Should I send my condolences in hard-form?
April 27, 2012 10:10 AM   Subscribe

My cousin's wife just lost her baby at 4 months along. This is her second miscarriage (one full-term pregnancy in between, daughter is now 1.5 y/o). I would like to send a card or have flowers delivered, but is it appropriate?

My (large) family spreads news like a wild fire. Cousin's mom called my mom, who immediately called me. I don't know if this is one of those situations where cards/flowers are appropriate, or if we're all just supposed to sit around silently and never bring it up (seems harsh to me, but basically what happened after first miscarriage).

I guess the one thing holding me back is that cousin didn't personally tell me - I heard it from my mom who heard it from his mom.

I live on the other side of the country. Cousin and I are around the same age and grew up playing together often, but I wouldn't say we're overly close.
posted by kthxbi to Human Relations (27 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Send whatever you want, the phone tree is irrelevant here. You found out, and you want to do something. In grief, you get to act on your instincts. Also, don't kowtow to perceived taboos, like a miscarriage is some social stain.
posted by rhizome at 10:15 AM on April 27, 2012 [2 favorites]

I would do some more due diligence to find out if your mom or aunt were supposed to tell people or not.
posted by moammargaret at 10:19 AM on April 27, 2012 [3 favorites]

Cards and flowers are almost always appropriate. I'd just send some flowers (no baby's breath though) with a simple note saying, "Thinking of you. Let me know if you need to talk."
posted by orange swan at 10:20 AM on April 27, 2012

Your cousin likely knows exactly how fast news travels in the family. I vote for sending a card at least. Even if you're not hugely close now, I also think it would be fine to call and express your condolences that way.
posted by rtha at 10:21 AM on April 27, 2012

Whatever you send, my only advice is to address it to both of them.
posted by jquinby at 10:24 AM on April 27, 2012 [11 favorites]

A card is absolutely appropriate.
posted by grouse at 10:27 AM on April 27, 2012

Sure, send something, but make it addressed to both of them. I wouldn't go with generic flowers tho -- I'd get something couple-y and specific.
posted by spunweb at 10:36 AM on April 27, 2012

Yes, a card or note is totally appropriate. Your cousin doesn't want to call and tell you this; the phone tree is a kindness.

Another card or note in 5 months is also appropriate.
posted by Lyn Never at 11:14 AM on April 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

Send something now if you like. It's never wrong to send a card. Then make a note on your calendar and send a "thinking of you" card around the time of the due date. That can be a very hard time for women who grieve a miscarriage, and it can help to know that someone remembers and is thinking of them.
posted by not that girl at 11:16 AM on April 27, 2012 [2 favorites]

This has happened to me. Send something. It doesn't matter how you found out. In this kind of situation, I think most people just tell a few and hope that the word will spread naturally, rather than having to call everyone they know and tell them.
posted by feathermeat at 11:27 AM on April 27, 2012 [5 favorites]

A countervailing view: We lost a baby at two months and while it was very painful, we definitely wouldn't have wanted a bunch of condolence cards to arrive every day in the mail. What about an email that says "You're in my thoughts"?
posted by gerryblog at 11:44 AM on April 27, 2012 [4 favorites]

Right now your cousin is going through something nearly impossibly hard. Chances are good that they are struggling with day-to-day life, and any kind thoughts are appreciated. From my own experience, if there's any way for you to provide something that just makes life a bit easier, it will be more appreciated than flowers. There are services that provide heat-and-eat meals, which takes away a simple task that can feel overwhelming at this point in time. A simple thinking-of-you card can go a long way on the anniversary in the future too.
posted by Morydd at 11:44 AM on April 27, 2012

I've heard from friends who have gone through a miscarriage that one of the hardest parts about it is that not many people even realize they're grieving. I think--regardless of how you heard--it's kind of you to acknowledge their grief, and they will appreciate it.
posted by pompelmo at 11:49 AM on April 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

May I suggest instead of flowers, you consider sending Edible Arrangements? I found the many flower arrangements after a similar situation a bit overwhelming.
posted by saucysault at 11:52 AM on April 27, 2012 [3 favorites]

How about a plant? Something that they can put in the yard when they are ready... (I have done this for a friend before and oh, lord, hope it was ok)
posted by getawaysticks at 12:02 PM on April 27, 2012

I'm assuming that at 4 months there had been some public announcement of the pregnancy. If there was, then I nth the thought that the phone tree is a kindness. Don't feel weird about acknowledging what has happened.

I was actively upset about the flowers that were sent to me' in similar circumstances. They were just something in my house I had to watch die. If you want to send something, send food. Or a GC for a massage. But the best thing of all would be to call.
posted by anastasiav at 12:09 PM on April 27, 2012 [5 favorites]

Send food - a real meal. After a miscarriage many women do not have the energy to cook.
posted by crazycanuck at 12:33 PM on April 27, 2012

I can't unfavorite an answer here, but need to say that if someone sent a "thinking of you card" on the expected date of a now deceased child to our house the reception would not be very good- regardless of the senders intentions.

Everyone is different, and the loss of a unborn child is an awful and confusing experience. Unless you are close enough to know how the people will react to a note, it's best to keep things very simple.
posted by jade east at 2:21 PM on April 27, 2012 [3 favorites]

I wanted to add that you don't have to make any note with statements like, time will heal, or feel that you need to be able to say wise words to make anything better.

sometimes, 'I heard the awful news, and I don't know what to say, but I wanted to say something, we love you both', is really enough.
posted by Augenblick at 2:32 PM on April 27, 2012

How about baking something for them or buying some edible treat? I think anything physically comforting would be appreciated. With a card, of course.
posted by tacoma1 at 3:20 PM on April 27, 2012

With births or deaths, you send food. Otherwise, a short note saying that you are sorry for their loss, and can talk anytime. Follow that up in a week or two with a phone call - "Just wanted to say hey...". Then drop it, they will talk to you about if they want to, knowing that the door is open. Miscarriage is not only a true situation of grieving, which many outsiders don't realize or tend to forget easily since the baby was not yet a real person to them, but depending on the circumstances can be incredibly stressful on the marriage. Having someone to talk to, not even necessarily to discuss the miscarriage itself but just to shoot the breeze with and take your mind off the loss or the stress for a little while is a good and helpful thing.

My vote is don't send flowers. Even if they are supposed to be cheery, they are just a tangible reminder of this awful thing that happened.
posted by vignettist at 3:33 PM on April 27, 2012

When this happened to my sister (I was notified by phone by someone else) I sent her a very nice "thinking nice thoughts of you" card and a big box of Godiva truffles. When she thanked me, she didn't bring up the miscarriage; she thanked me for the chocolates. I knew exactly what she meant.

In some cases even a heartfelt "I'm so sorry" is just another bummer reminder. Keep it positive; that's my advice.
posted by heyho at 3:53 PM on April 27, 2012 [5 favorites]

When this happened to someone I know, I got them a gift certificate to a (plant) nursery, since I knew she had gotten a small statue to put in her yard and would want nice living plants around it. Then a few weeks later after most of the immediate fuss had died down, I bought some really nice soy soap and a soy candle off etsy and drop-shipped it to her house to let her know that I was still thinking about her.
posted by kpht at 6:50 PM on April 27, 2012

Send a note. (I personally prefer a longhand note on stationary, not a card, but I also have in-laws who sincerely prefer to receive sentiments composed by third parties, so you probably know your audience best.) No flowers, no plants, no edible arrangements -- I had to rearrange my fridge and take an entire shelf out to fit those damn skewers in when I received one.

The people who can really be helpful are local. I have a close friend who just experienced a similar situation, and a group of us are taking over dinners for her household every night this coming week, once her family leaves town. Can you ask your cousin's mother if they have any local friends who are doing that kind of thing for them? You might be able to get the ball rolling on something like that, even from a distance, if your cousin's mom knows anyone in their local crowd. My guess is that it feels completely overwhelming for them to cook right now, and yet they might appreciate eating (and feeding their daughter) real food.
posted by palliser at 7:40 PM on April 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

When this happens to us, it was sadder to know that my large family knew and didn't say or do anything. Gold Star to you for thinking of her.

Are they in your hometown? Is there a really awesome pizza (or take out dinner) place nearby from which you could arrange for a gift certificate? Chocolate or tea, local honey or jams, something special the three family members can enjoy? Nth the food ideas and avoiding flowers. Flowers do wither and they have a small toddler at home.
posted by mamabear at 9:54 PM on April 27, 2012

I recently miscarried a pregnancy, and I think it would be really nice for you to send her a card. It is a real loss, and one that is so often not acknowledged. I don't think you should send flowers, and definitely don't send another card around her due date, (maybe a phone call then, if you have a phone relationship, but don't bring up the baby, but just a simple card saying you're sorry and you're thinking of her would be best.

For me it has helped to tell a few close friends, and having other people to help share the burden of grief has been a tremendous gift. But that's me, and may not be the way she feels, which is why I think you should send her a card and then let her decide if she wants to reach out to you.

The American Pregnancy Association has some excellent advice about how to support loved ones who have had a miscarriage.
posted by apricot at 10:35 PM on April 27, 2012

Thank you every one for the advice. I ended up sending a card with hand painted flowers on it.

Another thing I didn't mention in the original post, but is somewhat applicable to what people have mentioned, is that cousin's sister is also pregnant, and their due dates were only a week apart. I can't imagine what it's going to be like for cousin when his sister gives birth. He'll be fighting between being happy for her and being reminded in a very tangible way that he should have a baby in his arms at that time too.
posted by kthxbi at 1:08 PM on April 29, 2012

« Older Crimes of Excess   |   What was that short story? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.