Tag Archives: what to say to a grieving parent

Part 3: Coping with the Loss of A Child

Before we get started with coping, I have two previous posts that you may want to read.  I certainly welcome and appreciate any feed back you want to leave.  If you are experiencing this, you know there are no answers that work for everyone (or anyone) so we just have to keep going.

Part 1: What Not to Say to Grieving Parents

Part 2: What You Can Do (or NOT do) for a Parent Who Has Lost Their Child

Dealing with the loss of a child is so incredibly difficult.  I’ve been through many things in my life that were seemingly impossible to get through, yet here I am realizing that nothing compared to the loss of my children.  I don’t know at what point one has gotten through the hardest point, it varies and just when you think you’ve gotten through it hits again.  While there are stages, it’s not a timetable and the stages jump around however they choose.  We, as parents who have lost, will go from laughing hysterically to crying uncontrollably at any point in time.  We will get angry, really angry, at you (anyone really) for absolutely no real reason (i.e. you left a cup on the table or your shoe is untied) and there is NO way you will EVER argue sense into your side.  Whether you (the non-parental griever) are right or not it doesn’t matter.  We’ll recognize the silliness of our anger eventually, but while we are pissed is NOT the time to point it out.  Trust me on that one!

This post is for those of you dealing with the loss of your child.  There are no words of comfort, I know because I’ve been there.  I’m not going to say anything that even attempts to ease your pain.  What I am going to do is share with you some things that helped me.  They didn’t ease the pain, take it away, or anything wonderful.  They helped me to learn to cope.  I’m still learning, so I don’t know what or how to not need ways to cope.  I don’t know if I will ever get to that point.  So, these helped me.  I had to, and still have to, force myself to do things to pull myself up from the depths of depression.

Here’s my Suggestions to Cope

  1. Learn to recognize when you are falling into the depths of depression.  This is the first thing you need to do.  Until you can recognize it, you can’t keep from going down into those depths.
  2. Once you can recognize it, force yourself to change your thoughts. Doesn’t matter how, or how many times it takes, just keep at it. I failed and still fail so many times trying to distract myself. Sometimes, it works and those times are worth it.
  3. Know and understand that coping (healthy coping) is okay. It’s not at all wrong. You are not forgetting your child, you are not disrespecting them, you still love them more than anything in the world.  They wanted and would now want Mommy & Daddy (or whomever they loved) to be happy, so try to push away any feeling of guilt.  You didn’t do it, you couldn’t stop it, and they knew how much you love them.  If they look down from Heaven, they still do.
  4. It’s okay to smile, to laugh, and to find moments of joy. It’s a good thing. For me, I try hard to honor my baby and will find ways to honor my Princess (whom I just lost).  I feel that while they may not be here to do good deeds, I can do them for them.  Someday maybe I will learn to do them for myself but for now the good deeds are for my girls.  An example, after I lost my baby girl I became obsessed with keeping a plant alive and recycling.  No idea why, but it helped somehow.
  5. When you realize you are going to the pits of despair, get busy. Turn on some sort of noise that will not send your thinking to that depth and get your brain active. I craft, sew, write, read, or any other thing that I can to get my mind somewhere better.
  6. Find a support person. Someone who has experienced the loss of a child. Only they know that pain like you are experiencing.  They know to listen without saying a word.  They know when to shut up and when they need to pull you out of the pit.  They are your best ally.  For me, my shout out goes out to my Sister-In-Law who lost her angel just hours after she came into this world, then another later as well as Sarah from Journeys of the Zoo (you can find her story on her site which is linked).  Also, special hugs to my friend who lost her little one before she ever got the chance to hold him shortly after my Cajun Queen left this world, we will miss you always Teddy!
  7. Consider join a support group. I didn’t and probably won’t, but for others that does wonders.  They are a safe place to mourn with others who know a very similar pain.  There are support groups almost everywhere.  If you can’t find one in the paper or don’t want to go to one in person, there are online groups available.
  8. Form a healthy obsession. Mine was recycling, many people start to obsessively work out, whatever you can do to give you something else to focus on.
  9. At some point, start attempting to fake normal. Do normal things that you would have done before. Whatever normalcy you can add to each day is a positive step, even if it’s just taking a hot shower for the first time in 6 days.  Small steps to normalcy will eventually enable you to continue living.
  10. Know that you will cycle through the stages for years to come. It’s okay to feel sad, it’s okay to feel angry, it’s okay to feel whatever you feel. Just don’t allow yourself to wallow in that feeling for too long.  You’ll get to a point where you know you can’t do something or you have to get out of a situation, knowing that is great because it means you can remove yourself.  Don’t feel guilt for that, just know that it is part of the process and go.

The acceptance stage is tricky.  It’s a stage where you have to learn to sit down and feel your pain without it being debilitating.  That time will come, if it isn’t here yet that’s okay.  It’s been a year and a half and I still can barely look at her picture without bawling.  I can’t watch videos at all.  However, I have them and always will so when I get to that point I will.  I’m just not there yet, and that is okay.

I’ve learned there is a huge difference between living and being alive.  I’ve always been alive, but for a long time and sometimes still, I wasn’t always living.  Go out and try things to bring joy into your life.  Go out to dinner with friends, family, see a concert, whatever it is that you enjoy, find a way to start doing it again.  Even if you have to force yourself at first.  It’s okay to feel sad they aren’t there, to think of them being there, to honor them.  However, if you don’t eventually start living again you will end up stuck in those God Awful Pits.  We were not and are not meant to stay in that state.  No one wants that, and regardless of what you say if you are new to loss and are reading this, you don’t want it either.

I hope that this and the other posts help you in your time of grief.  I greatly wish no one ever had to experience this.  Unfortunately, wishes aren’t helpful.  I’m living again.  Mostly.  With the loss of my Princess so recent, I’m a little numb right now.  That happens with grief and I am prepared to spend some time feeling my pain as I attempt to get back on my journey of healing.

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.

Part 2: What You Can Do (or NOT do) for a Parent Who Has Lost Their Child

  If you haven’t already, please read Part 1: What NOT to Say to a Parent Who Has Lost A Child please do so.  That one, in my opinion, is far more helpful to those of us experiencing loss.  I’m assuming that the reason we hear so many things that we feel are stupid is that people don’t know what to say and, ultimately, they hurt us.  The funny thing is, there isn’t anything you CAN say.  So just don’t.  Check that post out, please!  You wouldn’t believe how much well-meaning things stab when one has lost a child.  This one, though, is for the ever so helpful loved one who wants to do something when we are in our grief.

I stated in the first post that I have just lost another child.  My first was 11 months and this one was 21.  I understand what I went through but do not profess or assume that I understand how anyone else feels.  We all grieve differently, need different things, these posts are based on my feelings and things that I’ve found helpful/hurtful as well as some insights I’ve gotten from other grieving parents.

Here’s some things you CAN do or NOT do to help:

  1. Let us cry. Just hug us and let it flow.  Don’t say anything.  There are literally no words, so just let it go.  You can cry with us or if you are uncomfortable just stand there like a hugging stone wall, it doesn’t matter to us anyway.
  2. Bring food. I don’t mean the week or two after (though that is great), I mean a month later, 2 months later.  Grieving over a child is intense and takes a LONG time to get to where we can function.  Many people bring food for the first two weeks and it seems like they think after that you will be ‘normal’ again.  We’ll never be normal again and functioning normally takes a while to get to.
  3. Don’t greet us with sympathy, just don’t. Especially after a couple of weeks post-loss.  If we happen to be at a day where we haven’t been bawling all day or greatly depressed, your sympathy (though well-meaning) will send us back there.  Greet us like you always have. Don’t ask how we are.  (see previous referenced post).
  4. When you do bring food, drop it off and make an excuse to leave. Don’t stay and try to chat, just go.  For a while, we want and need to be alone in our grief and having to talk to people is overwhelming.  We wanted nothing more than people to leave food at our door, bolt, and then just text and tell let them know it is there.
  5. See something that needs to be done? Try to do it without saying anything. Lawn need mowed, go by and mow it while we aren’t home if possible, then get out of dodge.  Don’t say anything, just do it and go.  If it’s someone whom you are close enough to have a key to their place, wait til they are gone and go by and clean.  Again, don’t say anything just get it done and get out.  You can tell them years later when they tell you about it or not, but don’t make us feel the need to express our appreciation.  We’re exhausted.
  6. Text/email and simply say I love you. Don’t try to make conversation or say something that requires response.  We’ll text/respond when we feel ready.
  7. If you want to send a card, don’t send a sympathy card. Send something to make us smile.  Trust me when I say, we have plenty of things to keep us grieving and a sad card does NOT help.  A smile, however, would be something few and far between so if you can find a hilarious ‘thinking of you’ card, go for it.  It may seem tacky but trust me when I say, we need help smiling, not more sympathy.  There is a difference between understanding and sympathy.
  8. On that note, be understanding. If we don’t want to go out/talk/whatever be understanding.  Read the nonverbal cues and bow out when you sense that grieving parents need space or don’t feel like talking.  If we feel like talking, be it anger or sadness, don’t think you have to respond, just let us vent.  It’s cathartic, by definition.  Trust me.
  9. Don’t avoid us. People don’t know what to say so they just avoid people.  Commonly referred to as ‘giving them space.’  While yes, we do need it at times, we also need to know you are there.  The trick is figuring out when those times are and sense we won’t tell you, I have not a single clue what to tell you to do to know when the need times are.  Guess you’ll just have to pop in and check those nonverbal cues from time to time.
  10. While there is no time that is acceptable or unacceptable to wallow in one’s grief, if it seems like you or your loved one is going down a deep rabbit hole of depression, do something for them. Drag them out of the house if they were once social butterflies and are now hiding out, not to the bar but to a nice restaurant.  Take them for a manicure.  Do something that doesn’t require talking (unless they instigate it) about children, specifically theirs but really any, death, or any topic related.  Though we love you and yours, we aren’t in a place where we want to see or hear about children.  They are strong reminders that ours are gone and that pain is unbearable.

Again, I hope these things help you to help yourself or someone else.  There is no way you can ever really help someone’s grief.  The only way you can help is to find ways to ease their other burdens.  They say only time can heal, but my experience in this instance is that time does not heal.  What happens is that we don’t heal, we simply learn how to live with the pain and, eventually, realize that it is okay to have moments of happiness. Knowing how to deal with depression may help, either you or them, and before My Princess went to Heaven, I wrote 10 Smart Strategies to Help Overcome Depression.

The next part of this series is for the grieving parents or loved ones.  Part 3: Coping with the Loss of A Child

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.

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.