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All Babies Go To Heaven

I’m asking this on behalf of my mother, who is very interested in reading printouts of stories on your site, after I introduced her to them, but has yet to master even opening a web browser (she has a general and all-encompassing mistrust of technology that was invented after 1940).

My mother has been haunted (seriously, devastated) this past year by a situation with her sister (my aunt) in which she doesn’t believe herself to be at fault but is unsure and would like to be either reassured or set straight. Be warned, this is not a happy story.

A tiny bit of back story first … when I was born, my mother asked my aunt to be my godmother. She refused, on the grounds that it would be hypocritical of her to be part of a religious ceremony when she didn’t believe in God, and had no religious affiliation. My mother accepted this with no ill-will, knowing if I ever needed my aunt she’d still be there for me. But this is important to the story.

One other thing is that just before she fell pregnant with my sister, my mother suffered a miscarriage. She still cries to think of it, even thirty years later. This is also semi-important.

Now my cousin (my aunt’s daughter) went through years of IVF, and last year she finally fell pregnant with twins, both boys. She lives miles away, but my mother and I sent cards and gifts when we learned about the twins (my mother makes hand-knitted blankets for every new addition to our extended family, and these were sent about four months into the pregnancy, and I received a thank-you email, which I passed on).

At around six months, the babies were both born prematurely, and one passed away that same day. We were informed of this by my aunt, via email (she lives in another country, so she often communicates with my mother through me), which said her daughter was too distressed and focused on her other tiny, premature baby to be in communication with anyone. We thought this was absolutely right, and I emailed back that my thoughts were with them all.

My mother, being unable to email and absolutely crushed by the news, called (while I was there) and left a message. In this message she said the following (this is almost exactly word for word … we know because my mother hates answer phones and always writes out what she’ll say before she leaves a message, so she doesn’t leave things out).

Hello A (my aunt), I’m so sorry to hear about S (my cousin) and M (her husband)’s terrible loss. It’s not the same, but I do know a tiny fraction of what S is feeling, and all of my love is with her and M. I know you don’t share my faith, but I’m praying for you all, and especially for baby K. Please pass on my love to S and M, and my regards to B (my uncle).

Now, a tense few days followed, and then came the awful news of the death of the second twin. Needless to explain how we all felt, and my mother took it particularly hard. But what she took the hardest was the email my aunt sent (to my email address) informing us of the news. It goes as follows …

Monday had been a very promising day with the doctors making quite extensive and detailed plans for K’s future.  In the early hours of Tuesday morning a sudden deterioration in Ks condition occurred and despite some very intensive care he was unable to regain any of the ground he had lost so rapidly. He passed away quietly in the arms of S and M and is now at peace. S and M asked us to let everyone know. They are devastated and couldn’t do so themselves. They will need some time to come to terms with all of this and they’re sure you will understand that they cannot face conversations at the moment. 

P.S.   No doubt you thought you were being kind with your ‘little message’ but we are hurt and angered by your behaviour. We may not attend church as often as your holier-than-thou selves, but we believe that our grandsons are with god, and we won’t have you questioning it. We are mourning the loss of not one but two grandchildren, and you have only made this time more painful. You of all people should know that. Please keep your opinions to yourself. 

It’s likely I would never have passed on this last part of the message to my mother (I know that’s wrong, but I knew it would destroy her), but by the time I reached the venomous part, I had already started reading it aloud. My mother broke down in tears, and could barely speak for the better part of an hour, mortified that she’d said something to hurt her sister at this time. We both looked back over the message she left, and to this day neither of us think it’s phrased offensively. Is it?

She certainly didn’t mean to cause pain by her remark about my aunt not being religious … she had good reason to believe it, after what happened with my own christening. And this isn’t a long standing issue …  religion has never been a sore point between members of our family. Some are Catholic, some protestant, some atheist, and none of us care or question anyone else’s beliefs. It’s never even come up! FYI, we could never question the babies’ place in heaven … it’s sickening to even think of it!

In my personal opinion, I think my aunt was suffering a horrible loss, and needed an outlet for some steam, and my mother was it. I can’t blame her for lashing out, I just wish she hadn’t. I’ve explained this point of view, and told my mother numerous times that she can’t keep beating herself up about it, but she is now so terrified to speak to my aunt, in case she does further damage, that she has me send most of her communications for her, proofreading them first for anything that might cause pain.

She apologised profusely, and was given only a curt reply, detailing the funeral plans. Since then, there has been little contact with my aunt, though we’ve tried several times. On my mother’s birthday she sent a six-word email saying happy birthday. That’s all. We remain in contact with my cousin.

Please let us know if that message would have caused offense for any of you. I feel responsible for this whole thing too, since I was there when the message was penned and didn’t see anything wrong with it. I know Mom genuinely meant it with nothing but love.

P.S. I know it doesn’t make the story any less sad, but I do want to say that a year later my cousin is now pregnant again with a baby girl, who is past the premature stages and about ready to arrive. We are delighted for S and M, and even though it doesn’t take away their pain, it goes some way to making life seem liveable again.   1011-11

Death of loved ones is one of the most stressful situations a person can endure and under such pressure, people pop revealing the messiness inside of them.   Any superficial courtesies and facades are ripped off when death comes knocking.   Your aunt lashed out in her sorrow at the one person she probably knew she could get away with behaving that way…your mother, her sister.   Anger can be a part of the grieving process and your aunt directed hers inappropriately to the wrong target because your mom was a safe target.

The only possible phrasing I read that *might* be misconstrued was the prayer “especially for the (deceased) baby”.   Your aunt had to have read a lot more into that to assume it meant praying for the baby’s soul to be released from Purgatory quickly and into Heaven. It’s a stretch for her to presume that is what your mother meant by that.   The context of the phrase, surrounded by condolences and empathy, indicates that only kindness and good thoughts were intended.

Your aunt is what would be referred to as a “secondary mourner”.  The twins’ parents are the primary mourners.  If you have remained in contact with them and they bear you or your mother no ill will, consider that the persons most eligible to be offended by your comments do not appear to be offended at all.  Continue building on that relationship with S&M with expressions of affection, congratulations, and interest in theirs and their new daughter’s  lives.  Don’t cut off Aunt yet but continue to woo her with communications.   It may take years to reconcile this but it does happen.

And please pass on to your mother that sometimes we have to rest in the knowledge that we intended no harm, that we did the best we knew how to do and that the problem truly does lie with the other person who bears a responsibility to not take up offenses easily.

{ 115 comments… add one }
  • Editrix October 12, 2011, 11:59 am

    “The only possible phrasing I read that *might* be misconstrued was the prayer “especially for the (deceased) baby”. ”

    Actually, the message as it’s written above says that she said “especially for Baby K,” who was at the time the living and struggling baby. I think that was an entirely appropriate thing to say.

  • 8daysaweek October 12, 2011, 12:03 pm

    Perhaps I’m reading wrong but I believe OP’s mother’s message referred to especially praying for the surviving baby, K. The aunt’s later email is about K’s passing. It seems perfectly logical to be praying “especially” for the surviving baby who is still fighting for his life.

    However I agree with the rest of admin’s points – your aunt lashed out in her grief and it fell on your mother. I know that your mother is hurt but as her niece bears her no ill will, she should do her best to remember that her sister was grieving and your mother did nothing wrong.

  • anonymous October 12, 2011, 12:09 pm

    I’m not religious in the slightest (I’m agnostic leaning towards atheist) and a similar message wouldn’t have offended me in the slightest. People pray, grieve, hope and send wishes and condolences in the ways they know how and have faith in, and it’s up to everyone, as members of a society where people have different faiths or no faith at all, to take such words for what they are: sincere and meant to show empathy, not cause offense. Respecting that means respecting the others’ religion – and I say that as someone who doesn’t do religion and wouldn’t go in for organized religion even if I did believe in a higher power.

  • lkb October 12, 2011, 12:11 pm

    I am so devastated for all involved. I agree with the Admin that the baby’s parents used the person who sent the email (don’t want to keep saying mother or aunt or anything so I don’t confuse the issue) as a punching bag to vent their emotions. (Not saying it was right but…)

    I’ve been in similar situations. All I can say is that all involved are in my prayers and I urge the one who seems to be beating herself up over it to continue to pray about it and just do the best she can to reach out to the ones who gave such an angry response. Sooner or later, they’ll come around.

    God bless you and yours.

  • ferretrick October 12, 2011, 12:17 pm

    It’s obvious that your mother meant no offense, is guilty of none, and that your aunt is overreacting. I do think your aunt’s initial behavior can be excused under temporary insanity due to the extreme circumstances, but the statute of limitations on the insanity is run out and it’s past time to let the contents of an e-mail from a year ago pass).

    All that said, your mother sounds like a bit of a drama queen. She’s “terrified” of talking to her sister and giving further offense? She has to pass all communication through you?? Really? Is she a voting adult? She’s being ridiculous, and you are enabling that behavior by acting as a go between. Forgive the therapy talk, but this triangular communication is a very destructive pattern in many families. It’s past time that she called her sister directly and talked to her. My advice would be for you to say, “Mom, you have to talk to aunt yourself. I can’t continue to be involved in this.”

  • K October 12, 2011, 12:25 pm

    As an Atheist who’s had a miscarriage, I think that whole family takes some kind of weird joy out of being miserable. Low self-esteem? Boredom? I don’t know, I don’t care. I just know that 30 years is waaaaaaaaaaay too long to be mourning a mere miscarriage and, par for the course, the sister took things waaaaaaaaaaay out of context so she’d have a reason to feel slighted. Not to be outdone, the mother now takes everything waaaaaaaay to extremes when she wants to communicate to her own sister. Issues and baggage. Frankly, neither one is right in the head but at their age, they’re not going to change. They enjoy wallowing so what can you do? Not be dragged down in the mud with either of them, don’t play the proof-read game, don’t play the, “I’m asking this on behalf of my mother,” game either. Break the cycle.

  • Lucy October 12, 2011, 12:31 pm

    I’m a dyed-in-the-wool second-generation atheist and I wouldn’t have been bothered in the slightest by what OP’s mother wrote. I’m sorry it caused such a rift, and I hope OP’s aunt comes around once the shock has tempered some, but OP’s mother should stop beating herself up about it.

  • Ginger G October 12, 2011, 12:31 pm

    I’m an atheist, and I find nothing offensive whatsoever about your mother’s message. The expression “fell pregnant” has always annoyed me for some reason though.

  • Twik October 12, 2011, 12:33 pm

    I think if the aunt hasn’t yet realized that she took unwarranted offense at sympathy that was offered with good intentions, and is angry at your mother for things that your mother did not say or imply, then her time of claiming “punching bag” response is coming to an end. Such a loss is a horrible thing, but alienating yourself from those who care for you without apologizing is not acceptable.

  • alex October 12, 2011, 12:35 pm

    I see absolutely nothing wrong with what your mother said. I actually think it was sweet of her to add in how she knows they don’t follow the same religion as her as she was trying to make sure they would not be offended that she was praying for them. So when she said that she was most definitely thinking of them and did not want to be offence.

    Your mother’s sister is most definitely the one with the issues here and for her to continue to be holding a grudge is ridiculous. She was obviously in a very fragile state and was crying out for help more than likely because emotions at times can run pretty crazy.

    Please tell your mother to not waste another moment thinking about it and know that it is her sister’s issue and not hers.

  • AS October 12, 2011, 12:35 pm

    First of all, please accept my heartfelt condolences for the loss of your little nephew.

    I am a non-believer in any particular religion (I wouldn’t call myself atheist because I define that word in a different way), and I’ll not be offended by what your mother said at all. I have suffered the loss of my family members. Whenever someone tells me that they offered some prayers for my loved ones, I felt nice, because someone wishes good for me in their own way.

    I think admin’s hypothesis that your aunt throwing her anger on your mother is the best explanation. Maybe you could try speaking to your aunt after several months or years. And make sure you shower your love on S and M, because they need a lot of love and understanding now. I feel awful for all of you and your family, OP! I hope all of you find the strength to get over this situation and bond together well again.

  • Celeste October 12, 2011, 12:48 pm

    K- I have also recently had a miscarriage, and as it was only about 6-8 weeks along I bounced back from it after just a few days of being down. That said I find your comment very insensitive. We don’t know how far along the mother was when she miscarried, or any of the circumstances involved, and even if we knew all the details I don’t believe anyone has the right to tell anyone else how upset they are allowed to feel over a loss. It sounds like she copes fine and has moved on, so so what if she still looks back and feels pain? I think its nice there are still people in the world who feel things deeply. As for the fight between the mother and sister, this story almost made me cry and i don’t know anyone involved; so i could only imagine the kind of emotions surrounding all parties involved. That to me does not imply drama, just a tough situation. I agree with earlier posters, the mother should call her sister herself and just talk it out now that things have settled down.

  • Zhoen October 12, 2011, 12:51 pm

    Yup, the sisters need to talk directly, no excuses. Everyone needs to stop taking it all so personally and dramatically. OPs mom did nothing wrong, but has allowed aunt to treat her like a doormat and scapegoat. Polite always needs a spine, because rude always has a nerve.

    Mom’s fear of email speaks to a dire need for courage.

  • Hemi Halliwell October 12, 2011, 1:07 pm

    Your mother did nothing wrong. She tried to reach out to family during a very difficult time with expressions of love and sympathy. I agree with the comments saying that your aunt was angry & hurt and she chose an easy target-your Mom- to lash out at.
    I think (my opinion) you should encourage your Mom to communicate (by phone, if that is what is most comfortable for her) with your aunt directly and not have you relaying messages.
    OP- I would be interested to know if your aunt is a religious person now. You stated that she declined to be your godmother because she did not believe in God. In her email response, it says “We may not attend church as often as your holier-than-thou selves, but we believe that our grandsons are with god, and we won’t have you questioning it.” Does that mean she now attends church and believes in God?

  • LovleAnjel October 12, 2011, 1:12 pm

    As an atheist, I am not insulted or angered by an expression of prayer unless it’s obviously meant to be followed by “…because you’re going to HELL.” She was praying for the health of a suffering child. There is nothing insulting about that.

    I agree with admin and other posters about the emotional dynamic here – the aunt is lashing out at a “safe” target.

    No one ever gets over the loss of a child. That can include unborn babies lost through miscarriage.

  • immadz October 12, 2011, 1:13 pm

    I think there is some background missing… Has your mother made references to your aunt that her faith where she has perhaps mentioned that she doesn’t believe that people of different faiths go to heaven. It does not seem like the aunt is atheist, because she says she goes to church. If religion were a major point of dissent between me and a person and they truly believed and voiced their belief that people of my faith went to heck, and they sent me a religious type message when I was grieving, I would lash out too. However without the background, it all seems a little over-dramatic on both parts.

  • Lilybell October 12, 2011, 1:15 pm

    Wow, I think your Aunt was way out of line. I understand she was grieving but I still don’t think it excuses what she wrote. My aunt died in her early 50s and her daughter said some terrible things to my mom right after. I know it came out of sadness but honestly, I haven’t felt the same about her since that day. Everything she said was untrue and hurtful and I can’t get behind the thought that grief excuses everything. I lost my husband-to-be in an accident two weeks before our wedding and even though I was devastated, I didn’t suddenly lash out at the people closest to me.

  • Sarah Jane October 12, 2011, 1:16 pm

    OP, I’m so sorry for this tragedy and how it has impacted your family. My heart goes out to your cousin and her husband.

    Your mother clearly meant nothing harmful or condescending. The ONLY thing I would have left out was “I know you don’t share my faith”… I’d have simply said, ” I’m praying for you all”, etc. But we don’t know what set off your aunt’s anger.

    When people suffer such a terrible loss, they often question their beliefs, no matter what they are. Your aunt’s accusation that your mother is “holier-than-thou” may have come from years of silent resentment (although I’m not saying that’s justified.). She may have been vulnerable to anything you mother would have said, even before she had a chance to say it.

    K, I have to take issue with your “mere miscarriage” comment and your remark that they are “not right in the head.” I don’t think any of us knows this situation well enough to make those assessments.

  • just sayin' October 12, 2011, 1:20 pm

    i think that some of the commenters may have missed the part of the story where it was clearly established that communication goes through the daughter because of technology and distance reasons–not to induce drama in an unhealthy dynamic.

    as someone who spends many hours helping my own mother, as well as some older coworkers of mine attempt to write even the most basic of emails, i wonder if those commenters also need some help deciphering the internet.

  • Kat October 12, 2011, 1:25 pm

    K – I think you’re overreacting. My mother is still saddened by a miscarriage she suffered about 25 years ago. People cope with loss in different ways. Doesn’t mean they’re “not right in the head.”

  • Amy October 12, 2011, 1:38 pm

    It sounds like Aunt has had a change of faith since OP’s christening, but never informed OP’s mom that she does now believe in God. I think Mom went far too long without clearing up the misunderstanding.. I probably would have replied something along the lines of,
    “Sis, I meant no offense.. I didn’t realize that your beliefs had changed since OP’s christening, when you said that you did not believe. I certainly didn’t mean to imply that my faith is somehow greater than yours.. I was trying to be sensitive to the fact that you did not share my beliefs, which is how I thought you still felt.”
    I also think that Aunt way overreacted but hopefully due to her grief.

  • Xtina October 12, 2011, 1:49 pm

    Wanted to comment before reading any of the other already-posted remarks.

    After re-reading your mother’s original message and your aunt’s reaction, I think your aunt must have taken the phrase about your mother’s prayers completely out of context. Perhaps aunt took it to mean that mother felt that the baby(ies) would go to hell unless someone prayed for them (side note, it’s interesting that while aunt claims no religion, she wrote that she believes the babies were “with god”). Maybe some atheists/agnostics could possibly take any mention of prayer for them as a message that they’re not living right. Personally, I think the aunt read far too much into it; to me, mom’s message seems more sensitive and better-worded for the mere fact that she recognized the differences of opinion on faith. It did not read at all to me like she was trying to impose her beliefs on her sister or put down their grief—just saying that within the bounds of her religion, that was how she chose to honor them.

    I would have let the matter drop for a length of time for some healing to take place, but eventually, I would have probably replied to aunt’s e-mail as such: “Dear Aunt, again I am very devastated for your loss and am sorry if I had worded my message in such a way that it was misconstrued to mean anything other than that. Truly I meant nothing other than to convey my condolences and express love and support for the family. I hope that your reaction to that message was only a result of the stress and sorrow that you were feeling during that trying time”. Maybe it should be just swept under the rug, but I’m the type of person that wants to talk things out. Aunt can be given a ‘free pass’, so to speak, since it was a time of stress, but Mom shouldn’t be put in a position of feeling that she has to walk on eggshells around aunt forever, over Aunt’s making a big deal of nothing. They are family, after all–people shouldn’t be afraid to discuss things.

    Also wanted to ask–if the parents of the deceased babies didn’t find offense in Mom’s message, why is Aunt getting so bent out of shape?

  • AMC October 12, 2011, 2:07 pm

    I identify as agnostic, and I don’t see anything offensive in the message. It sounded very respectful, heartfelt, and sympathetic. I agree with the OP and Admin that Aunt read something into the message that wasn’t there and, in her vulnerable and emotional state, lashed out at someone who meant no harm. I think Admin’s advice is correct. Maybe give it some more time, perhaps after the new baby is born and things settle down, then maybe your mother can speak calmly with her sister and let her know that she has nothing but respect for her beliefs and never intended to criticize or hurt her, especially during such a painful ordeal.

  • kudeebee October 12, 2011, 2:13 pm

    I don’t think there was anything wrong in your email Aunt was grieving the loss of her grandchildren and lashed out at your mom.

    Your mom has apoligized, cousins are fine with you, so she needs to let it go. Mom should contact aunt as she always does and realize that she (mom) cannot control aunt’s reaction. If aunt speaks to her, she speaks to her; if aunt doesn’t, she doesn’t. It is time for you to stop being the go-between. “Mom, if you want to communicate with aunt, you will have to do it on your own.”

  • Amy October 12, 2011, 2:28 pm

    @K, as an Atheist, would it have (does it) offended you for people to say they are praying for you?

    I have a newly Atheist sister, and I try to not to offend her, as she tries not to offend me in my beliefs, but as a Christian, it makes me feel better to pray, it gives me comfort.

  • AMC October 12, 2011, 2:31 pm

    @K- I seriously take issue with your harsh and insensitive response. It borders on trolling. First, there is no set time limit to mourn a loss. Everyone one mourns in their own way and in their own time. Second, though the aunt did indeed perceive a slight that did not actually exist, I don’t think the mother’s reaction was “waaaaaaaaay to extremes”. She’s hurt, confused, and embarassed at being accused of something that is, frankly, pretty awful. I also think you’re out of line to say that “neither one is right in the head.” Really? Considering the circumstances and the tragedy that the entire family is going through, I think it’s no surprise that people sometimes behave illogically and not like their normal selves. That doesn’t make them crazy; it just means that they’re experiencing a deep, emotional trauma. Since the OP states that there have never been problems between the sisters before and religion has never been a sore spot for either of them, I don’t know why you assume that they are playing games and “enjoy wallowing”. There’s no pattern or precident for either’s behavior. It sounds very much to me like this is a one-time incident that was fueled by tragedy.

  • Jays October 12, 2011, 2:43 pm

    K, honestly, I find your reference to “a mere miscarriage” rather offensive. And your entire post was very harsh. Neither is “right in the head?” Really?

    Many people above a certain age have issues with technology. My MIL needs copious notes before she will even attempt to do something simple with her cell phone, TV or computer. I could see her doing the proof-read thing, or going through me or her son with emails to family members out of town. It’s not a game. She just doesn’t quite trust technology, so she’s very careful around it. My mom is the same, to a lesser extent.

    I feel horrible for the OP’s mom, and can see how she’d be devastated by such a reaction by her sister. (I certainly don’t see how she’s enjoying “wallowing.”) I also don’t see where any offense should have be taken. (And I do think the call referred to the baby still alive, by the way.)

  • startruck October 12, 2011, 2:45 pm

    k –
    i find what you said waaaaaaaaaayyyy dispicable. “a mere misarriage”? well maybe to you ,but it wasnt to her and not for a lot of women. its absolutley devastating. anyway, i dont think what your mom said is wrong at all. some people should be glad they have family who gives a hoot about them enough to check o them and send kind messages like this one. i think her message was comapssionate and sweet . did she lash out because of hurt ? who knows. but when my dad passed i didnt lash out at people who tried to offer kind words. really some people are just unbelievable. by the way , your mother sounds like a nice lady .

  • 8daysaweek October 12, 2011, 3:05 pm

    Whoa K. If you’ve been able to stop mourning your MC, that’s wonderful for you. But I don’t think it’s your place or right to tell any other woman how she should mourn or feel about her loss.

    We lost our second pregnancy in July and while I mostly feel okay about it these days I would never presume to know how anyone else should feel about theirs at this or any other stage. I’ve had several women who also had experienced pregnancy loss judge how I dealt with my MC because they felt I wasn’t upset enough and that hurt me greatly. It’s inappropriate to judge how anyone has dealt with or been impacted by her loss just because it’s different from your experience.

    I think Mom seems a bit dramatic in how she’s handling the situation and things with her sister, but I don’t fault her for how she feels about her “mere miscarriage,” even 30 years later.

  • JS October 12, 2011, 3:10 pm

    When I had my miscarriage, one of the nurses held my hand while I cried and told me that, hard as it was to believe, it was all part of God’s plan. She had tears in her eyes and I could tell she was clearly coming from a place of love and sympathy. And it was all I could do not to smack her (don’t worry, no one got hurt–I just kept quiet). I’m not religious, and without getting into my spiritual beliefs, the idea that God “planned” to make me miscarry is unacceptable to me. I knew she had the best of intentions, but in that moment, raw and devestated as I was, I had absolutely no ability to manage or filter my reactions to her statement.

    Sometimes, “I’m praying for you” can mean “I’m praying for your forgiveness so God doesn’t punish you for failing to adhere to God’s rules as I interpret them.” Those of us who don’t believe in God hear it often. It grates. So, in the powder keg of emotions that your aunt and cousin were experiencing, I can see how that phrase could *unintentionally* cause a spark. Were they right to react that way? Absolutely not. But it happens under unimaginably awful circumstances.

    But I have to second K and ferretrick–your mom needs a thicker skin. And OP, you don’t really have a dog in this fight. Let it go.

  • 1st-Time Mommy October 12, 2011, 3:11 pm

    I’m sorry…”mere miscarriage”?

    For many people, religious or not, a miscarriage IS the death of their child. Not “pregnancy loss”, or “loss of a fetus”, though it is, technically, those things. Many of us never truly stop grieving the death of our baby.

    There is also no indication that the OP’s mother is “wallowing” in her grief, just because she still cries about it at times.

    But, hey, congratulations about being waaaaaaaaay condescending over other peoples’ losses. Such sensitivity leaves me not the least bit surprised that you were able to get over your own (“mere”) miscarriage so easily.

    That is, if any of your comment is even true and you’re not just trolling.

  • HL October 12, 2011, 3:13 pm

    The aunt definitely overreacted, but I can see why someone might be bothered by the mother’s email. I have family members who like to bring up their religion whenever they possibly can and “I know you don’t share my faith, but I’m praying for you” is exactly the kind of thing they would have said if they were trying to hijack someone else’s loss and turn it into another opportunity to talk about their religion.

    I know that most of the time when religious people tell non-religious people they’re praying for them it’s just because they are and they don’t know what else to say since prayer is just what they do in that situation, but I still think it’s better to leave your own religion out of it when you’re trying to comfort someone who doesn’t share that religion unless you know for sure that they won’t interpret it the wrong way. Sometimes “I know you don’t share my faith, but I’m praying for you” can mean “I know you don’t share my faith and I don’t care, my religion is more important than your loss”.

  • Dannysgirl October 12, 2011, 3:16 pm

    Wow, K, I didn’t see the OP’s mom as wallowing in grief over her miscarriage. I’ve not had one, but I assume it’s natural to wonder what the child would have looked like, where they would be in their life, etc. I’m sure that, just as with any loss, it’s felt most acutely around the holidays. Just because the OP’s mother didn’t see her child, doesn’t mean she can’t still hurt over it. You may have healed from your miscarriage, but everyone grieves differently. To call it a “mere miscarriage” is to minimize the pain of others who have experienced one.

  • Marjorie Margarine October 12, 2011, 3:19 pm

    I agree! Everyone in this story is being ridiculous! If OP’s mother had a miscarriage 30 years ago, she most likely is only in her 50’s or 60’s- and she can’t open a browser?? What a sad life! I agree- OP needs to let Mom deal with this. If she calls Aunt and explains why she thought Aunt was not religious and meant no offense, no reasonable person could continue to bear a grudge. At the same time, Aunt even admits that she didn’t think the message was meant to be offensive, so maybe it’s just not worth confronting at all. If I were Op’s mom, I might just act like nothing at all had happened and get on with our lives as sisters.

  • Littlepixie October 12, 2011, 3:27 pm

    Honestly, I am exhausted just reading that. OP, you’re mother needs to stop making everything all about her, she needs to let things go, she needs to stop holding people hostage to hear tears and over reactions and she seriously needs to move on with her life.

    I would be vurious to hear your aunt’s version of the story.

  • Another Laura October 12, 2011, 3:31 pm

    @ K-I disagree with your statement that 30 years is too long to be mourning a “mere” miscarriage. Would you think 30 years too long to mourn the death of a child (born live), sibling, parent or spouse? My brother died (at age 17) 20 years ago and my Mom still cries when he’s mentioned. To many people, myself included, a miscarriage is an important loss of the life of a beloved child. And I refuse to judge the length of time someone chooses to mourn their dead loved ones.

    On topic, I wonder if the OP’s aunt thought that perphaps her sister’s prayer for baby K should be some sort of magic charm, guarranteed to make him healthy and when that wasn’t the outcome she took it out on her sister?

  • Cherry October 12, 2011, 3:43 pm

    This is admittedly my very personal opinion, and it’s very likely that people will disagree, but I would send an email to your aunt, making it very clear that you are not sending the email at your mother’s request, and try and discuss the matter.
    Try explaining that the original email was in no way meant to offend or seem “holier than thou”, and that while you understand that of course your aunt was grieving, her comments were unfair and undeserved.
    If your aunt still insists on being curt and standoffish, in all honesty, you and your mother may be better off without her.

  • Nadine October 12, 2011, 3:43 pm

    K: I am still mourning the miscarriage of my own and only baby 20 years later. Just FYI.

    A friend of mine was dealing with an ill father. I said something to her that I meant to be comforting. She took it 180 degrees wrong and nearly bit my head off. For six months she never spoke a word to me, then gradually came back around.

    I agree with the Admin. Some people just have to dump on others and blame them for their sorrow.

  • Kitty Lizard October 12, 2011, 3:51 pm

    My placenta abrogated one week short of seven months and my baby girl was premature by just over
    three months. Her prognosis was dreadful, compounded by the fact that she had a stroke during the C-
    section. The day after she was born, my parents walked into my room. Before I could say hello, they started screaming that it was my fault. They were screaming, I was hysterical, and the nurse finally
    called security to have them removed. (They had no intention of leaving quietly.) My baby survived,
    my parents never did forgive me for having (caused) her premature birth, and life went on. Events like
    this bring out the worst in people, and people inclined to drama (a la my mother) will drag it on as long
    as they can. I am not inclined to drama. It didn’t last long.

    I feel for S and M and their lost little ones. I still remember the pain of looking in that isolette and
    watching my tiny baby struggle for life.


  • James October 12, 2011, 4:35 pm

    As the admin said, it seems likely the aunt’s words were born of the extreme tragedy of the situation. We all lash out when we’re under such terrible stresses. I know I do, and I know how much I’ve relied on the love and forgiveness of my family at such times.

  • LS October 12, 2011, 4:38 pm

    As an agnostic, it’s amazing that it seems to be atheists more than the religious who get offended over acts of goodwill.

  • Lucy October 12, 2011, 4:43 pm

    Lucy the atheist, 12:31 p.m. again:
    I was raised Quaker. We have a nice tack: We “hold people in the Light”. It’s kind of more about intensified hope and good wishes than prayer in the usual sense (although it depends on the individual; some are more into “normal” prayer than others).

  • Clair Seulement October 12, 2011, 4:51 pm

    Ferretrick for the win. OP’s mom did nothing wrong in this situation by any means, but I’m wondering whether the aunt has some weird resentment about the way OP’s mother acts in general, and in her heightened emotional state just let it rip. Religious piety and some degree of residual grief 30 years after a loss may all be normal, but anxiety over using the telephone that is so severe that one can’t even talk to her own sister without a script is not; the details also suggest that OP’s mother is a little young to be incapable of navigating a website (although, given all the knitting and florid language, this could very well be a pretty old-fashioned family). This larger pattern of drama and fragility could all be coloring the aunt’s interpretation of the message.

  • SV October 12, 2011, 5:08 pm

    K- Your comments were unnecessary. Although you recovered emotionally from your miscarriage in a timely fashion many women do not. It is not for you to decide when someone should be finished grieving.

    I miscarried a few years ago, and the day after it happened my mother went to work instead of coming to see me. This was entirely reasonable- I felt physically fine, there was nothing she could do, and I am not a person who likes to be coddled in any way. Yet, for some reason, I became irrationally upset and angry by this. I bundled up all of my hurt and devastation and took it out on my mother. Not only did I tell her that her actions were thoughtless and uncaring, I proceeded to hardly speak to her for months. My mother did nothing wrong, of course. I was simply so overwhelmed by emotion that I took it all out on her, lashing out in much the same way as the OP’s aunt. It was irrational and looking back I can ‘t even begin to understand my thought process.
    OP, your mother did nothing wrong and neither did you. Continue to contact your cousin and include your aunt in those emails that seem suitably innocuous. She will come around, if she hasn’t already. Let her do it on her own time and in her won way. And hats off to you for helping your Mom with the computer…many older people are intimidated by technology and so are simply cut off from those of us who use it on a daily basis.

  • Tanz October 12, 2011, 5:10 pm

    Let me first say that, as a dyed-in-the-wool atheist the message as given above (taken purely on face value) would not have offended me at all.


    I think there may be more to it. First off it was a phone message the OP’s Mum left, and tone counts for a hell of a lot. Secondly, what is the history like between the sisters in relation to religious matters? I have an Aunt who is religious (she’s the only one in the extended family who is) and over the years she has directed many snarky and insulting comments towards my mother (the family ‘black sheep’) all with religious overtones. So I could well imagine that, if she’d have sent a similar message as this to my Mum, it would not have been well received…. even if it was meant sincerely.

  • grumpy_otter October 12, 2011, 5:14 pm

    Wow–I do love to see the atheists come out of the woodwork! I’m one too, just as a “by the way.”

    I think what may have originally upset the aunt was the mother’s insinuation that she understood at all what the parents were going through–she had suffered a miscarriage, not the death of a born child. Aunt may have felt it was rude to make the tragedy partly about her own loss rather than simply acknowledging their loss.

    That being said–yes, Aunt overreacted–but if my grandchild died I would probably alienate every person I know.

    I am sorry, OP, for this difficult situation in which you find yourself and hope that all members of the family can find some healing soon.

  • AthenaC October 12, 2011, 5:35 pm

    Anyone else think that maybe K is lashing out in her grief that she never allowed herself to process?

    When it comes to experiencing trauma, there is no expiration date on the experience; trauma affects the non-logical parts of the brain, so it always feels like its in the present whether it was today, last week, or 30 years ago. Healing is possible, but it takes active effort, and using the logical centers of the brain (like talk therapy) won’t help.

  • Noodle October 12, 2011, 5:45 pm

    I also had a miscarriage following a fertility treatment and I know how devastating that can be…especially paired with the infertility and all of the things that went with it. The miscarriage was horrible enough and I couldn’t imagine going through what the cousin went through.

    I don’t see anything wrong with the OP’s mother’s e-mail. The only thing I can think of is that Aunt read the e-mail after the death of the other baby and just lashed out at whoever happened to be there, and unfortunately that was OP’s mother. The mother has apologised and if the aunt is still giving the cold shoulder, maybe there’s really nothing that can be done. Or, hopefully, the addition of the new baby will help smooth things over.

  • Cady October 12, 2011, 6:18 pm

    I think what happened is that the aunt misinterpreted “I’m praying for you” to mean, “I’m praying you will see the true path and convert to my religion so your souls & the souls of your children won’t face eternal damnation,” rather than “I am praying that the lord give you strength and help you and your family through this trying time.” Maybe it was the “I know you don’t share my faith” comment, although I see that what the mom was trying to say was “Even though I know you may not find comfort in this, I am praying that the lord give you strength.” I think it was out of line for the aunt to interpret the message the way she did, but I do think it’s always best when you mention you are praying for someone to leave out that you don’t have the same beliefs.

  • AS October 12, 2011, 6:31 pm

    Sorry for the repost – I just thought of another thought as to what might have happened.

    This is based on my own experience, so a few lines of back-story.
    When my mother passed away, I was strong, and trying not to show too much of emotions. I got tones of well wishes and people calling up to find out how I was doing. But I also had several well meaning people whom I had to console, because they kept crying and crying – many of whom had never even met my mother! I got extremely tired of receiving phone calls and consoling others for my mother’s death (which I was trying to cope up with, in addition to a huge burden of work that had to be done), and I stopped receiving phone calls.

    It is possible that though OP’s mother had her heart in the right place, but she probably sounded very depressed and/or was sobbing over the phone when she called up. It is probably an understandable reaction, but someone who is dealing with their own grief does not always want someone else, whose “degree of mourning” is below theirs, to be crying in their arms. It only adds to the stress. If you are sad, try to hide it a little when talking to immediate family members of a deceased for their sake.

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