Good News After Bad News

by admin on March 6, 2013

I have a situation coming up that I would like some guidance from the readers….

My oldest friend S, after years of health issues and being told she would never have a child unless she adopted, was delighted to discover that she was unexpectedly pregnant. Her and her husband were over the moon and all of us were happy that such a wonderful couple would finally become parents. Eight and a half months into the pregnancy, I got word from her at the hospital to say that tragically, she lost the baby. Over the next few week, the details of the loss came out, which I won’t go into here. Naturally S was devastated and very angry about this. When she and her husband finally broke the news on Facebook (as all the friends don’t live in the same town as S, it’s easier to use Facebook to reach out as a group), the outpouring of support they received was wonderful. It was a testament of just how well they are loved by all.

About less than a month after this, I got news of my own…my brother and his wife were expecting their first baby! I was really happy that I would become an auntie! However, as it was so soon after S losing her baby, I decide not to say anything to her about my brother’s news as I felt it would be rubbing salt in an open wound. Fortunately, my usually tell-everyone-everything-on-social-media brother and sister-in-law had already decided to play down the baby news on Facebook until after the baby was born.

Well, baby M was born a few months ago and he is a cutie! Now that baby M is here, my brother is posting pics on Facebook, my mom and sister are commenting on the pics, and me…has not said a word on Facebook. Why? S is on my friend’s list on Facebook and I still haven’t told her the news. I did pull my brother aside and explained the situation so he and his wife understand why I’m not commenting on Facebook about baby M, but with my sister now posting pics of her and baby M, (while sister and S are not friends on Facebook, they live in the same town so they could have friends of friends) it’s only a matter of time before S gets wind of the news.

Since losing her child, S is grieving, but moving onwards with her life. I know that she’ll never be over losing her child, but she’s moved along so that the anger has calmed, she’s finding peace with herself and she’s living her life. While it hasn’t been a full year since she lost her child, I think I need to break my news to her. I will be going home at Easter to see my family and S lives in my home town so when I go home, I always visit her. I will need to tell her in person. How do you suggest I have this conversation? 0227-13

There is a time to grieve with those who grieve and a time torejoice with those who rejoice.   I think you have done an admirable job of being kind to your friend to allow her time to work through her grief.  But life does go on and people around S will have babies and at some point it becomes S’s turn to rejoice with those who rejoice or to at least be happy for them.

I would caution against making the announcement to your friend in a face to face manner as you intend.  There seems to be an element of drama to doing it this way that is unnecessary and really focuses the news to her specific situation that, to my thinking, may actually accentuate her grief rather than mitigate it.   I think a conservative announcement on your Facebook wall to everyone, such as, “Meet my new nephew, Jeffery XXXXX. I am delighted to be his aunt.”   Then when you do see your friend, wait until she asks if you have any photos and share them with her.  You do not seem like an insensitive person who would ramble on and on and on about your precious nephew.  That is where people fail to be sensitive to others by making the topic of conversation all about themselves without any regard for how others may be affected.

{ 40 comments… read them below or add one }

Jill March 6, 2013 at 4:01 am

I lost a baby last spring, so I appreciate the concern shown here. I know that everyone grieves differently, but this is what I learned in my situation. We are at an age at which many of our friends are having babies. In fact, I became an aunt just six weeks after my daughter’s due date. While losing my daughter was the most devastating thing that has ever happened to me, I didn’t begrudge others their happiness. In fact, it made me happier and more hopeful to see my friends and loved ones celebrating their children. I grieve for my daughter, but none of their babies are her, and it makes me happy to see them happy. I wouldn’t want them to feel that they had to hide that happiness for my sake.

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Lychii March 6, 2013 at 4:32 am

I fully agree with admin here. No need to make a big dramatic announcement or try gently breaking the news, just mention it casually. In the year that’s passed, S surely had to deal with baby news already. If you don’t make it about her, she’ll have much easier time.

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Sarah March 6, 2013 at 6:36 am

Please, tell her via message or email. Tell you that you know she is still growing her horrible loss and that this may bring up painful memories. Then give her time to react as she chooses. Screaming, sobbing, whatever. Don’t tell her in person, when she’ll be socially obligated to say congrats immediately. Let her fall apart and then share in your joy. She may be hurt that this was hidden from her. She may feel left out.

When you see her, tell her you think about her and her baby often. Use his or her name if you know it. Tell her again how sorry you are for her loss. Look at the post about losing a child.

And… Let her make her own choices. Don’t cut her off from baby showers or baby birthday parties. Maybe give her a heads up the invite is coming, so she’s not surprised by it, but let her decide if she’s ready to go.

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Bint March 6, 2013 at 7:27 am

Totally agree with admin. To have you tell her face to face – or think you haven’t said anything because of her – will just hurt her. She knows other people have children. She knows there will be babies. Acting as if she cannot cope – or could not be happy for someone else having a baby – could be *incredibly* hurtful to her, however good your intentions.

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sv March 6, 2013 at 8:26 am

Agree with Admin – don’t tell her face to face. Give her the privacy of hearing the news without an audience, so she can have time to deal with it however she chooses. And don’t make it into a dramatic, sad announcement – people have babies, and people around her will continue to have babies. Always show her that you remember and never will forget her daughter, but you can still be happy you are now an Auntie.

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Cat March 6, 2013 at 8:37 am

I would not even mention the loss of her child. She knows she doesn’t have the child she so wanted. It makes it more painful to say, “I know that you are still grieving, and I don’t want to pour salt in your wound, but my brother has a new child.”
I think a general announcement via a social networking website is the best way to do it. She will read it eventually and will either comment on it to you or not.
One of the most hateful comments ever made to me was my first year of teaching, when my adoptive mother was dying of cancer, and a fellow teacher (a Christian much older than I) said to me, “I don’t know why you’re upset. It’s not like she’s your real mother.” She was the only mother I had ever known and she was real to me.

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Ally March 6, 2013 at 8:40 am

From a purely technical perspective I think you’re overdoing the caution. Your comments are likes are extremely unlikely to show up on your friend’s feed. I also think that kindly telling her that you are an aunt is better than going out of your way to keep the information from her. You don’t need to crow it off the rooftops, but your friend may feel worse if she feels like her friends are trying to hide news from her out of sensitivity. (Basically, what Bint said above).

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Marjorie Margarine March 6, 2013 at 9:18 am

I also think you’ve been over sensitive to the point of it being almost awkward now, OP. I can see how it would feel very awkward if YOU had delivered right after this tragic event, but I’m sure your friend knows that the world goes on, that people keep having babies, and that relatives-of-friends have babies. I am also sure that your friend probably has several friends on facebook who have either had a baby or know someone who has had a baby since her loss, and have commented on it on facebook. The great thing about social networking sites is that if things on them bother you, you don’t have to look at them.

I don’t think you need to say anything big about it, or even post on facebook as admin suggested several months after your nephew’s birth. Just act like normal. Start liking pictures or making comments. When you see your friend, while you are catching up, mention casually, “Oh, did I tell you brother had a baby?” Then she can say, “Oh, great! Let me see some pictures! What did they name him!” and you can gush about your nephew, or she can say, “Oh. Great. ” and you can change the subject.

I think a year after the loss, even such a terribly sad one at such late term, she will not be wailing and crying and throwing things because someone she doesn’t know well happened to have a baby.

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Jay March 6, 2013 at 9:27 am

It’s been a year.. I’m sorry, but the idea that your friend is so fragile that she couldn’t handle the news that her friend’s brother’s wife had a baby is really insulting to your friend.

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WildIrishRose March 6, 2013 at 9:27 am

If months after your nephew’s birth S doesn’t know about him, I’d be very surprised. Surely the word has gotten to her through one grapevine or another. A casual posting on Facebook is all you need to do, just as Admin suggested. Life does go on, and while your sensitivity to your friend is highly commendable, she may actually wonder why you didn’t tell her about Baby M when he was born.

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Sarah Jane March 6, 2013 at 10:25 am

Agree with everyone else…let her know in writing so she can react in private.

Cat, your story makes me madder than a hornet. I’m embarrassed that woman calls herself a Christian. Jesus Christ Himself was raised by an adoptive father.

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CJCarville March 6, 2013 at 10:38 am

As someone who experienced a personal tragedy, I have to say…don’t treat her like a poor victim. She’s not. Or maybe she is but she probably doesn’t want to be viewed that way. As for Facebook, she can unsubscribe from peoples’ feeds who post upsetting information. That’s what I did.

My loss was nowhere near what this woman’s was. I was dumped a few weeks before my wedding. While I logically understood that people would continue to propose and get married, I made the decision MYSELF to opt out of hearing all that information. I still do. She can do the same. I hated it when people would treat me like I was on the brink of death, always walking on eggshells or shushing each other. Made me feel worse.

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Rug Pilot March 6, 2013 at 10:46 am

“Her and her husband were over the moon”? “Me has not said a word”? Argghhh! That’s painful to read…and English is my third language. This is what editors are for. Most of them are English majors and should know better.

Congratulations on the nephew and condolences for your friend’s loss.

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DowagerDutchess March 6, 2013 at 11:02 am

I don’t think you need to announce this or shield her from it. Just go about your life normally- if you’d like a photo or comment on it, do that.

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Chrysla March 6, 2013 at 11:26 am

While this story is not the magnitude of loss suffered by OP’s friends, it is in the same area. My cousin and his wife had tried unsuccessfully for years to have a child, they paid thousands of dollars and never conceived. There were many tears. When I became pregnant, I sent a message to family and friends after my first trimester was complete. I debated including them on the list. I decided I would leave them on the list. Turns out they were thrilled for me, and very glad I didn’t tip-toe around it. They had been treated so tenderly by others that several times they got excluded from other people’s baby news. As they said – “this is OUR problem, not everyone else’s.” They still wanted to be part of everyone’s world. They also told me everyone had been so helpful, supportive, and full of love for them and their struggle, why wouldn’t they want to be joyous with us? I think the admin is right on the mark with how to handle the situation. By the way, my cousin has since adopted two children and they are very happy with their decision to do so.

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Cass March 6, 2013 at 11:50 am

I have to say, I always prefer to get potentially uncomfortable news not face to face, because it gives me time to process and react in a more appropriate way than my initial reaction might have been. I agree that S has undoubtedly had to come to terms with the fact that other people are having babies so it might be something she has a game face for anyway, but just in case it’s not, doing it via FB seems like a good method – it doesn’t single out anyone for receipt of the news, and it’s a group announcement as is appropriate for the situation of the aunt.

That said, I would be cautious about being certain that FB means she knows – I’m fairly new to FB myself, but my understanding is that not everything posted by a friend is visible to everyone else. I know that I only get comment-on-other-post notifications from the person I comment to most out of my very small flist. Making the post yourself increases the chances that she’ll see it, and if you would like to be certain, it might be desirable to do a mass BCC email to friends in your town who may not have heard the news. I don’t say that because I think it’s necessary to be cruel and rub her face in it, I say it only because it would be awful for her not to say anything about the baby and you to think that she’s not talking about it because of her situation, and what’s actually happened is that she didn’t see an FB post, either because it didn’t come up or because she didn’t get back to it and missed it inadvertently. I may very well be overthinking this.

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Bibianne March 6, 2013 at 11:58 am

@ Cat: I am also adopted. Parents are NOT a womb and a s*** donor. They are the ones that raise us, love us and care for us. Shame on anyone who says ““I don’t know why you’re upset. It’s not like she/he’s your real mother/father.” I have a friend to whom this was said, by his then wife. 0.O He told me this after their divorce. (This was the catalyst) I thank the God Lord that I was not in the room when she said it… I think I would have clocked her. And I am not a physical person.

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Bibianne March 6, 2013 at 11:58 am

*Good

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AS March 6, 2013 at 12:58 pm

You are a kind and sensitive person, OP. And your friend, S, seems very strong to accept her past and move on. At this point, I think that it is time to become mostly normal about getting back to being as you would be about babies. Maybe S already knows about your little nephew.

There is a chance that S does not want to miss out on all the little joys of life that friends around her experience. Lot of people find joy after a loss in others happiness. You will not know unless you talk to her.

And quoting what the greiving mother’s letter from a few days back said: “Let us cry. … Tears will come and it doesn’t mean that it is bad to talk about our children, only that we are deeply grieving them.”

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Stacey Frith-Smith March 6, 2013 at 12:58 pm

It is admirable to be aware of a friend’s grief, but it seems unkind to “shield” her in such a strange way from events in your life. Your nephew is not relevant to her grief but you are acting like he is. In doing so, you have set your friend up for a bit of chagrin that’s twofold- wondering WHY in the world you never mentioned this event and relating it to her in the painful context of her own loss. That line is hers to draw, if she so chooses, in the privacy of her own home. It’s not one that you should set up and maintain for her in the hopes of preventing hurt…because all you’ve really done (with the very best of intentions, I think) is to delay this bit of news until its announcement will be awkward and painful, whereas it might have been merely a bit painful and done in passing. I also agree with Admin- the flourish of drama that would accompany the announcement of this news in person is over the top and should be avoided. Just be a normal friend…and your friend will let you know if she needs more support, hopefully. (Um, but ASK her before editing the world for her in the future….)

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Barensmom March 6, 2013 at 1:26 pm

I agree with the above poster – there’s no need to gently tell this friend about your nephew. Your brother isn’t her friend, so I wouldn’t mention them at all unless it comes up in conversation. Example:

S: “BTW, how’s your brother?”
OP: “Fine, they had a baby boy some time back. It’s all good. (OP changes subject.)

If S gets upset at that, it’s all on her. Life goes on, people have babies, get married, die, etc. etc.

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June First March 6, 2013 at 1:57 pm

I really like this line from Marjorie Margarine:
Just act like normal. Start liking pictures or making comments.

OP: You’re being very respectful, but make sure it doesn’t cross into a territory where you avoid celebrating your own family’s milestones because you don’t want to hurt her feelings.
That said, I think it’s nice that your first instinct isn’t to blast pictures and updates all over Facebook. Some people can’t seem to resist.

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Ergala March 6, 2013 at 2:33 pm

From someone who has been on the side of losing a child, tell her. I would have been overjoyed for my friends! The only time I became upset was when one responded to the news of our loss with “Oh man! I am so sorry! Did I tell you I am 12 weeks pregnant?!?!?!”….she was clueless. Give her the benefit of the doubt and tell her. And I disagree about telling her via email or facebook message. If you two are close I think she would be much happier to hear it face to face. I know I would, I’d feel like my friend was trying to avoid a scene and thinking I’d throw a fit if she told me via message.

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travestine March 6, 2013 at 3:00 pm

I believe, if I were the woman who lost the baby, I would feel a bit of hurt that my friend didn’t trust me enough to comunicate with me directly in some fashion about the birth of her nephew. I think a phone call, e-mail or text message prior to the general announcement on FB would be more sensitive than just including her in a mass FB announcement. It is an acknowledgement of her loss, without excessive drama. Those who have lost loved ones, in whatever fashion (and I speak from experience) feel comforted to know their loss is remembered and acknowledged, rather than made to feel their loss is a source of discomfort for others and therefore ignored.

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Jane March 6, 2013 at 3:08 pm

I think you are a wonderful friend to S, and thinking of her feelings at this time is very admirable of you. However, I have to agree with the others that you’re over-thinking it. You should be able to celebrate your own nephew’s birth. If you are that concerned, there are plenty of ways to “hide” your Facebook posts from S seeing them.

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Marozia March 6, 2013 at 7:14 pm

You are a wonderful friend, but this must not be sugar-coated. Life has to go on. Maybe she already knows, but you need to tell her.

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Lynne March 6, 2013 at 7:19 pm

Jane, the only way I know of for the OP to hide FB posts from S, would be to block her, or to allow her to only see posts marked as public. I doubt the OP or S would be happy with either of those actions.

More to the point, is — as you and others said — that she should not stop herself from celebrating her new nephew, and so that also the time has come to share the news with her friend, however she chooses to do so.

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SJ March 6, 2013 at 7:36 pm

I agree with the Admin. Don’t make a “thing” of it.

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Garry March 6, 2013 at 7:38 pm

Your heart is in the right place OP, but you are way over analyzing the situation. The news that you are “breaking” to your friend is essentially that people somewhere, whom she barely knows had a baby a couple of months ago.

Now imagine all of her friends and family started doing the same thing, any time , anyone heard of a baby being born in their extended family, they sit her down and break the news to her. It would become an ordeal for her.

I agree with admin’s advice, just announce it on Facebook in a casual manner.

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ItsyBitsy March 6, 2013 at 8:18 pm

OP, you’re obviously a very nice person but Jane, above, is right, you’re over thinking this. What is your brother to S? Clearly not a friend or she would already know about the baby. So what does it matter if he and his wife have had a baby?
I think you’ve left it much too late. Either she already knows from someone else or she doesn’t, in which case she might be hurt/angry/amazed that you haven’t told her before now, regardless of your reasons.
I wouldn’t mention it at all unless it comes up as a natural part of the conversation as Barensmom, above, suggests, and I would start commenting on Facebook like any other normal aunt would do.

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waitress wonderwoman March 6, 2013 at 10:20 pm

First and foremost, OP I applaud you for being a thoughtful user of Facebook!!!!! It is so refreshing and delightful to see your consideration for your friend. We should all be so lucky to have friends (Facebook or otherwise) such as you.In this age, some of things that people post show they are beyond self-absorbed. This is why I have such a love/hate relationship with Facebook. It’s great for keeping in touch with faraway friends and such but after I saw one friend post “Ugggggg! If I see one more engagement ring picture, I’m going to scream! NO ONE IS ALLOWED TO GET ENGAGED UNTIL I DO!!!!!” (seriously, that’s what she wrote. And, yes, her boyfriend was her fb friend. I hope he ran for the hills ASAP!), you better believe I hit the defriend button as fast as I could!
While I do see how you might be conflicted as to handle your situation, I would think she probably knows about your nephew by now or has encountered at least one or two others whom have given birth. I agree with @Barensmom’s conversation advice. I would be afraid specifically bringing it to her attention might just be awkward for both of you. And there is always the chance might bring this up on a day where she is doing good, having made some progress on her grieving process and upset her unnecessarily. Good luck!

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waitress wonderwoman March 6, 2013 at 10:29 pm

Cat: Your teacher “friend?” sounds awful! I’m so sorry for your loss and my deepest condolences. What a horrible, insensitive thing for her to say. Did she really think this would somehow lessen your grief?!? Some people never cease to amaze me with the words that come out of their mouths. *shake my head*

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Bea March 7, 2013 at 12:07 am

Just for the record, it’s very easy to block a person from seeing certain posts. As you post them, just click the little gear icon and choose “Custom” for the viewing audience. It lets you then type in/ select the friend(s) you want to block from seeing that post. As many or as few as you want, on each individual post.

I don’t think that’s necessary here, though. Just act normal. Drawing so much attention to it at this point is probably going to make things uncomfortable for her.

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MichelleP March 7, 2013 at 7:12 am

OP you sound like a lovely person. Admin is spot on in her advice, as usual.

I’m surprised at the rather harsh tone of a few posters here. OP is “overly sensitive”, “awkward”, “insulting to her friend”?? There is no such thing as being overly kind to a friend who has been though that kind of tragedy.

@RugPilot, I agree with you that proper grammar should be used, but an etiquette website is really not the place for you to correct anyone’s speech, especially not a person who is obviously kind.

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MichelleP March 7, 2013 at 7:13 am

Yes, I agree that life goes on and her friend should be able to handle the news graciously, however.

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mpk March 7, 2013 at 9:34 am

My younger sister and i were pregnant at the same time. Sadly, she lost her child very close to the time it was due. I had my child a couple of months later. Well, we went to visit my family (out of town) for christmas that year and she was there, of course. (my child was 3 months old at the time). I really didn’t know how to act, because i couldn’t imagine the sadness she was feeling. when i walked in the room she was in, i asked her if she wanted me to leave. Instead, she wanted to hold my daughter. It was sweet and heartbreaking at the same time. I just thought of all the inner strength she had to have but i also think in some way it was a little bit of a comfort for her. Me – i would have been bawling my eyes out.

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Cheryl27 March 7, 2013 at 2:52 pm

Ok, the writers inital decision not to tell S about the news is admirable. However, the child is born, the writer has the right to be happy about her nephew. The writer can mention it to S once and then if S states that she can handle hearing about someone else having a child at the moment then you don’t mention it to her directly. However, being silent on Facebook is going to far to shelter somone and their feelings. You still have to live your life, not try to cater to everyone else in the process. Losing a child is hard and it will never heal but the world doesn’t stop, and neither should the writer’s joy.

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Angel March 8, 2013 at 12:38 pm

mpk, your post made me cry :( Everyone’s advice here is spot on. OP you sound like a very sweet and thoughtful person. Your friend knows this and I’m sure would appreciate seeing a picture of your nephew on your FB wall. No worries.

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Aema Elle March 15, 2013 at 12:06 pm

I definitely agree with the admin. A small, classy announcement to the masses at large is the way to go that will put the least pressure on her. You want to show your friend you care and know she’s still grieving but at the same time show trust in her strength.

Your friend is very lucky to have a compassionate and thoughtful person like you in her life. I’m sure you’ve been a great comfort to her throughout this heartbreaking experience.

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Enna March 18, 2013 at 12:38 pm

I think this Admin is fine. Why not just start commented on photos and so on? Your firend might have seen them already – that could be a possiblity.

If you tried telling her face to face she might be like “why didn’t you tell me?”.

It can be a hard one to call.

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