Facebook can be your best friend or your worst enemy. Some days when I scroll through my feed, it is full of beautiful pictures of family and friends vacationing, or snippets of daily life touched with humor.
Other days, the most depressing news filters in–tragic deaths, accidents, or fear-inducing posts about things out of your control.
The latest news article I saw on Facebook made me sick to my stomach, not only because I read about a fluke accident that caused a two-year-old to die while vacationing with his family, but more so because I made the mistake of reading some of the comments below the article:
“Where were the parents? Why weren’t they watching their son?”
“I would never leave my child alone…” And other comments that blame the parents for this child’s death, judging a situation they spent less than a minute reading about.
Devastating. Let me assure you, those parents do not need anyone else placing blame on their shoulders. They will feel tormented in every aspect of this accident without these unhelpful, hurtful comments.
I know. As a mother whose baby died from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, I can tell you that I’ve been there, and some days, despite all the emotional work I’ve done, I still step into that personal hell. And it can feel impossible to step out of that dark hole, made worse when people–strangers, no less–try to figure out what you must have done wrong that such a tragedy would happen.
Save your judgment. Stop blaming the people whose hearts are the most broken.
As humans, it’s natural for us to want answers. I will always want answers for why my healthy son died in his sleep. A part of me may always question what I might have done wrong, or what I could have done differently. Even though I’ve made great strides in healing, one comment from someone outside the situation can send me stumbling backwards, tripping over a cycle of unanswerable questions and guilt. Four years into this life experience, let me say this: trying to figure out the how and why of a tragedy may do more harm than good. That said, dealing with loss is a personal journey, and I am not saying seeking answers is a bad thing. But if it is not your journey, be sensitive to the things you say to someone who is grieving. Even well-intentioned comments can leave a mighty sting when delivered poorly.
When you come upon a broken heart, whether virtually or in the flesh, choose your words carefully. To quote an altered nursery rhyme:
“Sticks and stones may break our bones, but words will break our hearts.” ~ Robert Fulghum