Losing a child is possibly the hardest thing a parent has to go through. There are often no words to describe the pain and anguish the parent feels. As a friend, you want to reach out to them but you often feel like you don't quite know what to say.
Reaching out in love is the best thing you can do to help your friend who has just lost a child. According to Dr. Cara Barker and Michael Lerner, there are some things that are better left unsaid.
Here are nine things you should never say to someone who has just lost their child:
1. "Your child that passed away recently..."
Never refer to the child that died in impersonal ways. One of the biggest fears parents have is that their child will be forgotten. It is best to call the child by their name and talk about the great memories you had of him/her.
2. "I don't know how you're managing to keep it all together"
Often times the grieving parent is just putting a face on to make it through the day. You bringing it up will often tear down the facade they have built up that day to go out and get things done. They are obviously heartbroken; you don't need to be the one to tell them that.
3. "Well at least you're young"
Don't use the words "at least" ever! "At least your child was young" or "at least they didn't suffer." Saying "at least" puts qualifiers on their pain for their lost child. It's like saying they feel pain, but maybe they shouldn't be that sad.
4. "He/she is in a better place"
Often times a person believes this statement, but they would rather not hear it. The parent would rather their child be here on Earth with them. It isn't bad to bring up religion, but maybe focus on listening to the parent share how they are feeling instead.
5. "Well what you're going through is just like that time I...."
Never trivialize their pain with your own story. Yes, you have pain and yes, they are feeling pain, but it probably isn't the same pain. It is better to just listen to them share their feelings and the experience they are going through right now.
6. "It's been a while; maybe you should get over it"
This is a very blunt way of saying what a lot of people think: "How are you still grieving?" or "Why haven't you gotten over it?" Never keep a clock on someone else's grieving. It takes us each a different amount of time to deal with pain, and it is unfair to expect everyone to overcome grief in a certain time frame.
7. "They knew what they were doing"
This sounds like "get over it; they made their choice." If someone was making a sacrifice for another (whether it was in the military or another situation), it is important to focus on the glory and kindness of the person who could make that type of choice instead of telling them to stop grieving.
Some people grieve by making terrible jokes about the situation. It is not a good idea to jump in and start making these kinds of jokes.
Reach out in love. Not saying anything will make the parent feel alone. Ultimately, whatever you say, as long as it is said with love, the parent will feel that love.
It is a terrible thing to lose a child, and it is important that those who have experienced this type of loss are surrounded by love. This is a hard thing to go through, and you can help erase some of that pain by reaching out with open arms.
Christa is a part time photographer, part time writer and full time lover of life. She loves eating chocolate chip cookies and singing (but not at the same time). She has her degree in political science.