Sunday, March 25, 2007

Imagine it

"I can't imagine..."

This phrase is really annoying to me. So much so that it now ranks as one of my top pet peeves. I dream of one day responding with, "Imagine it...go ahead...TRY to imagine it...you can do it."

I find I don't have such a negative reaction when someone says, "I can only imagine." It says, "I know it's horrible and I can't possibly REALLY understand it...but I can TRY to imagine it and it is bad." I think it's because the person saying it has at least "gone there" emotionally as best they can.

Or maybe I'm just too picky.

9 comments:

Anna said...

I think "I can't imagine" is more like, "I don't WANT to imagine" or "its too painful to even think about it"...Like you, "I can only imagine" seems better to me. Is it bad that, secretly, I sometimes wish people COULD imagine what its like? Sometimes I wish every woman knew the pain of losing a baby. I know that sounds horribly mean, but its true.

Patience said...

I don't like the phrase either - sometimes it can come off a bit patronising...

Bon said...

i completely agree...the only thing that bugs me more is when people say "oh, i'd just die."

well, no you wouldn't. you might wish to...but you'd probably have to survive and cope and go on just like the rest of us, because other people are still here and need you to.

whereas "i can only imagine" is much more empathetic...it's not about THEM.

miraclebaby said...

yeah, I can see where you're coming from on that one.
Although I have met some people who are offended by the "I can only imagine..." because no, you really can't.

I decided quite a while ago that anything anybody said about my lost baby was going to bother me. The people that talked to me bothered me because they said the wrong thing. The people that didn't talk to me bothered me because they didn't care enough to say anything. I think it all depended on my mood at the time. And now I feel like I don't have the right to talk about my dead baby because now I have a live baby and I should just forget about it already...

kate said...

Yeah, i am one of the people Becci mentions -- i am more irritated by 'i can only imagine' than 'i can't imagine'. Because for me -- i can try to imagine, and i do, but i know it isn't right. Before Nicolas died, i tried to imagine losing a child, and in my imaginings i didn't get anywhere near the reality.

I agree -- 'i would just die' is the dumbest. I have actually said 'it isn't so easy to die, you know' to that one. I mean, there is only so many stupidities a person can take....

Aurelia said...

Everything bothered me for awhile, and sometimes still does. I'm learning to distinguish between the honestly decent people who are fumbling for something to say and mess up, versus the ones who SHOULD know what to say because they are Dr.s or therapists or clergy or funeral directors yet can't be bothered to treat people kindly.

Lori said...

I highly agree with Aurelia. I try to be pretty forgiving to those people I can tell are trying, but miss the mark. I am not so forgiving of those who through training, experience, whatever... should know better.

niobe said...

No-one's ever said either "I can't imagine..." or "I can only imagine...." to me, so I'm not exactly sure how I'd react.

Many people, however, have said :

"I understand how you feel. My baby was born X weeks prematurely and had to spend Y days in the NICU"

"Oh," I say "Did your baby die?"

"Well, no...."


I hope they get the point. But, somehow, I doubt it.

B said...

I've never lost a child. I came extremely close once, and that's why I began reading these blogs. I know I lucked out - I hit the lottery of baby odds - my baby lived because of nothing I did, said, believed, hoped, or prayed. I know that because I've read of how you all did the same; you all hoped beyond hope, and clung to any prayer of any religion in the world that may have helped you and your sweet babies. I got lucky - period.

I feel that when I read your words about your precious babies, I can pray/send good thoughts to a woman I've never met. Will it affect the situation at all? I don't really know, but I enjoy doing it, and I truly enjoy learning about all of your children and how life is in other 'necks of the woods.'

I used to be one of those women who said things like, "I don't know how they go on," or "I just don't think I could handle it." After reading your blogs, it hit me like a ton of bricks how condescending and self-absorbed those words sound. Even though they were spoken with no purposeful malice, I realize now how they must have cut like a knife.

I wrote a blog entry about this exact topic a few months ago, and when I came across this post, I had to comment.

I'm sorry for being so naive, and I'm sorry for all the times in my past that I might have hurt a mother with my ignorance.

Thank you for posting this, Catherine. I really hope that someone, who like me in the sense of being oblivious to things so crucial to people's feelings, might see it and stop being insensitive, no matter how innocently they may be doing it.