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Oh, Abby.

I saw your column today—the one where you gave advice to Crystal in Nevada. She wrote to you asking how to cope with her aunt who had a stillbirth 20 years ago. Crystal wanted to know how to talk to this aunt who lives such a “morbid lifestyle”. To encourage her to move on from a “baby that never lived”.

Instead of encouraging Crystal to approach her aunt with grace and compassion, you validated her misguided views on grief. You called her aunt’s desire to celebrate her child’s birthday sad. You assumed that her aunt had not sought any kind of counseling.

Perhaps you think counseling cures a person’s heartache for their child?

Oh, Abby.

Do you know how many families read your column today who have also experienced the loss of a child? I can’t speak for every one of them, but I know many were hurt and even angry at the way you were so quick to judge the heartbreak of a grieving mother. I know the heaviness in my own heart as I read your response.

Twenty years is not too long to miss your baby.

Crystal needed your support today, but instead, you provided an echo chamber. Here was an opportunity to educate—to let others know that there is no one way to grieve. You could have shared that there is no timeline when it comes to grief. You could have used your influential platform to help those normalizing the grief experience. Instead, you decided to continue the very harmful narrative that grief is about moving on.

Oh, Abby.

I wonder if you know how harmful your words were today.

I’m sure Crystal read your response and was satisfied. But, what about her aunt? What about the rest of us? The families who have lost babies? The families who had to read that, in your opinion, those babies never lived?

What about us, Abby?

Did you think about us when you were responding to Crystal? I don’t think that you did. If you had, you would have told her that grieving is not morbid. You would have told Crystal that her aunt’s grief is her own. While we are free to grieve in our own ways, we are never in a place to judge the grief of another.

Oh, Abby.

How I wish you had taken this opportunity to lift up those families who are grieving and acknowledge that grief is one of the strongest acts of love.

I wish you had commended any grieving parent who has managed another day on this earth without their child. We are living lives without the ones we love and we are doing the best we can. Sometimes that means putting up with families that don’t know how to support us and sometimes it’s about avoiding advice columns that offer their misguided views on grief.

Signed,
A grieving parent

Originally published on An Unexpected Family Outing

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Rachel Whalen

Rachel Whalen is a writer and Kindergarten teacher who lives and loves in Vermont. She is the mother of two daughters; Frances who is 14 months old and Dorothy who was stillborn two years ago. Her daughter's silent birth has inspired her to use her voice to share about grief, pregnancy loss, and parenting after loss. 

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