Having twice experienced the loss of children, I can say there were times when family, friends and co-workers said things that hurt, offended, and made me feel less than a mother.
Although I know what was said was meant to help, I'm here to tell you that not all clichés offer comfort. Instead, they minimise the emotions the parent may be feeling. Since many people have never experienced loss before, it can be difficult for them to understand the length and depth of your sadness.
With that in mind, I’ve rounded up 10 things you should never say to a person who is grieving. These are all statements that were personally said to me in the first few weeks/months after I returned to work:
1. Everything happens for a reason.
2. Thank goodness you are so young, you can still have more children.
3. There must have been something wrong with the baby.
4. I understand how you feel.
5. Your baby is gone and it was meant to be.
6. At least he/she is in heaven or a better place.
7. At least you didn’t get to know the baby.
8. I guess it’s good it happened now.
9. You're fortunate you didn't bring the baby home from the hospital.
10. It’s just not your time to have children. It will happen when it’s the right time.
11. Don't worry, God will bless you with more children.
My hope is that before offering advice, you reflect on this post and the impact it could have on the grieving process. Some words of comfort would be “I’m thinking of you”, “No parent should have to go through this”, “I’d love to hear about your son/daughter”, and “Can I take you to lunch soon?”
Above all, offer a listening ear and be empathetic as the person gets acclimated to a new normal.