Part 1: What NOT to Say to a Parent Who Has Lost A Child

Part 1: What NOT to Say to a Parent Who Has Lost A Child

Unfortunately, I have had the personal experience of losing a child.  Twice now.  My first was 11 months old and my second, which was incredibly recent at the time of this post, was 21.  The pain is overwhelming and I don’t know at what point it stops because I have yet to reach that pinnacle.  I doubt that I ever will.  I doubt that anyone ever does.  I think that we just learn how to live with that piece of us broken inside, blackened by pain, a mass that cannot be removed, healed or repaired.  There are no words for it, just pain.  It sucks.  We have a word for it we use in our house, as it helps us have a pain heavy smile but I will not share that with you (not because I don’t love my readers but because my husband has a stalker, but that’s another post).

Everyone wants to help ease the pain in when someone loses someone, but even more so when it’s their child.  Unfortunately, there is no ‘how-to’ guide for people to help in these times and if there is, it was probably written by a therapist or some other self-help writer who quite possibly has never been there.  I write this post because I have been, and yet again am, there.

First, let me give you a basic understanding of grief.  You’ve likely heard of the 5 Stages of Grief (penned by and as the Kubler-Ross Model).  They are: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and (eventually) Acceptance.  These stages are not taken by everyone, they are not always taken in a row and many can be taken side by side.  Personally, I feel that the title should have started with Insanity Of Grief, but that probably would not bode well in the Psychology or public sector so she probably did well on not mentioning the insanity part.  A parent’s grief is very insane, it doesn’t have to make sense or go in any order, it can wane and come back with a vengeance, it can be triggered by something totally unrelated to that child once you’ve thought you’ve finally stopped the constant random crying.

When one loses a child, there are tons of well meaning people who say well meant things, but in reality (to those of us who have lost the child) they are stupid and we don’t care.  I can’t tell you how many times I wanted to tell people to shut up (and not that nicely).

Regardless of our belief or faith, we don’t want to hear the following things:

  1. He/She is in a better place now.

Our general thoughts are:

  • How the hell would you know?
  • Have you BEEN there?
  • What possible better place could there be for our baby than with his/her Mommy & Daddy? (Please note, no matter what the age of the child, they are always our babies)
  1. I’m praying for you and your family.

Our general thoughts are:

  • Why? Didn’t work when you were praying before, what the heck will it do now?
  • Stuff your prayers.

3. You can always try again (this one is specific to infant loss)

Our general thoughts are:

  • What the *****?
  • Sorry, but that one just flabbergasted me, all I could respond with was expletives.
  • Later, when we calm down, we either think that person was an idiot or a meaner word for donkey (and that’s us putting it nicely).

4. It was his or her time.

Our general thoughts:

  • How the hell do you know? Do you have some sort of schedule?  Did you SEE the Book of Life?
  • Shut up. Just shut up.

5. Is there anything I can do? (I have to admit, even with what I know, I fell guilty of that one)

Our general thoughts:

  • Bring my child back? (since the inevitable answer is no, the next thought is then shut up)
  • We have no idea what we need, honestly. While that isn’t our thought, I’m just letting you know.  We don’t either.

6. I’m sorry for your loss.

Here’s why:

  • We have heard it a million times
  • It requires us to say thank you and honestly, we are too exhausted in our grief to thank anyone for anything or have (though we will say it) any etiquette.

7. He/She was *insert compliment here*.

Here’s why:

  • We know. They were ours.  From the moment they were born or became our child, we saw every single great and wonderful thing about them.
  • It’s just going to be another stab of pain. A deep, dark stab of incredible pain that is our loss.

8. How are you?

Our general thoughts:

  • I have no idea.
  • Seriously, we don’t. Plus, how the heck are we supposed to be?  You don’t know and we don’t either, just don’t ask.

9. What happened? / I wish I could help. / I wish it had been someone else-me-etc.

The reason:

  • We don’t want to discuss it, it’s exhausting and painful. Just don’t make us.
  • So do we, but you can’t so just don’t bother with this line of commenting.
  • Again, so do we, but it wasn’t. So just don’t.

Those are some of the things that we heard and our honest (yet inward mostly) responses.  I will say that I AM a Christian and I do believe in prayer and Heaven; however in my grief my pain was too great.  I have been told by some people who are older, more knowledgeable in life and God than I, and have experienced this loss long ago that they feel that since God knows our hearts, He understands.  I honestly believe that to be true.  God knows what great pain it is to lose a child (also on the list of things NOT to say to us in those times) so He knows the anguish we are in.  That leads me to believe that He will let our expression in our grief (assuming we don’t go on a killing spree) be washed away with our other sins.

I will continue and do another post about this soon, I hope that it helps you.  Either in helping someone else or helping yourself.  This post (and series) is dear to me so I will respond to comments.  If you’d like to share the stupid crap said to you in this experience or any other related comment, I will be here.  I’m still coping (and will always be) so anything you found helpful is very much appreciated.  The next will be about what one CAN do.  I did this one first because it is the first thing that happens to parents, we hear things we don’t need to.

Want to know what you can say?  The answer is absolutely nothing.  Simply say ‘I love you’, hug us, and let us cry.   You can’t fix it, so don’t try.  You can’t comfort us as there is no comfort.  Anywhere.  At all.  Until we get to that point, there will be nothing comforting. For your own grief, come back for the rest of the series.  In the meantime, you can check out our 10 Smart Ways to Overcome Depression.

This post was inspired by and written in Loving Memory of my Cajun Queen and My Princess.  Two amazing and beautiful daughters whom I love so very much.  Until we meet again, I will carry you both with me in my heart, always finding ways to honor your memory.  Enjoy Heaven. 

I miss you so very much.

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