Emotions are complicated, and one of the most complicated things one can feel after loss is a sense of guilt, fault, or blame for the death of one’s child.
These emotions are common, and a common response is to tell the parent it isn’t their fault. Please don’t.
- You don’t know if that statement is factually true. For example, my son’s death is at least partially my fault. It’s a simple fact, and I won’t allow you to refute it.
- Emotions—even uncomfortable and complicated ones—deserve space. You don’t change someone’s emotional state by telling them what they are feeling is wrong. All that does is make them feel ashamed for feeling it.
If you truly want to support someone who feels guilt, fault, or blame after the death of their child, then listen, acknowledge, and mirror back to them. This is so much more powerful and authentic than any glib phrase.
Notes for the Support Team – Words Matter:
Original statement: It wasn’t your fault.
Rewritten: I understand emotions can be complicated, and I’m never going to tell you how you should feel. I am here though, if you ever want to talk about things. I will always be an ear to listen.