Etiquette On Grief and Grieving With the Dutch

by farrah on November 12, 2013 · 17 comments

It’s moments like these that I am at a loss and don’t understand the cultural etiquette. I don’t know what’s right- what to do or say, and what not to do or say. I learned this morning that a teacher at school lost her twin babies yesterday at 24 weeks. I’m sick inside- sad, and helpless. I don’t know how it works- how grief, loss, even mourning works in this different culture.

There is not much in this world that makes my heart break more than when a mother experiences the loss of a child. I’m especially sensitive to twins and twin pregnancies- for obvious reasons. It was at 24 weeks that I went into pre-term labor with my own twins and faced the very real possibility of losing my boys. I think that experience changed me in a number of ways- and I see life, pregnancy, and motherhood a little differently than I did before kids. I read the email this morning with the sad news and am so very sorry.  I don’t know what I can or should do.

I saw her happy face on a daily basis when I went to drop off B. I knew that she was pregnant but I didn’t realize that it was with twins. She always gave us a smile and went about her day- glanced at my boys, and even though she wasn’t B’s teacher she knew who he was. We’re the only Americans at the school as far as I can tell- and he’s a friendly little dude that isn’t shy. I saw her more than once gliding through the hallways the way teachers do- with smiles and a nice word for everyone. She seemed like a nice person- glowing in her pregnancy and happy to be a teacher. No one should lose their baby. Especially not two.

I need to know at this point- what is it that the Dutch traditionally do at times like this? If this were back home in the States I would send a heartfelt note- possibly flowers, maybe a donation to March of Dimes. Experiencing loss in a place where all is familiar makes you feel that although what you are feeling is horrible- you have a routine. A plan of action. You know how to reach out and offer consolation. Maybe in our own selfish way that helps us to grieve as well. Even if you aren’t that close or are separated by years and miles we know what to do and how to behave.

Such a funny, funny thing- this life and being a parent. As mothers we hurt for other mothers that hurt. It’s part of what makes us human. I’m kind of reeling today from this news and saddened without a place to put it. I don’t know what to do for my grief for this mother, this family. Can any of my Dutch friends give me some insight?

*Also, I’m not sharing this post today on Twitter/FB/G+ as I don’t feel it’s something to drive stats for. I honestly just appreciate your comments and offering me some suggestions. I’d turn off that dumb floating sidebar for this post, but unfortunately I don’t know how.

{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Marloes November 12, 2013 at 10:24 am

Oh my God, that is so so sad. I can imagine you feel somehow extra sad about this since it were twins…. All the things you mentioned is fine too. Although I won’t send flowers. Depending on how close you feel to her, I would write her a card, although it must be hard finding ANY words of comfort when it comes to this… Still, I think that would be a very warm thing to do. You can express as much as you want to/can, you can give the letter at school and I’m sure she will receive it (assuming she is not at school). Take care….


2 farrah November 12, 2013 at 10:27 am

Ah! Ok. Thanks Marloes. Glad I checked. I haven’t spoken to he enough to know her level of English proficiency, so I’ll do the best I can. Thanks for your insight.


3 Ellen November 12, 2013 at 10:32 am

Everything you do from your own heart is fine!!!!!!! If you feel it you never can go wrong!

The “cultural” thing to do is send a card. Maybe, if you want to involve your oldest boy, let him make a drawing for her.

sterkte, Ellen


4 farrah November 12, 2013 at 10:34 am

Thank you Ellen! I appreciate you letting me know. A card I can handle- and Brody would like to help I’m sure.


5 Ann November 12, 2013 at 10:44 am

First, I understand what you mean. These things go straight to my heart in a way they never did before I had kids.

I don’t know what you should/could do, but I think you should follow your heart. Maybe let her know that this is what you would do where your from so that any confusion is subsided?


6 farrah November 12, 2013 at 4:29 pm

That’s a good point and something to include- thank you!


7 Christie Tate November 12, 2013 at 1:08 pm

That poor mama.


8 farrah November 12, 2013 at 4:30 pm

Agree Christie. Completely agree.


9 Gayla November 12, 2013 at 2:16 pm

I’m so very sorry to hear this sad news. My thoughts are with you, the boys, their teacher, and for the entire community. Such a terrible loss.

One thing to add for when you’re searching for a card. ‘Sterke’ (strength) and ‘Gecondoleerd’ (condolences) are the words to look for on a pre-printed card.



10 Gayla November 12, 2013 at 2:17 pm

I meant to type ‘sterkte’ in that first mention of the word


11 farrah November 12, 2013 at 4:31 pm

Gayla, thank you- that’s actually really very helpful. I hadn’t even thought about the fact that I would most likely be standing in front of the cards and not know what they were saying. That’s a very helpful tip.


12 Gayla November 14, 2013 at 10:27 am

You’re welcome. If I can be of any help with further translations, just let me know.


13 Leighann November 12, 2013 at 6:40 pm

What a terrible thing to have happen. I think just offering your support and telling her you’re thinking of her (maybe flowers) is enough.


14 Mrs. Chasing the Donkey November 13, 2013 at 9:24 pm

Farrah, I too fee sad reading this. My advice would have been (sorry I am so late) would be to do what you would normally do. Perhaps that note you mentioned, that should not be offence. Perhaps you can make a mention that you were not sure what to do. I am sure she would feel good knowing you were thinking of her and her family. Simply awful, awful news.


15 Olga @The EuropeanMama November 15, 2013 at 7:49 am

This is hard! I woudldn’t know what to do in this situation, but I believe that maybe some things are universal.. especially if it comes from the heart, and from a mom of twins, it will mean a lot to her if you show your support.


16 JMD November 17, 2013 at 7:58 pm

Such heartbreaking news. My thoughts are with her.

We lost our baby boy a few months ago and I don’t think the way things are ‘normally’ done would necessarily work for this situation. It’s not a normal loss, if such a thing even exists.

The main thing to do is do something. Almost anything will do as long as it’s heartfelt. We were ignored by many parents at school, neighbours and friends because they didn’t know what to say. Nothing could have hurt more than to have our pain denied by so many.

So send a card, send flowers, both are lovely things to do. And let her know you’re thinking of her when you see her again at school. It’s probably not the time and place for an emotional conversation but a short acknowledgement of her inner turmoil will probably bring some consolation.

Hope this helps.


17 farrah November 21, 2013 at 10:26 am

I’m so so so very sorry JMD.

And I’m sorry that you were ignored. That isn’t right- and I don’t want to be that person either. I hope you’re doing ok.


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: