Things to say, and not say, to grieving parents

I asked the members of Sophie’s Angels what things have stuck in their minds, following the loss of their precious children. I wanted this post to be raw, largely unedited, and from a grieving parents perspective. Yes – I can write the things that trigger me, or make me feel better, but as we all grieve differently I wanted a larger input on this. Many things were said to me when I lost Sophie, mostly people meant well, but even people that say things ‘out of love’ don’t realise how hurtful their words can be. I have previously (in July 2017) written a blog post on ‘Things not to say to a loss mum’ which you can read here; but I wanted to write an updated post with the helpful, as well as the not so helpful, comments that parents receive.

Are you ok?

Now this is obviously coming from a caring place, however this can be a real trigger for some! One of the members on my group replied to this comment with ‘of course I’m not ok what a stupid question’ and another member said ‘I used to reply with a curt no’. A better way to ask this question would be ‘How are you feeling?’

Are you going to try for another baby?

A member was asked this 2 days after losing her angel! 1. It is none of your business, 2. It is none of your business and 3. It is still none of your business would be my reply to this!

My midwife walked in for my post labour visit and asked me what I had

‘I thought that was really insensitive considering he was stillborn. She had my notes and they even stated his name so I was quite annoyed by that’, I am so sorry this happened, it shouldn’t happen! I know from my experience that I had to contact the community midwives and explain what had happened to Sophie, because the hospital didn’t let them know that she was stillborn, and therefore the postnatal home visit checks that I was told to expect didn’t happen until I contacted them myself!

It was Gods will/It wasn’t meant to be/Everything happens for a reason

This is really upsetting and triggers a lot of people (including myself), please think before you say this! What possible reason could be good enough for a child to die? How do you know it wasn’t meant to be? Think before you speak!

He’s in a better place

Excuse me… nope, nope, nope!! The best place is ALIVE with a loving mummy and daddy. Do not ever say this… it is not helpful one little bit!

You’re still young, you can try again

And your point is??? Do you really think that plays any bearing on how I feel right now! Another pregnancy won’t replace my son/daughter so what’s the point in even saying this?

Be grateful/lucky that you have the other two

One replied to this comment with exactly what I was thinking! She said ‘I actually started to respond back and which of your kids would you choose to lose as you actually have x amount’. I have had this said to me by well-meaning people a fair amount, these are generally people that don’t (thank goodness) know what it feels like to give birth to a lifeless baby.

He was to pretty for this earth, he will come back as a girl

I actually fail to see how this is in any way helpful!

9 months and your still crying, it will get better

I’m sorry but what time limit would you like to put on my grieving? I lost my child, I will NEVER get over it and I will NEVER forget. One member wrote ‘I hate people that say this. We’ll never ever be over it. It’ll stay with us forever. We just learn to live with the pain and grief. So it gets easier but it’s always there’.

At least you have your daughter Sophia

Just because we already have a child it doesn’t mean our angel was any less Important or loved

One member wrote: ‘I don’t believe there are any truly good things to say but saying nothing and having people avoid you because they don’t want to upset you or don’t know what to say is harder. Are you ok? Seems silly and those that ask it feel silly asking it but they have taken the time to check in with you and to let them know they are thinking about you. I appreciate that every single time. People want to give you comfort there just isn’t anything out there that can. The reality is the way i am feeling there are no words to describe they haven’t been invented yet but i am grateful to my Patrick for being my son and to every single person who has shown me kindness, support and love since losing him (also losing him sounds daft as I didn’t forget where I put him)’

This seems to be mainly a post about what not to say! And there is a reason for this, the hurtful things that have been said (even by well-wishers), stick in your mind far more than the good, helpful things. I will try to list a few here:

  • How are you feeling?
  • Is there anything I can do to help?
  • I’m going to the shops, do you need anything?
  • When you’re ready I’d love to hear more about/see photos of your angel?
  • Do you need any help planning the funeral?
  • What are you planning to have at the funeral?
  • Can I come with you next time you visit your angels forever bed?, I’d love to lay some flowers
  • Would you like me to look after your other children so you can rest?

Above all, allow the grieving parents to speak freely about their angel, offer them a safe, non-judgemental shoulder to lean on; loss parents tend to love talking about their baby, but they can shy away from it because other people feel uncomfortable, by offering them time to talk, show pictures, laugh and cry, you will help them tremendously.


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