This post has been a long time in the making for me. I know there are so many articles out there on what not to say to a grieving parent but I wanted to have a blog post on my site because it is so important to me to give my view on those things not to say. I have joked with friends over the last few years that I was going to write a book on what not to say after someone loses a child, maybe I will in the future but for now I will leave it here on the blog for you to enjoy and share. When it comes to loss of any kind, our society is so quick to try to gloss over it or quickly get to another subject, bc we are so uncomfortable with vulnerability and truly opening our heart to feel such pain. I know that the phrases I will list, of what not to say, are not said to be hurtful. If you have said them to someone, its ok……I have said a few myself to others before I experienced such loss. Ok so here it goes.
“How are you? How are you feeling?”
This is a hard one for a grieving parent to answer and you will usually get the answer “okay”, only bc the way we truly feel is so jumbled and complicated, that we do not want to get into it or make you feel uncomfortable. Also, some days we do not know how we are feeling from one minute to the next.
“Your so strong and Brave”
We do not feel strong nor brave. We feel weak, broken, fragile, sad, and so much more, but strong is not even in our vocabulary. We may seem strong to an outsider but we are merely enduring because we have to!! We want to run away, crawl in a hole, cry until we can cry no more, and wake up to another reality. We endure because we have responsibilities like families, other children, jobs, all that life entails before the loss of our child. In my case, if I seem strong it is only because the Lord has literally carried me through each minute of each day and helped me complete the tasks I needed to complete for that day.
“I wouldn’t be able to live if I lost my child”
This one goes along with the previous one, but causes so much pain to hear this because you do not know how you would feel or what you could or could not do, unless you have been through it. It also has the suggestion that you do not understand why we are still living or that maybe we should still be living since our child is not here anymore. Believe me when I say that I want nothing more than to hold my son again, but I also know that my time here on earth with my other children and husband is not over yet. God has plans for my remaining life, and I want to fulfill those plans and joyfully look forward to seeing Jude again, when it is my time.
“God wanted/needed him as an angel”
This one makes my blood boil…….please do not bring your theology into the grief of a parent. God did not NEED my son. My son did not die because God was lonely or needed help with heavenly duties. I know people are not meaning any harm by this statement and honestly want to say the right thing but I feel like this is people’s polite way of putting blame on God. The truth is, we live in a fallen world and terrible things happen to those that are the most innocent.
“I know how you feel”
Please to not compare your loss with that of another person, especially one who has lost a child. Even though I have lost a child, I would never assume that I know how another grieving mother is feeling. The loss is so unique to each individual. The loss of your pet is nothing like the loss of someone’s child!!! No matter what loss you have experienced, just steer clear of comparison.
For those of you who know me, know that this one is usually my rant. I can not tell you how many times I have been told….at least you have other children, at least you can have more children, at least you had 11 months with him, at least it happened fast, at least he didn’t suffer…..and the list goes on. I would just encourage you that while you are around a grieving parent, take “at least” out of your vocabulary. That phrase hits a nerve that brings a lot of pain to the one suffering.
This one is a lot like the previous one (at least)…..just DONT!!! Those who have lost a child are very thankful for the children they have because they have lost one, there is no need to tell them to be thankful. It honestly is a slap in the face when we are told to be thankful because our thankful meter has just changed in a dramatic way, we live with one of our most precious children in Heaven. If you want to use the word thankful, then simply tell them you are thankful for them and their child.
“Time heals all wounds”
This may be true for so many things but not the loss of a child. The sting may lessen as time passes and the blow may soften but that wound is always there. Some suffering does not end in this lifetime and I believe this is one of those sufferings. NO, your wound will not always be gushing like in the beginning, and the bleeding may slow but that would will forever bleed. This is one of those comments you do not want to hear when you are in the trenches of suffering, it is not comforting one bit. You can just simply let that person know you are here for them and if there is any way you could help them carry their burden, you would like to.
“Move on…..Let it go….Start living again”
First of all, there is no letting go of anything in the area of child loss….we have already had to let go of the most important things in our lives…..OUR CHILD!! This insinuates we need to “get over it”…..well that will never happen. I will take Jude and his story everywhere I go for the remainder of my days. I am living and moving forward but I will never move on. This comment brings unnecessary pain to someone who is already hurting.
“Everything happens for a reason”
While this is well intentioned, by the people saying it, it is also very hurtful. I may get some flack from this particular phrase but as a parent who has suffered child loss, there is not a good enough reason in this world that my child is not here with me. For our situation, I can see some good that has come out of his death but I still would rather have him here too!! This comment is just not needed, even if you believe that is comment is true…….sometimes there is a time that you just keep your mouth shut and give someone a hug.
Last but not least………..
“Trust God and your suffering will lessen” . Listen, I do trust God!!! Just because I am heart-broken and grieving, does not mean I do not have faith. People of faith still grieve!!! I have felt so alone at times in this journey of child loss and my faith has been a key component of me being able to wake up every morning and continue living. So when I am at my lowest of lows, telling me to “have faith” is a complete blow to my soul. My suffering is my suffering and I will grieve and deal how I see fit, and all I need is your support. Parents who have lost a child are probably already struggling internally with their faith and do not need any added pressure or guilt.
I hope this was helpful, and gives you some insight of how a grieving parent may be feeling. All of this may not be true for every parent of child loss, because every situation is so unique and so is every person involved. This is meant to be a general guide. I have been blessed with friends who have said the RIGHT things and have helped me suffer well on my journey. Here are a few comments that really ministered to my heart:
What would be helpful for you right now?
I am here for you
I am here no matter how painful, I will walk beside you or carry you if you need me to.
I am so sorry
It breaks my heart to see you suffering, I wish I could take your pain.
I miss Jude too, I wish he was here with us
What is your favorite memory? What do you miss most?
Thank you so much for reading and allowing me to pour my heart out from this side of grief. Thank you to all of those who have been there for me these last 4 years. This journey SUCKS……seriously sucks.