What To Say To a Grieving Parent From a Grieving Parent | What to Say When Someone Has Lost a Child
The death of a child is the unimaginable. It's unnatural and traumatic. Whether miscarriage, stillbirth, infant loss, or child loss later in life, many families may never get answers as to why their child is gone.
It's natural for family members and friends of grieving parents to search for the right words to say and ways to help.
Recently, I read an online article that shared what to say and what not to say to someone that has lost a child. The article clearly was not written by a parent who has experienced the death of a child so I felt compelled to share from a bereaved mother's perspective.
What to Say and What Not to Say to a Grieving Parent
DO NOT offer silence. Yes, there are times for it but most people think that they will remind the parent of the child they lost; that's impossible. You will never remind us of the child we lost. Instead silence shows that you are too uncomfortable with the situation to offer your condolences about the loss of someone that we love. Silence often stretches into weeks and months of no communication followed by, "I'm sorry, I didn't know what to say".
DO offer a sympathetic, meaningful condolence. There aren't any "right words" to say and we know that. We know losing a child is uncomfortable for you because it is for us too.
"I am grieving with you."
"There are no right words and I wish I could take your pain away."
"No parent should have to go through this. I'm here to support you in any way."
"What a gift he/she was in my life."
"I'd like to keep checking in on you unless you'd like a little space right now."
"I'm going to be praying for you in the days, weeks, and months ahead. I pray that you feel tangibly covered in prayer during this time."
DO NOT offer open-ended support like, "If there is anything I can do, please let me know." You're then leaving this responsibility to fall on the bereaved parent who is already completely overwhelmed with living the unimaginable. Consider giving birth and having to make funeral arrangements for a baby you never got the chance to take home, while moving unused baby things from their living space.
DO offer tangible support with everyday tasks.
"I've set up a meal train for your family so it's one less thing for you to think about. I'll text you the link with the dates and times that people will drop off food in the coming days and weeks."
"I want groceries to be one less thing for you to worry about so on Wednesday around noon I was going to drop off groceries for you. Would that day and time be okay?"
"I have a stack of gift cards for your family that I'd like to drop off under your door mat. No need to talk or be home, just wanted you to know they will be under there later this afternoon. Use them for whatever you all need."
"I've purchased the Walmart+ membership for you. It's good for a year and gives you free, same-day delivery on groceries or whatever your family needs."
"What ways can I help you this week with any errands you have?"
DO offer tangible support with other living children.
"Is there a day that I could take the kids to the park for a few hours so you can have some alone time?"
"I bought the kids some new toys that I'd like to drop off later for you. Would that be okay?"
DO NOT say:
"I know how you feel."
"I know God will give you more children."
"It was probably just a fluke".
"You'll have a healthy baby next time."
"They're in a better place now."
"Everything happens for a reason."
These are some of the unfortunate things that were said to us, after our son, Noah Wilde, unexpectedly died in March 2021. Everyone means well, hoping to say something that will bring some level of comfort and peace; but not all comments bring the comfort intended.
The loss of a child transforms a person permanently. Parents will never "get over" the death of their child and get "back to normal".
From a loss parents perspective, you typically have an overwhelming, abundance of support during the first month after losing a child. It's the months after that that really drop off with support and get's lonely. Because the world doesn't stop turning for grief and time doesn't stop for mourning. Time goes on and people get back to their lives, but for a bereaved parent their world still feels as if it has stopped - because it has.
Your efforts to educate yourself, interact with us and walk beside us are appreciated and noticed. We'll do our best to give you plenty of grace, and we hope you give us grace, too, as we dive through the unpredictable lifelong road of grief.
My name is Moria Rooney and I'm the founder of Mother of Wilde. On Tuesday, March 9th, 2021, I met my second son who was born sleeping. His name was Noah Wilde. Since his passing, I have made it my mission to spread hope, keep his legacy alive, and bring awareness to infant loss through the making of beautiful memorials.
If you or a loved one has suffered a loss similar to ours, my heart is forever with you. I am happy you are here, and hope you find comfort in the community we have created for loss families.