The Wrong Thing Is Better Than Nothing At All

The last time I had a miscarriage, the phone rang off the hook.  Everyone called to check on me, to give me condolences, and to share optimism that next time would turn out better.

This time the house has been eerily silent.  The only calls have been from one of my aunts, and Andi.

Andi admitted that she was so afraid of calling at the wrong time.  And that she didn’t want to make the call because she didn’t really know what to say.

When you have a first miscarriage, everyone can call and reassure you that it was a fluke, that you’ll have a baby for sure next time.  When you have the second one, maybe it’s not a fluke.  People don’t know how to comfort you.  And it appears that they’re just choosing to not say anything, for fear of saying the wrong thing.

And trust me, when you have a hard time getting AND staying pregnant, there is ALWAYS someone who’s going to say the wrong thing.  I’ve spent my fair share of time getting annoyed at the things people come up with to say to me.  But I realized something this weekend: Even saying the wrong thing is better than saying nothing at all.

I think this relates to deployment too.  We all roll our eyes at some of the things civilians say to us.  I wrote a post about these asinine comments just a week ago.  But I’m also reminded today of another experience my husband and I had.  Back when he got home from his first deployment, we went on a cruise.  We cringed, expecting that everyone we talked to would bug us with questions about Iraq.  We thought we’d be repeating the same stuff over and over the entire cruise.  So when we sat down with our assigned tablemates for the first time, we were surprised when the conversation went like this:

Tablemate: So, what do you do?
Husband: I’m in the Army.  We’re on vacation because I just got home from Iraq.
Tablemate: Ah, I see.  (Turning to next tablemate)  And what do you do?  You’re a pharmacy rep?  How interesting…tell me more.

And that was that.  We were stunned that no one had a single question at all for my husband.  Nothing about "What was it like?", "How long were you there?", not even the annoying "Did you kill anyone?" or "Do you think we should’ve gone to war?"  Nothing. 

We expected to be annoyed by too many questions; instead we were annoyed by the lack of questions.  Poor civilians, they just can’t win.

I think I realized this morning that, even though many of the things civilians ask us seem stupid and uninformed, at least their asking shows that they care.  I’m going to try to cut them some slack next time and remember that they’re only doing the best they know how to do to show their concern.

I also realized, with the miscarriage, that I can either sit here and be a martyr, pouting that no one has called me, or I can pick up the danged phone myself and call a friend and say, "I need to talk; do you have time to listen?"  And that’s a whole nother lesson in itself.  If you need help, it’s OK to ask instead of sitting around waiting for help to come to you.  I’m sure that many of my friends are more than willing to help me through this; they’re just nervous to make the first move.  And afraid of saying the wrong thing.

I’m gonna cut them some slack too.

About the Author

Sarah has been married to her soldier for a bit more than 10 years. In the past decade, they've been at six different duty stations in four different branches of the Army. They've also endured three deployments, six miscarriages, and a failed IVF. Sarah's blogging focus has shifted some in the past five years, from common military issues to something more personal: the difficult intersection between the military and infertility. It's hard for some couples to start a family; it's even harder when one person spends a lot of time on the other side of the globe. But Sarah was lucky enough to declare Mission Accomplished when their daughter was born 10 days after her husband's return from Afghanistan. And she tries to remind herself how irreplaceable and cherished that daughter is now that she's entered the terrible two's. In her free time, Sarah is a pioneer housewife: knitting, crocheting, and cooking ... and sometimes even firing a weapon.
  • Cat

    How about a hug?

  • Elisa

    I’ll keep you in my prayers.

  • LAW

    If I had your phone number… I’da called. Cause it’s not about WHAT we say, it’s what YOU say to us.

  • LAW – good reminder that it’s better to not worry about what to say, and just give the other person the opportunity to say what they need to say.
    Sarah – Maybe that’s why I haven’t commented yet? Just so you know, I’m out here “listening” and have been thinking of you often. I’m so glad your mom has been with you.

  • Val

    I learned the same thing when Mom died. The thing that hurt me the MOST was when no one said anything. Sure the annoying things people said were hurtful, but at least I knew they were trying. Being in a deployment at the same time, I too saw how it carried over to deployments and life in the military.
    Keep hanging in there.

  • kannie

    HUUUUGE Kudos to you for realizing why more people sometimes don’t say anything – and for reaching out yourself to help them past the “awkward-ness.” It took me until my second m/c to realize that not telling people – to spare us both those awkward moments – really isolated me from the help I could’ve had… You’ve set a great example of how to get through things *together*.
    Thank you so much, and you’re still in our thoughts and prayers!

  • cdgin

    I just want to say that I’m sorry for your loss, and I know it’s hard to hear the “I’ve been through the same thing” stories/comments. I’m a person who likes to bury feelings-I didn’t want to talk about our experience with anyone-we had a miscarriage at 20 weeks, had to go through a delivery and a funeral. I think you are right, your friends are waiting for you to make the first move-but I’m sure they are just waiting for you to let them know how you want to handle things. Calling them and letting them listen to just what you have to say.
    Once again, very sorry for your loss. And I hope that you know that you have people who are here to support you.

  • “I’m sure that many of my friends are more than willing to help me through this; they’re just nervous to make the first move. And afraid of saying the wrong thing.”
    SO SO SO true, hon. I do not know you well. In fact, I hardly know you at all.
    But in nearly 30 years of Marine life, I’ve watched countless women struggle with various kinds of loss, sometimes from a distance, and sometimes up close. It never gets easier. And you never do find the right words.
    And sometimes you are trying so very hard, yourself, not to break down and cry that you just walk away because you do not want to cause the other person to lose control. It took me a very long time to learn that some people will get angry with you if you make them cry, and some are grateful for the opportunity to talk about their loss, and you cannot *possibly* know where they are in the grieving process.
    You can’t. But I can’t help but think that in the end it all needs to come out, and better to have another wife by your side, even if it is just someone who stands there, silently, feeling for you. At least that is what I have always hoped.
    God bless you, sweetie. You have more friends than you can possibly know.

  • Christine C

    My thoughts are with you. I’m sending you a virtual hug right now!!

  • I am sorry for your loss.
    Can you tell me if it makes your husband feel weird if strangers walk up and tell him thank you? I’ve heard it both ways and now I no longer feel comfortable doing that. Maybe I should take a survey? Or just do it anyway.
    We don’t live near a base, so if we’re out, we still buy the military dinners.

  • plc

    Yes, you are right. When my mother passed away I was amazed how many people came to her funeral. And you know what? Not a single person was out of place or should not have been there. I always tell that to myself now, if your neighbor’s friend dies it is okay to go and show support and share grieving, even if you don’t say anything, just being there is a really big thing. I used to feel that I needed to be one of the people grieving to offer aid, but in truth just putting out your hand is a big thing.