Author Topic: It's not like your baby is really sick...  (Read 8910 times)

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TurtleDove

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Re: It's not like your baby is really sick...
« Reply #60 on: January 22, 2013, 03:54:00 PM »
Discretion is the better part of valor. There are lots of things that one can say that don't involve "gee, it coulda been lots worse."

That's not what this thread is about though.  The well-meaning comforters are reassuring the new mother that things will be okay, not that they could have been much worse.  I agree it is almost never helpful to tell someone, "Stop whining, some person has it worse."  I think it is often helpful, and it certainly is to me, to hear, "things will be okay - I've been through it - I know it's hard to see now, but things will be okay."

bah12

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Re: It's not like your baby is really sick...
« Reply #61 on: January 22, 2013, 03:54:59 PM »
You've totally missed my point, which is that when well meaning people are sincerely offering they're best efforts at comfort, it's best to accept their words in the way they are meant. It doesn't matter how sick the baby is.

Cutting out the quote tree. 

I don't think anyone is saying that you (general) should not accept well-meaning comments.  The point is not what should the mother who is stressed and upset at separation from her baby do...of course, she is accepting the comments as well-meaning.

The point is, I think it's smart for all of us to learn something here.  And that's that the "it could be worse" comments can come across as very hurtful and minimizing.  That perhaps there are better phrases (focusing on the mothers feelings and validation of those feelings) that would be better said...at least until you (again general) know that the mother wants to hear about how much worse it could be. 

I agree that it shouldn't matter how sick the baby is (or not) because the best way to approach situations like this is to focus on the feelings of the parents...and to validate those feelings.  Like artk2002 said, "it could be a lot worse" is usually not the most comforting thing to someone who is upset.  I say, validate the feelings first and work your way around to the "it's not as bad as it may seem" conversation as you continue to comfort. 

artk2002

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Re: It's not like your baby is really sick...
« Reply #62 on: January 22, 2013, 04:21:27 PM »
Discretion is the better part of valor. There are lots of things that one can say that don't involve "gee, it coulda been lots worse."

That's not what this thread is about though.  The well-meaning comforters are reassuring the new mother that things will be okay, not that they could have been much worse.  I agree it is almost never helpful to tell someone, "Stop whining, some person has it worse."  I think it is often helpful, and it certainly is to me, to hear, "things will be okay - I've been through it - I know it's hard to see now, but things will be okay."

Someone saying "It's just jaundice, it's not like she's really sick" is saying exactly what I was addressing. It's saying that the mother should somehow feel better because it's not as bad as it could be. The baby *could be* "really sick." Any phrasing that includes "at least..." or "it could..." is a poor choice, IMO. The fact that it was well-meaning isn't relevant.
Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bow lines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. -Mark Twain

Aeris

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Re: It's not like your baby is really sick...
« Reply #63 on: January 22, 2013, 06:18:57 PM »
I think we're getting caught up in"right"vs. "wrong", when such a thing doesn't exist. 

People shouldn't minimize the feelings of those around them or imply that their situation is trivial - it's unhelpful even if well-meaning.   I don't think anybody gets to decide how stressful/upsetting the particular situation is for the mother in question, but it's irrelevant to the question of dealing politely with it.      On the other hand, those who are the recipient of thoughtless but well-meaning comments also should handle these politely and graciously.   In etiquette there's no such thing as "X behaviour justifies Y".   Each person is responsible for their own conduct.

But what is minimizing to one person is extremely helpful perspective for another. I fall into the 'need positive-side comments' group for the most part. The comforting I personally find most helpful in an ideal world is one smallish layer of validation/sympathy/hugs, then followed by focusing on the aspects of the situation I can find happiness in.

If I'm in a tense, scary, stressful situation, I often feel I'm staring down the barrel of every horrific possible outcome. I become paralyzed by staring at my own wounds. I generally desperately need someone to say "It's okay, Aeris, it's just a flesh wound! [even if they are lying] Everything is going to be just fine! Just you wait, in just a few days, things will be back to normal!" To someone else, this might be minimizing their pain, and acting like their situation is trivial. For me, it's the thing that gets my mind out of dangerous emotional paralysis.

If someone does nothing but focus on my own pain, it can severely increase my negative mental spiral.

So, no, you can't actually say that this entire category of commentary is universally unhelpful.
« Last Edit: January 22, 2013, 06:27:02 PM by Aeris »

bah12

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Re: It's not like your baby is really sick...
« Reply #64 on: January 22, 2013, 07:05:15 PM »
I think we're getting caught up in"right"vs. "wrong", when such a thing doesn't exist. 

People shouldn't minimize the feelings of those around them or imply that their situation is trivial - it's unhelpful even if well-meaning.   I don't think anybody gets to decide how stressful/upsetting the particular situation is for the mother in question, but it's irrelevant to the question of dealing politely with it.      On the other hand, those who are the recipient of thoughtless but well-meaning comments also should handle these politely and graciously.   In etiquette there's no such thing as "X behaviour justifies Y".   Each person is responsible for their own conduct.

But what is minimizing to one person is extremely helpful perspective for another. I fall into the 'need positive-side comments' group for the most part. The comforting I personally find most helpful in an ideal world is one smallish layer of validation/sympathy/hugs, then followed by focusing on the aspects of the situation I can find happiness in.

If I'm in a tense, scary, stressful situation, I often feel I'm staring down the barrel of every horrific possible outcome. I become paralyzed by staring at my own wounds. I generally desperately need someone to say "It's okay, Aeris, it's just a flesh wound! [even if they are lying] Everything is going to be just fine! Just you wait, in just a few days, things will be back to normal!" To someone else, this might be minimizing their pain, and acting like their situation is trivial. For me, it's the thing that gets my mind out of dangerous emotional paralysis.

If someone does nothing but focus on my own pain, it can severely increase my negative mental spiral.

So, no, you can't actually say that this entire category of commentary is universally unhelpful.

I get what you're saying.  I'm just wondering, though, if the "it could be a lot worse" is the best comment to open with.  I mean, I know a lot of people that feel that the comment minimizes their feelings, including me (and I am not easily offended). Yes, things could be worse, but does that mean that I can't be upset?  So, without knowing what the other person needs as far as comforting words, what do we default to?

I don't know anyone (not saying they don't exist) that gets on the defensive if someone says "I know this must be hard for you." or "how are you handling things?"  I think those are good openers to guage where the person you are trying to comfort needs you to go.  And I think it probably wouldn't take long to figure out if they want to be told all is going to be ok or that someone somewhere has it a lot worse or just want some sympathy for their particular situation without being told that someone is going through something harder. 

In cases where one person is trying to comfort another, I kind of tend to give more leeway to the one that's upset.  Yes, it's good advice to tell them that these commens, even if unhelpful, are well-meaning and they need to take it as such, but if I were to focus my advice anywhere it would be to those of us who are trying to comfort.  And unless you know exactly what the other person wants to hear, I think that there are better openers, less likely to further upset, than "It could be worse."

TurtleDove

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Re: It's not like your baby is really sick...
« Reply #65 on: January 22, 2013, 07:18:48 PM »
And unless you know exactly what the other person wants to hear, I think that there are better openers, less likely to further upset, than "It could be worse."

I am confused why this is the focus. I don't think any of us have said this is a good opener.  What I have said is that, to me, I would imagine it would be helpful to hear, "Don't worry - it's jaundice - your baby isn't sick and everything will be okay."  That is not at all the same as, "Stop your whining, don't you know that the baby down the hall has no eyes and has 3 arms!!!! Just be glad your super sick baby has eyes! And two arms!"

For me, what would NOT be helpful would be, "Yes, this is awful!  Your baby might die!  You will never get to bring him home!"  All of these comments would be validating fears, but would be the opposite of comforting to me.  Such comments would panic me because it would be confirmation that I am not just being sensitive but that the worst is probably going to happen.

I guess I still don't see the title of the thread as a statement of "it could be worse" but rather, "don't worry - things will be okay."

shygirl

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Re: It's not like your baby is really sick...
« Reply #66 on: January 22, 2013, 07:58:16 PM »
For me, what would NOT be helpful would be, "Yes, this is awful!  Your baby might die!  You will never get to bring him home!" 

Boy, I HOPE no one would say something like that!

When I was in the position of the OP's friend, I didn't appreciate it when people said my son wouldn't remember his time in the NICU or what happened to him while in there.  But I did recognize that those people were trying to help me feel better, even if I didn't really feel better.  If anyone ever said anything like the quoted, that would be horrible.

A coworker of mine also tried to help me feel better by bringing up worse situations, like his nephew who was born at 25 weeks and only weighed 1 pound.  I understand that his point was that my son's situation could have been worse, and I should be glad that it wasn't - but instead I felt like he was implying I shouldn't feel bad.  It took me a while to realize that even though it could have been worse, it was still okay to feel bad or sad about my son being in the NICU.

Ultimately, what really made me feel better were the people who said my feelings were okay.  They agreed that yes, the situation sucks.  And then we moved onto the positive things.  I never found it helpful when people said "don't feel bad" or "don't worry". 

TurtleDove

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Re: It's not like your baby is really sick...
« Reply #67 on: January 22, 2013, 08:10:49 PM »
Ultimately, what really made me feel better were the people who said my feelings were okay.  They agreed that yes, the situation sucks.  And then we moved onto the positive things.  I never found it helpful when people said "don't feel bad" or "don't worry".

Hmmm. I don't disagree, and my "trauma" is different from what this thread is about. But for me, what helped me was knowing that my fears/feelings were not rational.  I guess no one really said, "You have no right to be upset." That would have been awful, to me.  But hearing, "I understand you are upset, but you will get through this and you will be okay" is what I needed.  Not "Yes, this is awful. It's the worst ever.  If I were you I would want to die." 

That is what I was feeling.  Were my feelings valid?  I suppose. Were they helpful to me?  Nope.  And it helped me to understand that, especially from people who had been through something similar and survived, happy again.

CakeEater

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Re: It's not like your baby is really sick...
« Reply #68 on: January 22, 2013, 09:05:15 PM »
Ultimately, what really made me feel better were the people who said my feelings were okay.  They agreed that yes, the situation sucks.  And then we moved onto the positive things.  I never found it helpful when people said "don't feel bad" or "don't worry".

Hmmm. I don't disagree, and my "trauma" is different from what this thread is about. But for me, what helped me was knowing that my fears/feelings were not rational.  I guess no one really said, "You have no right to be upset." That would have been awful, to me.  But hearing, "I understand you are upset, but you will get through this and you will be okay" is what I needed.  Not "Yes, this is awful. It's the worst ever.  If I were you I would want to die." 

That is what I was feeling.  Were my feelings valid?  I suppose. Were they helpful to me?  Nope.  And it helped me to understand that, especially from people who had been through something similar and survived, happy again.

I don't think anyone means that by validating the mother's feelings, that they should say any of that.

TurtleDove

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Re: It's not like your baby is really sick...
« Reply #69 on: January 22, 2013, 09:59:07 PM »
I don't think anyone means that by validating the mother's feelings, that they should say any of that.
No, and I cannot imagine anyone actually saying that to a friend! My point is that in "validating" feelings without a positive statement, for some people, like me, that can be devastating. The last thing I needed was someone telling me that my most horrible fears were valid. I needed hope. That's all I'm saying is that some negative yet valid fearful feelings are perhaps valid but to have those negative feelings reinforced is harmful, in my opinion.

bah12

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Re: It's not like your baby is really sick...
« Reply #70 on: January 22, 2013, 11:35:43 PM »
I totally missed where someone said that validating feelings meant saying anything close to commenting on worse case or even far fetched scenarios. I'm responding specifically to the situation in the op, which I personally relate to. And that situation is one where the baby is in the hospital, for non life threatening reasons and the mom is upset about the situation. If we were talking about my sister or my best friend, I'd know exactly what to say. As so many have pointed out, there's no one right way to comfort someone. But if I'm not sure, I do think the safest thing is to start with something like "I understand this hard for you. how are you doing? " that's not validating personal fears, its validating her right to being upset. As the conversation continues I'm sure her needs will be more clear. Starting with the"it could be worse statements"which my understanding from the op are the one liners bothering her friend, is not wise.