10 Things To Never Say To A Grieving Parent

grieving motherHere is a list of the most unhelpful things I have heard after the loss of my son, and what people could have said instead.

10. “At least he/she wasn’t older – it would have been so much harder”

Really? How is that you would think that would be the case. I lost my hopes, dreams, and future for this child. This was my child. A living, breathing human being. Infants are not supposed to die. I was supposed to have a lifetime to make memories. I was robbed and cheated out of everything I was supposed to have with my child. This is HARD, this is a hard that people cannot even comprehend. It doesn’t matter how old he was.

Try saying this instead: “I am so sorry, no parent should ever lose their child.”

9. “You’re having a funeral/memorial/lantern release to say goodbye? Why?”

Why wouldn’t I have a funeral? Did your mother/father/husband/brother/other loved adult have one? Why doesn’t my child deserve a funeral? Because they were under a year old I should just donate them to science or something? What if I don’t want to and I want to have a nice funeral for them, because heaven knows I am not going to be planning any birthdays or any other the other million things I should have been able to do with my child. Just let me do this and say goodbye the way I need to say goodbye.

Try saying this instead: “What time is the memorial? Anything I can do to help?”

8. “This is why I co-sleep/don’t co-sleep/have an angel care monitor/nurse/don’t nurse/vaccinate/don’t vaccinate so forth and so on”

-This is not the time for parenting advice. Yes, we all know you are the World’s Best Parent doing everything correctly. Why don’t you go back to trolling forums now and brag a bit there. Have fun. I am going to go sit in the corner with my guilt and replay every moment of my child’s life and try to figure out what I did wrong, which by the way is something I do anyway every waking moment of my day.

Try saying this instead: “I am so sorry. I don’t know what to say.”

7. “I heard that (reason for babies death) is caused by (giant piece of mis-information here)

You want to find an expert on the various causes of death in infants or miscarriages or stillbirth or anything that causes young childhood death. Find a parent that is living through it, because that is what we do – we search and search and dig for answers all day, every day about what caused us to lose our child. We become the experts. We read research papers, stay on top of legislation, read article after article, check and double check facts, we will even reach out to top doctors in that particular field to find answers. It really upsets us when we hear misinformation being spread. Bonus points if you decided to argue the point with us after we correct you on the facts.

Try saying this instead: I am so sorry for your loss. I’ve heard of (reason baby died) would you be able to tell me more about it?

6. “I know how you feel, my cat passed away.”

Go away and stop talking. This was actually said to me and I know quite a lot of parents who have had their babies deaths compared to the loss of a pet. Sorry, no. Just no. I can’t say that enough and cannot believe it even needs to be said. I love animals. I have pets. I have had a cats and dogs for my entire 36 years on this planet. I adore animals and would adopt every adoptable animal if I could. I have lost pets. And I buried my child. It’s not the same. It is not even comparable. I don’t care how much you love your pet, it is nothing, NOTHING even close to losing a child. Quite honestly and bluntly, losing a child isn’t comparable to any other sort of loss, and I have had some major losses in my life, including my beloved father. Planning a funeral for my 26 day old son was a sort of pain that a human should have to go through and hearing someone compare that to the loss of a cat, is just insulting.

Try saying this instead: “I am so sorry, I have no idea what you are going through right now.”

5. “Maybe something was wrong with him, like genetically, sometimes nature knows what it’s doing”

Maybe something is wrong with you. Thanks for insulting my child in my time of grief and shock. Much appreciated. And I wouldn’t have cared if anything was “wrong” with them, anything is better than dead.

Try saying this instead “I am so sorry. You must miss him.”

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  • cabecb

    My great aunt P lost three of her adults daughters over a ten year period. It was very hard for her even through they were adults and they had lives of their own. It was hard for us watching our aunt in her grief. One of my other aunt L offered her support because her daughter died of cancer at a young age. I don’t think anyone said anything that bad to her. We tried to be respectful of her grief and to offer as much support as we could.

  • Talija

    Oh good god, number three pisses me off so much. Our first son was stillborn and THIS just I can’t even… What, I don’t love my son as much as you love your child because I still manage to function? I’m a bad mother for not taking my life? Just what exactly is it that you think I’m supposed to be doing?

    Losing a child is like walking face first into a brick wall you didn’t even know was there. It hurts, and it leaves you dazed and confused, and unable to understand why no one else even seems to notice the wall is there.

    I also lost count of the number of times I wanted to smack people in the face for telling me “It’ll all be different next time” or “You can always get pregnant again”. I never wanted a replacement, I wanted my son back.

    I was lucky enough to have aome amazing close friends you never once batted an eyelid at listening to me sob my way through the thoughts in my head to them, well into the wee hours of the morning.

    For us it’s been five years, and I rarely talk about my son outside of our immediate family, I know no one wants to hear about it anymore. It’s been five years this month and I’m supposed to be over it.

    You never get over it, you learn to live with it, but you don’t get over it.

    • Zoe Lansing

      “You never get over it,you learn to live with it,but you don’t get over it.” Exactly.It’s amazing how many people think grief is like a cold that you just recover from after a certain amount of time.I’m sorry for your loss and understand your continuing grief.

    • ElleJai

      My mom lost her eldest child at birth. He was originally a twin, resulting from IVF; so she felt she’d lost two babies and then felt guilty just about the whole way through my gestation, because it felt too soon to move on from grieving my brother. I was a surprise baby conceived naturally 8 months later.

      Her most hated comment was “you can always have another one”. She only wanted this one! The baby it took over 5 years and 20 operations to get pregnant with. The baby she carried for 40 weeks, loved and prepared her house and life for. Another one is not required, just the baby you’re supposed to have. Mom didn’t even get to hold him and say a proper goodbye because she had nearly died, then had an emergency c-section, and was groggy from the anaesthetic and had barely any blood in her veins. She regrets not throwing open his coffin and just holding him at his funeral, and it’s her biggest regret.

      Nothing will take that pain away from my parents. My dad still cries too, and it’s been nearly 28 years. So the idea of it being easier on men is sexist rubbish.

      My son has his uncle’s name for a middle name, in honour of a man I will never meet but have always loved.

    • American expat in Europe

      I agree. My mom and dad lost their firstborn the first week of life. They both cried throughout their lives for him. My mom said the first time she ever really saw him cry was when they lost him. Sadly, my father has since passed away. Like another commenter, he died suddenly while I was 5 months pregnant. Not a lot of people understood my grief, compounded by an already difficult pregnancy (emotionally and physically) followed by postpartum depression. I was a wreck and all I kept hearing were the same comments about god or his age or the fact I had a baby now and needed to move on. People are stupid sometimes.

    • Alyson Trent

      I am so sorry for the loss of your son as well. It always gets me as well when people tell me how upset they are about Xavier passing because it makes me feel like I have upset them in some way. Like, I’m really sorry you cried for a week after my baby died..ill try not to let that happen again? And I didn’t address it because I know it varies so much from woman to woman but the whole “you can have another” thing sends me into a panic as well..I can’t actually be around babies without panicking. The thought of being pregnant makes me physically ill with anxiety. And I know so many moms of babies born still who also get massive anxiety at the thought of being pregnant. I wish people realized that for a large number of woman babies are now traumatic.

    • Amanda

      Unfortunately, I was in the middle of giving an exam when I read this comment and this article. I made it through fine until I saw this comment.

      Yes, yes, and yes. I live abroad, but having a close network of American friends who work with me. They are lovely, intelligent women who are in their late 20′s- mid 30′s. And I’ve heard nearly every point on your list.

      My son was stillborn 9 months ago.

      I am the youngest of these friends and colleagues, and in response to my grief over my son, I get a lot of really insensitive comments. Such as :

      “but now you can do ___, ___ and ___.. You have another chance at getting another degree, or advancing at work!”

      Or “you can have more babies. You’re still young”

      Or my personal favorite: ” at least he wasn’t, you know, 10 years old or something. That would have been much worse.”

      When I am in close proximity to an infant whom I am expected to socialize with , such as the babies of colleagues or mutual friends (something I actively and desperately try to avoid)…I turn red. I get splotchy, my blood pressure spikes, and my hands start to shake. I can deal for a little while, but will invariably have to excuse myself and go cry in some discreet location.

      Society wants me to be happy for my friends, and their beautiful, cooing, lively babies. And on some level, I am. Of course I am. But no one seems to understand why spending time with other peoples living, breathing, happy infants might send me over the proverbial edge. My son is in a tiny box in my underwear drawer. He will never walk or talk or go to preschool or graduate college. I’ll never teach him anything, I’ll never hear his voice. I still cannot bear to rid my house of all of his things. I can’t sleep without dreaming of him, I can’t hold a baby without feeling like someone has taken a tiny spoon and carved out my chest cavity.

      I love babies. I always have. But seeing them, being with them, turns me into a puddle of anxious mess. And then I’m embarrassed about it- because who doesn’t LOVE being around babies?

      I have never met anyone, or heard of anyone feeling the way I do. I’m sorry for the rambly comment. I am just so relieved and astounded to see that someone feels in a similar way. Sometimes, I just wish I had someone to talk to. Someone who maybe could understand.

    • Alyson Trent

      Oh god, I get the “at least he was only a month old” ALL THE TIME. Cause that’s easier? I don’t know how..but apparently it is supposed to be…if you stop and think about that comment for even 3 seconds you realize it makes no sense. And considering I woke up to a non breathing infant that I had nursed not only an hour and half before hand…how is ANYTHING about this situation..better? And I know so many moms of stillborns who get similar comments, it is so WTF I can barely respond to it.

      That is SO NORMAL! The anxiety around babies and pregnant woman. However yes, it is something most people do not understand. Just about every single woman in my SIDS support group can not be around a baby without extreme anxiety. Forget seeing an infant that is sleeping…i can’t even think about it without getting queasy. I belong to another support group for all types of losses and that is talked about DAILY – anxiety and fear and general confusion of emotions around babies and pregnant woman. The only way I know to say it is like this, you don’t go through this without some form of mental damage..you just don’t.

      It is another thing that upset me – not only was I robbed of my son, I was robbed of my love of babies. Cause i do, I love babies and now, I can’t go near the baby section in a store without a solid dose of Ativan.

      Hon, email me! please? If your on facebook I’ll give you my personal account. I know lots of support groups online and I have a ton of baby loss friends on my facebook page. And I would be more than happy to talk to you anytime. Friends and family are wonderful and great – but sometimes, us angel mamas need each other to talk to, sometimes we are the only ones who understand. (this goes for any angel parents/grandparents)

    • Talija

      I get that all the time too, or a paraphrased version anyway, usually “It would have been worse if you’d had time to get to know him”.

      I’m sorry? Do you not realise half of my grief is for that exact reason? Is this supposed to make me feel better?

    • Amanda

      I added you on facebook :) My name is Amanda, so you’ll recognize me.

      So much of what you said resonated with me. I, too, feel that I’ve been robbed of my love of children (babies, more specifically.) I have gotten to a point where I don’t even remember when being around infants didn’t upset me, and I am astounded when I see my friends interact with babies with such ease! If I even HEAR about a party (or a baby shower) I start getting anxious…and I don’t even have to go!

      I hope you’ll add me on facebook. I can’t explain how relieved I am to read all you’ve been writing. I thought I was alone.

    • Kate B

      Thanks for this Alyson. I absolutely agree. It hurts so much when people say ‘at least he was only a month old’. Like you, I feel robbed of my son. I gave birth to him, breastfed him, bathed him, hugged him, looked after him, loved him with all my heart. I had every expectation of seeing him grow up and watching him live the rest of his life.
      I feel so angry and sad about all those precious moments that were stolen from us – his first word, learning to walk, going to school, his first girlfriend.
      This must be an awful thing for stillbirth loss parents to hear too. I can take some comfort from my memories of caring for my son,feeding him, seeing him smile; but stillbirth parents have been robbed of even that.
      It doesn’t make things easier having less time with your child. In fact, it’s tragic to think of all the life they’ve missed out on and all the precious moments that have ripped away from you. I’m sure, like me, you would have been grateful to have had any amount of extra time with your child.

    • Talija

      The whle having another thing. I swung wildly between “I must be pregnant again RIGHT THIS SECOND” and “I never want to be pregnant again”

      I think part of it for me was because he was stillborn, like half of me felt if I could get pregnant again before his due date (he was 10 weeks early) then it never would have happened. Illogical, yes, but grief is.

      The other half of me was absolutely 100% certain that getting pregnant again was the stupidest idea in the world, because it would all happen again, and only a moron deliberately sets themself up for something like that.

      Oh and the unintentional guilt. The upsetting of other people. You do feel guilty, people are upset because of their association to you, and you never meant to hurt anyone, but there they are, crying, and if they didn’t know you, they wouldn’t be. But there’s always the anger too. The voice inside your head who instead of smiling and nodding wants to just scream:

      “You’re upset? You cried for a week? I haven’t stopped crying yet, I’m not sure I ever CAN stop crying. It hurts just to breathe. My arms ache with the weight that isn’t in them, physically ache. And the worst part is sometimes, for a split second when I first wake up, I forget. It feels like a dream, and I’m waking up now, thank god. Then it hits you all over again, that all you wake up to anymore is a nightmare. You don’t even KNOW upset”

    • Alyson Trent

      OMG! Exactly. To everything!

      The aching arms thing, oh god…I actually had a bear made that weighs the same as Xavier..I had to, I was going nuts. It’s was either that or i was going to order a reborn doll, cause my sanity was slipping at that point to say the least. And that’s the other thing…thing that made no sense before to me…like reborn dolls for example, they do now. There are days the grief gets so bad I can look at those and go “that makes total sense, I need one.”

    • Kate B

      This really resonates with me too.
      I actually had people I considered friends cross the road to avoid me, because being around me made them feel so uncomfortable. It really hurt that they couldn’t put aside their discomfort for my sake. After all, if the death of my child made them feel upset and uncomfortable, how on earth did they think I was feeling?
      I did get pregnant again after losing my son, and I posted a picture of my son on the babycentre forum for people with the same due date as me. I had a message of the forum administrator asking me to remove the photo, because several pregnant women had messaged her saying how ‘inappropriate’ it was to have a picture like that on a forum for pregnant women. I was reminded that pregnant women are often hormonal and easily distressed and I should bear in mind the fact that I might be upsetting people by discussing my son. I was speechless at how cruel and callous some people can be. I was quite literally being asked not to mention my loss, in case I cause pregnant women to feel uncomfortable.

    • Alyson Trent

      I had that happen as well. not on babycenter though, but I was asked to remove a picture of Xavier from a forum because it was too upsetting to some of the other moms. Not because Xavier it was a picture of Xavier after he passed away, he was alive in the pictures, actually only about 10 days old…but because he was not alive anymore, they didn’t want me sharing his picture. Apparently, it was too painful for other people to see him. Cause I guess if they can’t see a picture of my baby that died…that means babies don’t really die. This wasn’t even a parenting forum or anything. People were just sharing pictures of their babies.

    • Marisa Miller

      We moved to be near my husband’s family when I was 6 mos. pregnant. I was due at the same time as my sister-in-law. Riley was stillborn and every thing that you posted, my husband’s asshole family did. Including trying like hell over and over to get me to be around my niece. I wanted to fucking kill everybody. It took almost 3 years for me to be able to be anywhere near a baby. It’s okay. Don’t do ANYTHING that makes you feel that way to appease anyone. Certain members of husband’s family stopped speaking to us b/c I was such a bitch about this (Virginia Madsen, in case you would like to boycott her shitty acting career. I like outing her for this and other assholery) but I didn’t care. It made me sick to see babies. Couldn’t go anywhere where there were any. Would have to rush thru shopping. You nailed every bit of this and I’m so sorry you had to and I had to and hugs for you and a huge IT FUCKING SUCKS. Because it does.

    • Marisa Miller

      I wanted to add that I was 37 weeks when she died so that no one thinks I’m comparing miscarrying and stillbirth. I though they would give me a c-section but they induce you and make you deliver. I kept my eyes closed the whole time and wouldn’t look because I was afraid it would scar me worse than knowing she would be dead. My husband actually went wherever you go that isn’t the nursery and helped wash her and hold her. I’m blown away that he could do that and I couldn’t but I would have gone crazy, I know it.

    • Kate B

      Thanks for this Tanja. You are absolutely right.
      When I lost my son, many eyebrows were raised at how ‘well’ I appeared to be coping.
      In truth, I was absolutely numb. It was like some sort of defence mechanism – my body knew it couldn’t handle the full impact of my loss. so it shut down.
      I felt guilt at the way I was reacting to my grief, and other people’s judgement made me feel even worse.
      It took a few years before I was able to really acknowledge my loss, but once those tears started, I barely stopped crying for months. However, as this was several years later, people were bemused, obviously thinking I should’ve ‘got over it’ by now.
      Grief is not some linear, predictable process and everyone reacts differently to it. We need to stop judging the bereaved and allow them to grieve in whatever way they need to.

  • http://wtfihaveakid.blogspot.ca/ jendra_berri

    I am so very sorry. No parent should ever have to bury their child.
    Number 5 is a hallmark of assholes. Someone said something similar about my mother’s death, how cancer is a way of thinning out the population. Couldn’t then understand why I started to cry. Depersonalizing someone you loved and loss to a mere natural occurrence is heartless.
    But that you heard all 10 of those terrible comments is shocking. I can only imagine your loss and I hope you have way more supportive people around you to greatly outnumber these thoughtless jerks.

  • CG

    Ugh, someone asked you why you wanted to have a funeral/memorial? Who DOES that?!? I’m so sorry for your loss.

    • Alyson Trent

      Its really not uncommon for parents of young infants to hear this..its more common with parents who have had babies born still though. A lot of people think it is silly or unneeded to have a funeral or memorial for an infant.

    • Zoe Lansing

      If it’s important to the parents,it’s very needed and not at all silly.I’m so sorry someone even questioned this.

    • Talija

      The *Hospital* asked us this. If, after the post mortem, did we want the body back for a service or did we want it “disposed” of. Really? ANYONE picks option 2?

    • Alyson Trent

      It makes me so sick that any hospital would EVER say that and I have heard so many mothers say that they were asked that by the hospital. The sad thing is so many moms are in such a state of shock they don’t know what to do and they don’t realize that most funeral homes will not charge full price (some, like our don’t charge at all) for an infant. They are so confused they don’t realize they have other options.

    • angus young

      Many parents do choose the second option. That is okay too.

    • Alyson Trent

      oh yes, it is – there are no right or wrong choices when faced with these decisions. It’s like getting to choose between feeling horrible and worse. Just some of the ways I have heard it phrased by family and such is..insensitive..to say the least. And many moms I have spoken to didnt realize that a funeral was even an option. I know for so many one is too painful, it more upsets me when I hear they just didn’t know they could.

    • angus young

      Yes. Lots of people choose that option. I am a pathologist and it is quite common in the places I have worked.
      ETA- I should clarify that that is common only in cases of “stillbirth”

    • nikki753

      Sounds to me like hospitals need to have people on staff or volunteers from some appropriate profession need to be on call to take care of parents facing such a thing. Someone to talk options, to shuttle them home if they don’t have family there by the time they’re ready to leave, someone to prepare their home for them in the way they wish…

  • pigbot

    Alyson, my heart still hurts for you. It has since I found out. And not just because I read the article and know what to say now, but I have no idea what you’re going through, and I’m so sorry that this happened. I truly am.

    I went to the funeral of a stillborn infant several years ago, and the minister insisted nobody ever tell anyone that their loved one’s death was ‘God’s will/plan/etc’ – though I’m not super religious, that advice stuck through. It’s one thing I wish everyone could hear and understand and REMEMBER in the moment.

  • GPMeg

    Alyson, thank you so much for sharing. A dear friend of mine’s 2 year old died suddenly about 2mos ago and she has heard every single one of these things. Thank you for taking a few minutes to write this because, hopefully, someone who would have said one of their friends will find it and reconsider their comments!

  • C.J.

    I’m so sorry for your loss. My sister’s son died at 2 days old. I was grateful she not only had a funeral for him but it was an open casket. I was in the hospital still from having my daughter when he died. We were at different hospitals so I only got to see him at his funeral. I can’t imagine not having a funeral just because the deceased is a baby. That makes no sense to me, a baby is a person. We have funerals for everyone else, why not a baby. It’s been 11 years and I can still picture his face and think about him all the time. I wish I would have been able to hold him. I can’t imagine how hard the last 11 years have been for my sister. I can’t even imagine how horrible it is to lose a child.

  • SarahJesness

    My condolences. Really bizarre that people would ask the funeral thing. Erm, babies are considered people in our society. So why not?

  • CrazyLogic

    I am at a loss for words at both what you and your family are going through and the fact that people have actually said this to you. It’s horrible.

  • Evelyn

    I am so very sorry for your loss. I am also sorry to hear that thoughtless comments from others at a hideously awful time for you and your family are adding to your distress. While I can only imagine the pain you are going through after your loss I can understand why all of the comments listed have been upsetting for you, they are all of them tactless and upsetting. Thank you for sharing, I know I will remember this list and think carefully when talking to bereaved parents and parents of kids with terminal or life limiting conditions.

  • Janok Place

    I am so sorry for your loss, and I would like to thank you a hundred times over for your post. I cannot relate to your loss, and I truly hope I never can. What you have said will save countless grieving parents the anguish and frustration of those who cannot understand, and may not have known what to say. I don’t know you, and we will never meet but your words will always be there. I will always remember.

  • candlesoffate .

    It’ll be 10 years in January and I’m still grieving. She didn’t make it out of the delivery room. My nurses wasted no time in telling me the doctor didn’t see any reason I wouldn’t be able to have another baby. It was just before my 21st birthday. The one I heard over and over again is things happen for a reason. One of the most heart breaking memories I have is my husband taking all the baby furniture out of her room and into storage. Before that, when he was at work, I’d go in there and sit in the middle of room wailing. It took YEARS to overcome my grief. In 2009 I was told I wouldn’t be able to conceive a baby naturally and had made peace long before. I had already thought I would never be a mother. A year later I was pregnant with my son, naturally. I look at him and wonder what it would’ve been like all those years ago. I am so sorry for your loss. As time goes by the people around you forget but will be reminded when they something stupid.

  • Kaeli

    In all loss situations, especially ones as absolutely heartbreaking as this, I always go with “That’s fucked up. Life is unfair and bullshit sometimes and I’m sorry. I’m always here for anything, related or not.” It’s the only thing that is totally honest and sincere. Also I personally know, the grieving appreciate your swearing most. No polite word can begin to express how loss feels.

    • Zoe Lansing

      Bravo!A girl I was friendly with but not particularly close to said something similar to me after my sister died.I immediately hugged her out of shear gratitude for her not sounding like a poorly written Hallmark card but an actual human being who was not afraid to speak the truth.She very quickly became one of my closest friends and we’re still very close today.Sometimes all people want is validation that,yes,it really does majorly suck,no,it’s really not at all fair,and ,yes, it’s totally acceptable to be really fucking angry about it.

    • Alyson Trent

      The hands down nicest thing anybody said to me during the first few weeks was “This is the fucked up thing in the world, of course you feel like shit – your SUPPOSED to feel like shit. Your baby died.”

      I was so over the moon happy with the blunt honesty, it actually made me feel better.

  • Securus GPS

    Sometimes, it’s almost better not to “say” anything but rather – just physically ‘doing’ things for that grieving parent – whether it’s going food shopping or stopping over to help clean the house, cook dinner, etc. Actions speak louder than words.

  • fairymama

    Alyson, and all the other grieving parents, I am so sorry for your loss! It is a terrible group we all now belong to. One which should never have another member. I lost my nine year old daughter just over a year ago, and my 3 month-old nephew ten years ago.
    Numbers one, two and three really resonated with me. It makes me sad when people assume they know how they would react to such a tragedy. I admit, I always thought I would shrivel and die if anything were to happen to my children. Every day is a struggle for sanity. But, now that I know how precious every moment is, I can’t imagine wasting it. My girl loved life and lived it as fully as a nine year old can. How could I do any less? Number one makes me angry. I had many, many people make this comment to me in the days and weeks that followed her very sudden death. Firstly, because they assume I believe in the same God they do. I’m very proudly, but very quietly, a Pagan. And two, if your God is so powerful, why did he need my little girl to do his job? I thought she was doing a damn good job making the world a beautiful place right here. And, most importantly, number two – well, not only am I at an age where I just don’t have the energy to start over with another child, but how could any child live up to my girl? What a burden to place on a young soul. My energies now focus solely on her 14 year old brother and no one could replace her in his eyes.
    Please know that my heart is with you, Alyson! I hope you continue Xavier’s Ashes and that it brings you some comfort in the dark times and hope for the future. We raised money with a golf tournament in my girl’s name and donated it to the Children’s Hospital where she was a patient. It was one of the few things that felt good in the last year.

  • blh

    How awful for you. I can’t imagine. The thought of losing my son sends me into a panic. I think number 3 is particularly insensitive bc I know I would never want to get out of bed again and I imagine you felt the same way but you HAD to go on for your other children. You didn’t have a choice.
    Oh and the person who compared it to losing a cat would’ve gotten punched in the mouth.

    • Lexi

      Wait. you’re saying that some one like me who lost not only a cousin due to cancer but an eight day old baby along with a cat that was as old as I was (22) when she died in the same year should be punched in the mouth. The loss of my cat and cousin actually affected me more than the loss of my baby, because i wasn’t one of those parents who felt an instant bond with their child and still didn’t think he was real when he died, i truly didn’t believe he was mine. Now Salome I had since I was 2 and thought of her like a sister. so when she died I grieve just as if I had lost another family member, whereas when i looked at my son’s urn i felt no sense of loss and still don’t. So yes losing an animal to me is the same as losing any human.

    • Zoe Lansing

      When I wrote my comment above (in response to an earlier comment you made) I didn’t realize that you’ve also lost a baby.I apologize for making assumptions.I still think,however,that your situation is highly unusual and that,for the vast majority of people,the loss of a child has a far greater impact than the loss of a pet.As a licensed clinical social worker and trauma counselor,I’ve done quite a bit of research on grief and loss and have some clinical experience with grieving individuals and communities,as well.Everything I’ve both seen and read indicates that the loss of son or daughter is almost always the most traumatic loss an individual can experience in his or her lifetime.There are exceptions to this,of course,but it is still close enough to a universal truth to make it pretty reasonable for one to assume that the loss of a child would almost certainly hurt more than the loss of a pet.Again,I’m not trying to trivialize the loss of your cat,just point out that, for most people,the loss of a pet,while painful, is not nearly as painful as the loss of a son or daughter.

  • Lexi

    I’m very sorry for your loss. But i have one problem with this post. It’s when you talk about when pets die not being comparable to when a human (of any age) dies. Have you been with an animal for 13 to 16 years who has pretty much been part of the family since you got them? I had my cat, Salome, for almost my whole life (she was 20 when she died, I’d had her since I was 3, I’m 23 now), losing her was like I had lost a sister and friend not just some pet, especially since my cousin died the year before @ age 19 to neuroblastoma, who was also like a sister to me. So yes I do know what it is like to lose something you love with your very self, not just humans but animals as well. So when someone tells you that they now how you feel because a pet had died, they are not trivializing your child’s (or who ever) death, they most likely are experiencing the same sort of loss you must feel. So saying to me, Oh it’s just a cat that died IS as insensitive as me telling you that it’s just your child who died. Though I am truly sorry for your loss.

    • Zoe Lansing

      I don’t think anyone’s intention was to trivialize the loss of a pet or to say “it’s just a cat that died.”Of course she wasn’t “just” a cat.She was your friend,your companion,an important and irreplaceable part of your life.You loved her and still do.You miss her and always will.I get that,I really do.I’ve lost a beloved cat (who I had from ages 18 months-almost 18,so basically my entire childhood) and was devastated.As painful as that loss was,it was still in no way comparable to the loss of my sister almost 2 years later.I’m sorry,but it just wasn’t.I’m almost positive that very few people who’ve lost siblings would say the loss of a pet hurt just as much or was the same kind of loss.For the vast majority of people,the loss of a pet is a terribly sad life event.The loss of a sibling — particularly when it comes prior to old age– is a major life-altering trauma from which one never fully recovers.This is even more true for the loss of a child (at any age).Losing my cat hurt so much I cried myself to sleep for weeks and still get sad thinking about it over 8 years later.Losing my sister hurt infinitely more than that and always will. The pain my parents will live with for the rest of their lives is even greater than mine.

    • h

      This. More pointedly, Lexi described a situation (an atypical one) in which the loss of her cat did hurt more than the loss of her child. While everyone’s grief experience is valid, everyone’s is unique, and even if you do have an atypical experience, you can never equate it. We all have a loss in our lives that we see as the most terrible that we have been through: whether that be a parent, a grandparent, a child, a sibling, a partner, a friend, a pet… but no matter what, each of those relationships is different, each situation of loss is different, and each person experiencing the grief is different. The loss of a pet is not the same as the loss of a parent, the los of a spouse is not the same as the loss of a child, and so on. There is common ground in certain aspects, but it is never the same, even with the same relationship: my boyfriend’s mom passed away last year and both of his grandparents on her side are still living. They know the pain of a loss of a child, but it is not completely the same as the pain of losing an infant (not necessarily more or less, but different in a number of ways). To say you know how it is because you lost so and so comes from a place of caring, but is not helpful: every loss is different and everyone processes grief differently. It is impossible to completely equate one loss to another. All you can do is be there for that person, even if you don’t know what their pain is like. I’ve never lost a parent and don’t know how it feels, so I am there for my bf without pretending to know what it is like. If he feels like he wants to talk with someone who has been there, there are ways to do that (his brother, his grandparents, his father, a support group if he wanted, etc). I don’t need to pretend to know just because I have had other losses in my life. I just need to be there for him.

    • Alyson Trent

      I am sorry you lost your beloved cat. I really am and please don’t think I am being sarcastic. Yes, I have had pets long term – my whole life actually. I sit here with two dogs at my feet and three cats in the house. I have had cats from kittenhood to death. I had one cat die very tragically and it completely destroyed me for a couple weeks. i was quite upset. And I completely understand that losing a pet is very traumatic to a lot of people. But, i’m sorry – it’s not the same as burying your child. or waking up to find your healthy infant not breathing. It just isn’t. I’m not trying to play the game of who hurts worse, but I would trade everyone of my pets for one more moment with my son – and I just can’t say that about my pets…it just doesn’t go the reverse. I don’t expect my cats and dogs to outlive me either. They have shorter lifespans. You don’t expect to bury a child. ever. I would never say “oh its just a cat that died” I know that loss hurts. However, I expect the same respect that people wouldn’t tell me their pet was the same type of loss as my son.

    • Lexi

      I have Buried a child. My own 8 day old son in fact. My cat’s death affected me more than my son’s, mainly cause a) Alexander was the son of my rapist and b) as such i didn’t think he was really mine or real, and still don’t. He died due to an infection he got during his circumcision. That was more than two years ago and the death of Salome still affects me as does the death of my cousin Krysten.

    • Alyson Trent

      I am sorry that happened to you. And i am sorry for your losses. However, that really is outside the norm. And the entire point was, that it is tacky, rude, insensitive and insulting to actually, in real life, compare the passing of a pet or other animal to the passing of an child to a parent that is actively grieving and upset. No matter how much of an animal lover they are, if they are upset and actively grieving their child (I am not including you or those that are not upset about the loss of their child, i am saying for those of us that are) it is not the same and is not something that should ever be done. It’s insulting. I am not saying your loss is greater than mine or doesn’t count. I am saying it is hurtful and quite upsetting that when you are talking about the death of your child, for someone to say that they understood because they lost an animal. It is not appropriate at that moment in time. Find someone else to discuss your personal loss with and how it is effecting you, it is not the time to burden the bereaved – they are not there to comfort you, you are there to comfort them. I hope that clears things up a little

  • Kay_Sue

    I have tears running down my face reading this. I can’t believe anyone could be so senseless. I am so sorry for your loss. (stranger cyber hug)

  • Kimberly

    *hugs* It’s all I can offer, there just really aren’t words. :(

  • AlbinoWino

    When my brother was murdered at the age of 15 people said the worst things to my family. I hate to say it but it definitely pushed me away from religion and I am never going back. People said things to my mother like, “you just didn’t pray hard enough” or “he’s better off in heaven”. It was a high profile case of murder (there were many victims) so a lot of people were more interested in getting the insider details of the murder rather than offering much in the way of condolences. “Where was he when he was shot?” or “where on his body was he shot?” or “do you think he knew the shooters?”. People are fucking terrible sometimes. I occasionally still fantasize about going back and just slapping some of these people.

  • scooby23

    #8-People actually say that? Holy heck. That is probably one of the worst things EVER said in the HISTORY OF EVER. I can’t even comprehend how functioning people let that word vomit spew out of their mouths. Sorry SuperMom, I know you think you’re all high and mighty sitting up there on your throne of perfection, but why don’t YOU try getting judged for something that wasn’t within your control for once, and then get back to me.

    Alyson, I’m extremely sorry for your loss. I couldn’t imagine the pain you’re going through, especially with thoughtless busybodies in this world. Thank you you for creating awareness for this issue in the world,too. Sending 1,000 virtual hugs your way….hugs sent!

    • Alyson Trent

      Thanks for the hugs : )

      And yes, it is actually said – not just in internet land where people say stupid things all the time behind the comfort of a monitor. But in real life..to my face.

    • scooby23

      I’m so sorry people actually say these thing to your face. I apologize for all these un-brained people in the world who spew horrible words without thinking, even though I would never say something like this to a grieving person :(

  • Marisa Miller

    At 37 weeks my baby had a cord knot accident. I had to go to the hospital knowing I would be delivering a dead baby. This is everything I wish I could have told my husband’s family. Thank you. And I am so so sorry.

    • Alyson Trent

      I am so sorry, so very sorry for the loss of your child. So very sorry to all the moms of angels born sleeping. I know for every single idiotic thing I have heard, each and every one of you has heard it 10 times worse and a 1000 times more frequent.

  • Dari

    The one that always got me ‘He’s in a better place.’ Really? How about I put YOU in ‘a better place’. Would you like that?

  • SusannahJoy

    I HATE “It’s all part of God’s plan.” For one thing, I don’t believe in God. But my family does. My sister, who help her son’s ashes at his funeral, does. But they couldn’t think about God right then, because if God is the one who killed him, then they’d have to lose their faith too, because who can worship a god that kills 6 year old boys for no apparent reason? It wasn’t part of a grand plan. It was a horrible tragedy.

  • Lexi

    Hello, This is Lexi, the poster who had the gall to actually say that the loss of a cat is greater than the loss of a child. Well i am truly sorry for the OP’s loss but Let me tell my story. I HAVE lost a child, my son, Alexander Valentine Bellman, when he was 8 days old, due to an infection from his circumcision. But, his loss never affected me. Why? because i never felt he was mine or even real. I was raped and that rape lead to him. I found out I was pregnant too late, so i was forced to carry him.

    Then he was born, I was so confused as to why the nurse gave me a baby when i was damn sure that i was in the hospital due to my Porphyria (which causes extreme stomach pain). I just remember that my grandmother (who was with me) asked what I was going to call her grandson. I told her that my first son was going to be named after me (as in literally, that would have been my name if I was born a boy), and why is she asking. Then she too put this baby in my arms and said Meet your Ma, Alex. I almost told her to take the baby back because he WAS NOT MINE!

    Fast forward to a few days later. I was still confused as to why we brought this baby home, and why my cousin Angela was calling it Alex. Well that night the baby was crying and we were trying to figure out what was wrong. then grandma noticed a Bump near his circumcision area, but said let it be it would go away. well it didn’t and then we went back to the hospital. Alexander was dead by the next morning due to septic shock. It was and still is all a great big blur in my mind. we had him cremated and then buried. I was in such a state of shock that i kept wondering why we were in mourning when NO ONE HAD DIED! Realy i felt like screaming that.

    Then 3 months after Alex had died, my cousin Krysten, lost her battle with neuroblastoma cancer. That’s when i finally felt some form of grief, not for my son but for my cousin. When ever some one came up to me asking me to comfort my aunt because i too had lost a child. I honestly asked them what child? I don’t and never have had any children. then A year after Krysten’s death, Salome died. I grieved harder for Both Krysten and Sal more than I ever did for Alexander because I never thought that he belonged to me and he wasn’t real.

    One last time I am sorry for your loss OP.

    • Alyson Trent

      I am sorry for your losses and I posted below to you as well. i do hope you are receiving help for what is most likely very severe PTSD. You missed the point of what i was saying – and what others have tried to explain to you. I tried to explain it to you below and I hope you understand.

  • AugustW

    3 best things to say to a grieving anyone:
    I’m sorry
    I don’t know what to say
    How can I help.

    I lost my father 10 months ago, and although I feel like this is a totally different pain to losing a child (as you are supposed to bury your parents, but not your babies), I can still feel some of your pain, just the general grieving kind. I was so pissed that he never got to be an Old Man. He never even got to be 60!

    *hugs* to you and anyone in mourning.

  • neighbor57

    I’m sorry. I have no idea how this feels.
    I “lost” my three-year-old son temporarily. I was in the middle of adopting him, and he was sent back to his original abusive situation. I lived every moment of the next four months in terror for his life and safety. It was hell. And people are cruel: “You must be so glad he’s able to be back with his real family.” “Oh, I prayed he’d be able to go home.” “Now you’ll be able to focus more on your career.” And more and more. He came back; he’s a happy, healthy preteen now. But the grief and terror of those months can still hit me at the oddest times, and I have to explain why I’m crying over fireworks or a Tellytubby doll.
    I have no idea how it feels to lose your baby, and I’m so sorry for you. The grief doesn’t disappear. You’ll never “get over” your child. You’re not supposed to. I know 90-year-old moms who cry over the baby they lost 70 years before.

  • Chloe

    I have no clue how hard it is to lose a child but I swear whenever a loss is traumatic there are people that have no concept of pain who jump up to say stupid shit. I lost my father when I was still a child and it taught me just how clueless some people really are to pain. Not only do their comments hurt but you end up feeling even more alone cause no one seems to grasp the concept of grief anymore! Part of me wishes we could go back to the days where people wore black and were EXPECTED to mourn for a full year before getting back to life. Nowadays people seem to think that death and sadness only exist on TV for 30 minutes at a time, smh.

  • nikki753

    How about “Our language doesn’t have the words to adequately express my feelings. It’s pathetic to use the same word I would use if I merely bumped a stranger on the sidewalk for the loss of a life. Let me know if I can help you at all with anything from food delivery to housekeeping to splitting a bottle of wine and talking like sailors while I help you rage at a world where shitty, shitty shit like this happens.”

    • ajuliea

      There is nothing wrong with I’m sorry. It isn’t pathetic, you are expecting too much of others if you are going to be that critical.

    • nikki753

      Um actually, it’s what I expect of myself. I have only been in the position of trying to comfort grieving friends and family. In my opinion, when people don’t’ have something to say that seems sufficient, that’s when they keep talking long after they should have quit and say the stupid things that they mean well but really are hurtful.

  • learned compassion thehardway

    Offer hugs or gentle strokes to hair or back. Say ” I am so very, very sorry this happened to you. I remember (cite anecdotes, use child’s name often) so well. Or “would you like to talk about (baby’s name?) I love you and am here for you. – Then follow through. Telephone. Bring food. Take other children. Do laundry. Sit and hold hands. Listen. DO NOT WAIT TO BE ASKED. Simply say” is this an okay time for you?” and give all the love you can. Talk about child often. Acknowledge their life.

    • ajuliea

      Those are good, but you don’t always have a lot of memories. DH’s best friend’s daughter died suddenly this year. We live several hours away and only met her a few times. I miss her and feel terrible for our friends. We don’t live close enough to do those things. DH talks to his friend but I know it isn’t the same.

  • Claus

    I can’t imagine how cluless someone would have to be to say any of this to a grieving parent…
    I’m so sorry for your loss…

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  • Awa

    I’m very sorry for your loss, and want to thank you for writing this. I recently lost a child to miscarriage, and some of the most obnoxiously painful sentiments I’ve gotten are variations of this list. The worst was when a woman I know who also suffered a miscarriage had the audacity to tell me that my baby would probably have been mentally disabled or otherwise handicapped if he had lived, so it was better that he died instead of us being burdened with a special-needs child. It’s oddly comforting to know I’m not alone in being frustrated with people who try to use platitudes to justify loss. I’ll learn how to live with it and try to.move forward, but it will never be justifiable or okay.

  • Organicpoppy

    Oh lord, I got all of these when my newborn died. #10, 5, 2, and 1 were the worst to hear for me.
    #10: I didn’t get to spend any time with my son outside of the hospital. I would have given anything to hear his first word or see his first smile. I didn’t even get to hear his first cry because I was knocked out. I am jealous of parents who got to know their child.
    #5: If there was a genetic issue or disability, it doesn’t mean I would have loved him any less. And it was particularly upsetting because test concluded that he was perfectly healthy and it was my body that betrayed us. I had to explain the cause to anyone who said this and that only compounded the guilt I already felt . I had to tell people that I gave birth to a perfectly healthy little boy who died because my body sucks.
    #2: I didn’t want another child. I wanted my son. No other child can replace him. I am pregnant now, 1yr 1month since my son died, and he is still a part of my life. I cry daily, even just a little bit, for him. This child is not his replacement; she is his sister.
    #1: This seemed like the cop-out response I got when people didn’t know what to say. It doesn’t make you feel better. If anything it made me bitter and question God. Why would God do this to us? Were we being punished? The first time someone said this to me we were still in the hospital and his body was barely cold. If my son dying was God’s plan, his plan sucks.

    Also #4 is bullshit. My husband is broken. I am not sure I will ever get him back. We were both diagnosed with PTSD. He cried less in his sleep, but it hasn’t stopped. He feels powerless. He is having a hard time connecting to this baby because he feels as if it is only temporary and she could be taken away at any time.

  • nina

    general rule of thumb don’t try and say something smart simple say you are sorry for their loss…leave the cookie cutter BS phrases to hallmark no one give a shit if you sound smart when they are grieving. Come from your heart not your head and you will avoid making a dick out of yourself. When my brother died people wanted to tell me abt how they knew exactly how I was feeling cause their est friend died in high school…seriously?

  • gammachris

    “Gods’ plan sucks.”

    Thank you. It’s been almost 21 years since my son died, and I’ve made my peace with that. However, hearing about “God’s plan” still makes me angry. If I thought for a minute that God gave me this precious child, only to take him back because He changed His mind… That wouldn’t be a God that I would want any part of. I think terrible things happen sometimes, and I believe that God is there to love us and help us bear it.