Your entire life changes when you lose a baby. It’s not something anyone is ever prepared for. Even if you’ve had friends or relatives that experienced a loss, it’s never the same when it happens to you. This type of loss can be incredibly devastating to parents. A loss basically destroys all your plans for the future. When you experience such a loss, those around you will try to comfort you in their own way. Sometimes, however, the things people say can actually be more hurtful than helpful. This is why I dislike terms like “angel baby.”
I was fortunate to have a pretty wonderful support system after we lost our daughter, Margaret. It was a difficult time but, between my family and friends, my husband and I had all the help we needed. While most folks were very respectful of the fact that my partner and I aren't religious, some folks still felt the need to inject their beliefs into our grieving and healing process. They would talk about the baby being in a “better place” (what they were referring to as Christian heaven) or that, “God has a plan” (except I don’t believe in god, so that wasn't helpful in the slightest).
I did my best to diffuse these particular situations, but I think it's time those who are agnostic/atheist to claim a part of the mourning process that's for them and them alone, devoid of any religion or religious connotations. Because it’s hard losing a baby, and harder still when you are not a believer.
Because I'm Not Religious
Calling someone’s loss an “angel baby” has all kind of religious connotations. It assumes the parent is also religious, and believes their child is “in heaven.” Personally, however, I don’t believe any of that.
Because I Consider The Beliefs Of Others
Not only do I hate people saying this term about my dead child, I also refuse to say it to others. I have many friends who have lost pregnancies and infants. Some are Christian or Catholic, sure, but many others are atheists, Jewish, Muslim, Wiccan, Buddhist, or practice another religion and/or set of beliefs. Why would I impose one religious belief on all?
Because It Doesn't Make Any Sense
While I'm not 100 percent sure, I don’t think there’s actually anything in any religious text stating that a baby who dies instantly become a freaking cherub. I certainly don’t imagine my baby has somehow fattened up and become rosy-cheeked and sprouted wings. Who comes up with this stuff?
Because We Don’t Really Say It About The Loss Of Anyone Else
“Oh, hi grandma. I’m so sorry about your angel husband.” Would you say that if your grandpa died? Or your sibling? Or your friend? Why does we do this about child loss?
Because It Infantilizes And Belittles Death
Many moms I’ve spoken to tell me they feel that calling their loss an “angel baby” feels belittling to the experience of loss. Adding the idea of babies with wings into the mix of an otherwise completely tragic event feels inappropriate for many parents who are suffering. Basically, if this isn’t a source of comfort, it's just disrespectful.
Because It Pushes The Idea That Our Dead Babies Are “Watching Over” Us
While some might enjoy the idea that our deceased loved ones watch over us, many others do not. I don’t like the idea of my dead grandma, dead grandpa, and handful of dead friends all watching my every move in life. I also wouldn’t want to think of my daughter in that way, as though it was on her to “care” for me from above.
Why should an infant, who barely had a shot at life, be forced into that role in death? No, thanks.
Because It's Usually More For The Person Saying It Than The Loss Mom
When one offers condolences, one should always keep in mind what words are most comforting for the person grieving. However, and sadly, it seems as though people sometimes try to do what makes them most comfortable, rather than what makes the person grieving the most comfortable. “Angel baby” is among those phrases that feels like it’s more for the person saying it.
Because It Could Imply That You Think It Was A Good Thing They Passed
Saying that a dead baby is now an “angel baby” makes it almost seem like their death isn’t "that bad," because they're an angel now. It’s the same as when folks say that your baby went to see Jesus or god or whatever. Find other words to comfort your friend who lost a baby that reflect how awful it actually is. It’s never “for the best.”
Because I’d Rather Hear My Child’s Name
If I know you personally, and even if I don’t, I’d much rather get condolences on the loss of my daughter, Maggie. For many loss parents who named their child, hearing their baby’s name spoken out loud means the world. It’s recognition that their baby existed, and few things can top that for a loss parent.