Better things to say to someone who is grieving (Archives)

Better things to say to someone who is grieving

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.

Notes for the Support Team - Words Matter: Original statement: You should be thankful for the children you have. Rewritten: Parenting after loss is an eternal balance. I am always available for babysitting or help around the house if you need a break. It's okay to tend to your grief for your missing child too. -Miranda Hernandez, Adrian's Mother

You should be thankful for the children you have

If you know a parent with both a living and deceased child, it’s something to be aware of. Because the most supportive thing you can say in that situation is to acknowledge the work that goes into raising and grieving, simultaneously.

Often when I share about my deceased child, people rush to give advice or hugs. I don't always need that, though.  Often, all I really need is for you to listen. - Miranda Hernandez, Adrian's Mother

Often all I need is for you to listen

Often, when I share about my deceased child, that’s all I’m looking for: An ear. A person to open their heart to experience. Someone to take a moment in their day to read and acknowledge, without trying to analyze me.

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.

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.

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”

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.

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.

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.

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.

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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