Child Death
Stillbirth > Dear Abby: pointless and unhelpful reply

By Kara L.C. Jones
KotaPress Editor

Dear Abby is by no means a bereavement counsellor or family caregiver. Though she was granted a membership to GAP, she is still just a layperson -- and one who seems to need some Thanatology training! She is a pop culture icon that doles out advice as if she were expert on every topic that comes up in the letters that cross her desk. Pop culture icons can very easily reek havoc with broad statements and speaking out on topics before getting fully educated to provide proper response.

Unfortunately Dear Abby made a national, maybe international, splash with her February 2007 letter in reply to a letter about the display of a stillborn's photos in the workplace. While her answer was, in my opinion, basically useless, it did manage to cause a lot of hurt and unease in the stillbirth community. Her answer contributed to further isolation of grieving people and really didn't even address the real issues of the letter.

To see the original letter and Dear Abby's lame reply:

And we've decided to share with you here, our answer sent from KotaPress:

Dearest Ms. Abby,

Do any of those women in that office keep photos of their living children on their desks? Do single women without children have to face their living children when dealing with them? If so, then why would you tell them that the woman's stillborn child was inappropriate?

Time we feminists grow up. We marched for choice -- equal choice for ALL of us. And yet the only choice we defend and protect is abortion. Well let me tell you something. The woman whose child was stillborn chose to be a mother. And her choice deserves just as much protection.

We might be parents of a different kind, but we are still mothers who are proud of our children and we love them very much. Maybe you -- and others with opinions like yours -- should educate yourselves. Why don't you try attending a MISS Foundation conference for families and caregivers? Why don't you read a few issues of the magazine "A Different Kind of Parenting"? Why don't you actually talk to stillbirth families? Why don't you read Dr. John DeFrain's book "Stillborn: the Invisible Death"? You assume the role of caregiver by doling out advice, so be responsible and get a full education about the role.

And just one other fine point -- why does the display of a stillborn child have to be equated to the co-workers finding this woman "mean or gossipy"? Those are separate issues. Office policy will dictate if family photos can be displayed on desks or not. If living children can be displayed, then it is discrimination to tell this woman she can't have the photo of her child. But if there are communication problems or personality differences amongst the co-workers, then they need team work training or sensitivity training. That's a whole separate issue.

And if the woman is "mean and gossipy" out of a sense of frustration and anger -- maybe it is because her co-workers wish to shove her into a closet alone to deal with grief in isolation!! Obviously her expressions of trying to grasp with life-after-the-death-of-her-child are threatening to co-workers who don't want to face it in any real way, like seeing a photo of the child.

Hm? Maybe?
Miracles to all of you!

About the Author

Kara has been using creativity on the grief journey since the death of her first son in 1999. Her poetic and non-fiction works have been included in publications such as New Works Review, PoetsWest, Shared Heart Foundation's "Meant To Be", LightHearts Publication's "Soul Trek", American Tanka, Mother Tongue Ink's We'Moon, Honored Babies, Cup of Comfort series, and more. She is a Carnegie Mellon graduate who co-founded KotaPress with her husband Hawk Jones. Her books "Mrs. Duck and the Woman" as well as "Flash of Life" have both been released thru KotaPress. She is a certified AI and Hero's Journey Coach and educator/co-founder of The Creative Grief Studio offering continuing education for helping professionals.

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