 wks that word in its self carries 'fault' miscarry???) anyway, because we already had two awesome girls, a boy was hoped for; my sister who grieved with us, said the next day or two, 'do you think it was because you wanted a boy and she was a she'. UGH. OK, so she is very young in her walk with the Lord. But, ohh, how that hurt and I only answered her as I could, No, I do not think that at all. We talked about it later and I explained to her how I felt at the time she said it and she was really just trying to come to terms with what happened also and our thoughts at that time are all over the place. As I explained to her, the best I could, about how loving, gracious and everything is ordained by God, I can't think that I am so big that by my will, I lost the baby. Or that she/he did not matter to God. I'm not in control. Thank you Lord. sheila
BTW:Summer sounds like an awesome big sister. She gets extra hugs today...

Kristy said...

I lost my first baby do to an ectopic pregnancy. Like you, I couldn't believe the comments I received from others. The worst one was, "Well, it was meant to be." I agree with Robin, I was going to write that that bible verse must be the most misquoted verse ever. It does not say that God will not give you more than you can handle - it's talking about temptation. I agree that you have been given a pain that is beyond bearing - and that only God can help you to carry this pain.

Anonymous said...

THANK YOU for writing this post. I think it will help everyone who reads it. I wish more people would be as honest as you are. It's so helpful. We all struggle with what to say when loved ones are experiencing great suffering, because we want to comfort that person. Too often we ramble on and on, and things we feel in our heart don't get conveyed in the right way. I think I'm guilty of that too. From now on I'll know to just be present and show my love (not speak it). It's good to know what NOT to say (and also what to say/do). God bless you and your family. Peace be with you. I cry every day for your family and for your sweet Lukey.

P.S. My husband is an ER doc and he was appalled at what that doctor said. My husband (and his partners) would have been crying along with you that night. It would not be out of line to submit a complaint about him/her.

Denise said...

After our son passed, we too heard and were told things that no one should ever have to witness. Everything from "that wouldn't happen to my baby" to "I would rather people not touch my son, I would hate for what happened to you to happen to us" (SIDS is not contagious) to "I thought SIDS was something a doctor made up to protect people who can't take care of their kids" and the whopper "At least he passed before you had a chance to get attached to him"

I just try to take deep breaths and remind myself that they are *trying* to be helpful and kind.

Our thoughts and prayers are with you.

Anonymous said...

My OB doctor said the most insensitive comment to me on the day I found out I was miscarrying my baby. I kept "re-playing" in my mind what he said and it hurt so bad. It still "stings" to this day that my doctor, of all people, would be so cruel. I thought that he would have been the opposite, understanding and sensitive. How nice it would have been at that time to have been "re-playing" something more sensitive and thought-through instead. Needless to say, I went to another doctor when I was able to get pregnant again! I think sometimes people just need to be reminded of the fact that sometimes silence and presence are best ... thank you for reminding!

Anonymous said...

A comment that was hurtful to me after our baby was born still was-"so when are you going to try again?" like getting pregnant again would just make everything okay. And after we did conceive again the comment was "well, this should help you get over the loss of your baby"., you never get over that.

Anonymous said...

My husband and I experienced a molar pregnancy. Many people who knew I was "pregnant" actually said that since it "wasn't a real baby" I should get over it and move on. From the moment I discovered I was pregnant, the baby was as real as the three precious babies I gave birth to. Just as miscarriages are as devastating to the parents as a baby who dies of SIDS. Babies are babies whether we know them in the womb or out and grief is grief. Everyone grieves differently and should be allowed to have whatever feeling, emotions or reactions they have.
God bless you, Nicol and Summer. You're in my prayers and on my heart daily.

Angela said...


I remember coming back home after being with you in Georgia for two weeks for Luke's funeral and trying to assimilate back into my life here (which was completely surreal). I would see people who knew about the terrible loss we were suffering and would walk away from a conversation with them feeling totally shocked - not because of what they said but because they said NOTHING!!!!!!!! No "How are you doing?" No "How is your family?" No "I'm so sorry for your loss." No "I've been praying for you and your family." No "What can I do for you?" No NOTHING. Just idle chit chat. I'm not sure which is worse - insensitive comments or silence. I'm so glad you posted about this because people need to know that they don't really have to say much -- just acknowledge the grief and the pain and the loss. That's it.

Thankfully, experiences like this are few and far between. As you said, 99% of people show great compassion and are very encouraging. As Sheila commented, I pray that these would shine in your thoughts and the others would fade away.

Your Sis

Anonymous said...

Hi Greg, I'm behind on the comments that were posted but are now deleted. I wish it were that easy and final for the "Words We'd Rather Forget" to be put away from you as far as the east is from the west to be remembered by you and Nicol Know More.
God, help their hearts to be wherever you know you want them to be. You are the great caregiver.
Thank you, Thank you.

Janet said...

I have been reading your blog and am sorry for your loss.

Sara said...

You know, when my son died people said all kinds of things. Some were so very comforting, and others were just plain unexplainable.

I went back to work after 8 weeks maternity leave and my husband's aunt looked at me and said "Well, it is a good thing he didn't live longer. That would have been really horrible.".

Seriously? I remember looking at her and saying "No, I don't believe it could have been any more "horrible".

Some people just don't know what to say. And they don't realize that saying nothing is better than saying something so -excuse me for lack of better word - stupid.

I hope you all are doing okay. I read about you on Angie's blog and occasionally check in on you. You all are always in my prayers.

Misty Rice said...

Sticks and stone may break my bones and yes WORDS do and will hurt ME.

I follow your blog along with Angie's. I often share your blog with my husband because things are shared and written by a man, a Godly man and I want you to know that you have love and care from men out there too and not just a bunch of women blog readers.

Thank you again and again for sharing your journey through this chapter in your life. I can not wait to see what Gods plan is for the future of this loving family.

LET YOUR LIGHT SHINE.... Let it shine! Let it shine!

People be kind!!! Treat others has you would want to be treated, simple! Regardless of your beliefs or religion.... love one another!

Greg and Nicol (and Sommer) you don't have to explain yourself to anyone. YOu don't have to question yourself when you are alone. Don't let satin play with those demons inside, he will find away to get to you and he tried with the ER comment. Although I didn't see the original post, I got the picture by some of the comments left here and I am sorry people can be so rude!!

When I see people like this, sometimes I just want to reach out and give them a big fat hug and tell them they too are loved!!! Although at that time in your shoes I am sure no one could have done that.....

But maybe with all these prayers, some how some way God will be exposed to that person(s) and show them love and compassion for others.

As always you are all in my prayers!!!!

God Bless.