Our grief-averse culture seems to rush us to the finish line; that place where things are just happy, and our loved ones are remembered only with smiles and upbeat feelings—But honestly, there is power in dwelling. Power I am happy to claim.
Things people don’t understand about child loss and grief
It can be comforting to know your deceased child is remembered, even years after they are gone. Download this card to show your loved one you honor and remember their lost child.
The death of a child can leave their parents’ arms achingly empty. Download this card to show your loved one you understand there is no better place for their deceased child than here with them on earth.
What is the one thing you wish you could share with the world about grief or loss or tragedy? If the world knew this one thing, how would your life be different? How would theirs?
The bereaved sometimes keep thoughts and feelings inside, worried that what they have to say will be perceived as negative, or hurtful, or will simply be misunderstood. If you could write a letter to someone who you’ve struggled in communicating with, who would it be? What would you say? What do you think their reaction would be? What keeps you from sending this letter today?
People who haven’t dealt with tragedy are often made uncomfortable by any mention of the life that remains. It’s as if there is this irrevocable connection between my son’s death and his existence; as if these things are forever entwined instead of merely adjacent.
Sometimes people “freeze” after tragedy; unsure what to do or say. And often, there isn’t any perfect thing. But please do SOMETHING; anything to show that you care. You may not be perfect, but your efforts are still appreciated.
Something I wish people understood is that it’s possible to laugh while you’re dying inside. Laughter doesn’t mean the grief is over. The two things can exist simultaneously.
Something I wish more people understood is that life after loss isn’t always about grief. Even when we do things to honor and remember our children, those things don’t come from grief alone, but from so many additional and powerful feelings.
STILL grieving? Yes, I am still grieving. I am still grieving, because the work of grief is never done. I am still grieving, because I put into my grief what I cannot put into life with my son. I am still grieving, because he is STILL, and will always, be dead...
Before Adrian died, I had very little sense of the impact of death. It was an abstract concept to me. I had known people who had died, but nobody close enough to trigger intense grief. And so, when someone in my circle lost a child, I misunderstood.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I’m sure it’s not intentional. You hear my story, and things get awkward. You want to fill the space. You call me “strong,” because that’s what you’ve heard other people say. You call me “brave,” because it sounds inspirational…
It’s something I experienced, early in my grief: Do what you need, *but understand that eventually you will have to stop grieving and move on. And man, does this hurt! Because who defines this concept of “too much” of anything? Is it really possible to have too much grief? I don’t think so.
People are going to feel uncomfortable about death and grief…It’s not your job to comfort people who become discomfited by hearing your story. That’s on them.
Almost 4 years in this community, and I can identify most of the wrong things to say. I write scripts and stories. I try to make things better for other people. And sometimes, still, when it comes to those I care about, words fail me.
What you need to understand is that your loved one isn’t there right now; they are here. And here, today, they are hurting. As much as you want to point them to “someday,” it is so much more important to acknowledge where they are, today.
I was tagged in a post the other day. An expectant parent had unexpectedly lost her child, and a mutual friend wanted to connect us. But then I was reading through the other comments on the post, and I found one that said, “someday this won’t hurt so bad,” and to be honest, I wanted to scream.
There’s something about the echoing emptiness, waking up in the morning and he’s not there. How I wish you had come in then, crawled into bed with me and just held me. How I wish you had shown me it was okay to fall apart…And then how I wish you had left again.
Children are not replaceable. I know you probably don’t think they are…
I know you probably don’t think you can grab one baby out of a parent’s arms and then give them a different one with no consequence. (You DON’T think that, right?)
But this is what we are sometimes hearing.
When I was new in my grief, there were a number of situations where people said or did something and I wanted to respond, but I just didn’t have the words. Now that I am further out, I have put together a set of potential scripts to use in these situations.
It is common in loss circles to talk about finding thankfulness in the life we have left. There are so many things wrong with this sentiment. The biggest problem is that it assumes the bereaved can’t be thankful and grieving at the same time. The other main problem is the unspoken assumption that thankfulness is a “cure” for grief. It isn’t.
I think one of the hardest things I had to do was accept that grief isn’t always overwhelming. Sometimes it just exists, present but not always screaming.
Two big influencers lost children this year. In the wake of heavy criticism of their public grief, I wrote this piece in defense of sharing photos and talking about our beloved deceased children. Today, that story was published in Scary Mommy.
Positivity is a choice, and it’s important that it remains an individual one. You can’t force other people to feel positive; you can only make them feel bad about feeling differently.