Graphic design with "Notes for the Support Team" in white text on green background. Underneath is a white speech bubble with "Words Matter". The entire piece is on a gradient background fading from light cream at the top to dark blue at the bottom

Notes for the Support Team; Words Matter

Scripts for Friends & Family Supporting Loved Ones After the Loss of a Child #WordsMatterInSupportAfterLoss

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Notes for the Support Team - Words Matter: Original statement: At least… Rewritten: I'm so sorry this happened to you. It isn't right or fair. Nothing can make up for the loss of your child. -Miranda Hernandez, Adrian's Mother

At least…

When I was new in my grief, I had a good friend tell me, “at least you can pregnant.” He almost immediately became my EX-good friend…There is literally no statement that can follow the words “at least” that is in any way supportive or gentle or kind. Nothing. It simply isn’t possible.

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Notes for the Support Team - Words Matter: Original statement: Everything is going to be fine.  Rewritten: I'm not going to tell you everything is going to be fine. I understand grief is hard, and no amount of positive thinking is going to make up for the loss of your child. So I will simply tell you that I love you, and I'm here for whatever you need. -Miranda Hernandez, Adrian's Mother

Everything is going to be fine

When someone you love is in pain, it’s natural to want to comfort them; to reassure them that everything will be okay. Unfortunately, when you are dealing with permanent changes like death, sometimes this simply isn’t the case.

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Notes for the Support Team - Words Matter: Original statement: Have you thought about adoption? Rewritten: I understand the idea of having children after loss is complicated. I'm never going to push you or ask you questions you aren't ready to answer. I'm here though, if you ever want to talk about it. -Miranda Hernandez, Adrian's Mother

Have you thought about adoption?

Adoption is an inordinately beautiful thing. It is also often used as a generic straw solution to the “problems” of child loss and infertility. Please don’t push adoption on the infertile or the bereaved. Listen to their feelings. If it’s right for them, they will bring it up when it’s time.

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Notes for the Support Team - Words Matter: Original Statement: Having a birthday party for a dead child is weird. Rewritten: I've never been to a birthday party for a deceased child, but I'd love to honor him in this way. How can I help? -Miranda Hernandez, Adrian's Mother

Having a birthday party for a dead child is “weird”

Grief is hard, both for the bereaved & their loved ones. But however uncomfortable you feel, think about the impact of your actions & words. You don’t have to understand to support. And your support means everything. If a bereaved parent invites you to birthday party for their child, please come.

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Notes for the Support Team - Words Matter: Original statement: He/She is with you in spirit. Rewritten: It must be so hard that he isn't physically here with you. What do you think he might be doing today if he were? -Miranda Hernandez, Adrian's Mother

He/She is with you in spirit

One of the many aspects included in the loss of a child are the missing milestones—first smile, first kiss, and the years in between. These physical things that can only be done by doing. These missing memories. Telling me my child is with me in spirit is NOT the same.

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Notes for the Support Team - Words Matter: Original statement: He/She wouldn't want you to be sad. Rewritten: It's understandable that you are sad. He is gone and he shouldn't be. It makes sense that you will grieve as long as you need. -Miranda Hernandez, Adrian's Mother

He/She wouldn’t want you to be sad

“He wouldn’t want you to be sad”—This is ridiculously untrue. Instead of telling the bereaved how to feel, or worse yet, speaking for the deceased, consider honoring both the life and the grief. Like any other authentic emotion, it is ALWAYS okay to be sad, especially after a death.

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Notes for the Support Team - Words Matter: Question: "How are you?" Multiple choice answers: "Outstanding, Okay, Really hating this question". There is a check mark next to "Really hating this questions". -Miranda Hernandez, Adrian's Mother

How are you?

While on a retreat with fellow loss parents after Adrian’s death, instead of asking “How are you?” each morning, we asked instead, “How is your morning going? How did you sleep?” And while it seems like a minor thing, it made a difference. It took the pressure off. It gave us space for honesty.

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Notes for the Support Team - Words Matter: Original statement: I can't imagine… Rewritten: Try. -Miranda Hernandez, Adrian's Mother

I can’t imagine

When someone has experienced tragedy, it is common to say, “I can’t imagine” how they are feeling. But the truth is, you can. Please take a moment and try.

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Notes for the Support Team - Words Matter: Original statement: I know how you feel… Rewritten: I don't know how you feel, but I'm here to listen. -Miranda Hernandez, Adrian's Mother

I know how you feel

Humans are hardwired to find points of comparison. It’s how we build community. It makes us feel less alone. In some cases, though, comparison feels minimizing. This is especially the case in loss. This is something to say instead.

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Notes for the Support Team - Words Matter: Original statement: I wish I could take your pain away.  Rewritten: I understand your feelings are important. I would never want to minimize or try to take them away. I will always be here to listen. -Miranda Hernandez, Adrian's Mother

I wish I could take your pain away

I think something that isn’t realized about loss is that pain after loss is sometimes important; it’s a measure of the strength of the love that remains. Instead of wanting to remove that pain, consider giving it a place. Listen without judgement. Let your loved one’s complicated feelings exist.

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Notes for the Support Team - Words Matter: Original statement: I would never survive it. Rewritten: I haven't experienced your pain, so I can only imagine what it feels like. I am here for you though, if you ever want to talk about your experience or your child. -Miranda Hernandez, Adrian's Mother

I would never survive it

Sometimes the most empathetic-sounding statements can be the most unintentionally hurtful. “I would never survive it” implies you would choose death or suicide over living after the death of your child. This is a flippant thing to say. Please don’t.

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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. -Miranda Hernandez, Adrian's Mother

It wasn’t your fault

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. Please don’t tell them “It wasn’t your fault”

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Notes for the Support Team - Words Matter: Original statement: It's time to move on. Rewritten: I understand you grieve for and miss your child. What can I do to help you honor them today? -Miranda Hernandez, Adrian's Mother

It’s time to move on

There is a myth in our society that we need to “move on” and “heal” from loss and grief. But grief is eternal and no one understands that better than the bereaved. Acknowledge & honor this need to maintain connection even after death. Acknowledge that grief, like love, lasts as long as it needs.

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Notes for the Support Team - Words Matter: Original statement: Let me know if I can do anything for you. Rewritten: Can I bring you dinner this evening? Can I help you with the laundry? I'm going to the store this evening; can I bring you anything? -Miranda Hernandez, Adrian's Mother

Let me know what you need

When the bereaved are deep in their grief, they often don’t know what they need. Please consider offering specific things:
I’d like to bring you dinner this evening. Is that okay?
Would you be interested in a walk in the park tomorrow morning?
A simple change in phrasing makes such a difference.

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Notes for the Support Team - Words Matter: Original statement: Let's cheer you up. Rewritten: I understand your grief is heavy right now. I'd like to support you in whatever ways you need. Would you like to tell me about him? Or maybe we can go for a walk. Whatever you need. -Miranda Hernandez, Adrian's Mother

Let’s cheer you up

Loved ones often want to cheer you up after loss, but sometimes, you don’t want or need to find cheerfulness. Sometimes (often!), you need to just sit and grieve. “Let’s cheer you up” can be hurtful after loss. Acknowledgement is so much more supportive.

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Notes for the Support Team - Words Matter: Original statement: Look on the bright side. Rewritten: I know that nothing can lessen or make up for this enormous loss, and so I won't try to point you to any bright side. Instead I will simply be here. I'm so sorry for your loss.  -Miranda Hernandez, Adrian's Mother

Look on the Bright Side

We are conditioned within modern society to look for the silver lining in every crappy day. For some things, this is fine. But when it comes to extreme loss and pain, there often isn’t a bright side.

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Notes for the Support Team - Words Matter: Original question: Why didn't you…? Rewritten: I have no idea what I would have done were I in your place. I will certainly never second-guess your decisions. -Miranda Hernandez, Adrian's Mother

Why didn’t you…?

“Why didn’t you…”

Have you ever said these words? Many people have. It’s a common question the bereaved experience after loss, particularly if or when a loss may have been preventable. It’s also a form of distancing; of inserting a barrier in the conversation.

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Explore more of Adrian's Elephant

Collections of Posts on Special Topics

Title: Thoughts on Natural Birth | overlaid on image of Miranda's maternity photo with Adrian (Modern Lux Photography)
Title: Pregnancy After Loss | overlaid on image of Miranda's belly and Adrian's footprints (Two Little Starfish Photography)
Title: Postpartum Body After Loss | overlaid on image of Miranda's belly in Waimea Canyon, Kaua'i (Luna Kai Photography)
Title: People & Relationships | overlaid on image of bench in Winnipeg, British Columbia (Miranda Hernandez)
Title: Parenting After Loss | overlaid on image of Peanut's hands and Adrian's elephant (Miranda Hernandez)
Title: Mental Health After Loss | overlaid on image of Miranda and Adrian's elephant on the California coast (Synch Media)
Title: Guilt, Fault, & Blame | overlaid on image of fountain in San Francisco (Miranda Hernandez)
Title: Grieving Without God | overlaid on image of Miranda on the California coast (Synch Media)
Title: Grief Positivity | overlaid on image of the full moon (Miranda Hernandez)
Title: Grief Olympics or Comparing Grief | overlaid on image of sunset over Lake Tahoe (Miranda Hernandez)
Title: Financial Matters After Loss | overlaid on image of waterlilies (Miranda Hernandez)
Title: Death Positivity | overlaid on image of sunset over Kaua'i, Hawai'i (Miranda Hernandez)
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