Losing a child is one of the worst pains a mother can ever experience. In the middle of grief, many friends and family members try to help and offer comfort, but sometimes well-meaning people say things that end up really hurting. Provide real comfort by being sensitive and loving in this terrible time. Here are four things to never say to a mother who has lost a child, and some suggestions of things you can say instead that might be more helpful.
1. You can have another child
Just because a mother can have another child - or already has other children still alive - doesn't mean that the pain ever goes away. Every child is unique and that loss is deeply felt. That particular child can't ever be replaced, no matter how many other children there are in the family.
Try saying this instead: Can I help you care for your other children? I want to help in any way I can.
This generalized statement isn't helpful, and it undermines the importance of the mother's feelings. This statement says that you don't really care about present pain because you think the pain will go away in the future.
Try saying this instead: What is something healing I can do for you today?
3. Time heals all wounds
This grieving mother shares her thoughts from her blog about that phrase: "To an extent PART of this is true, but it doesn't ever help to hear, and it's not a typical wound that eventually heals up completely...Please don't use this one on us. It isn't at all helpful, just cliché."
Try saying this instead: I'm glad your child got to spend some time on Earth with your family. What were some of your favorite moments with him/her?
When a tragic event happens, such as losing a child, the mother's faith is already being tested. Saying "just have faith" is very simple to say but is very hard to do. Phrasing a trial so casually does not leave room for you or the mother to develop a deeper relationship with God through this time of tested faith. Faith is a personal matter, and it's not something for you to interfere with.
Try saying this instead: I'd like to pray for you. What are some specific things you would like me to pray for?
By avoiding these four things and stepping in with loving and helpful phrases, you can prevent further heartache for the grieving mother. During times like this, love and support are most needed - not more sadness.