June 26, 2017

10 Things Not to Do or Say to a Bereaved Parent

After we lost Colby things got interesting in our familial and friend relationships. Some people were very sweet and supportive, while others ignored our loss altogether. I was shocked at some of the things people said and did (or didn't say and do), especially from my family.

So I've decided to make a little guide on what not to say to a bereaved parent.

1. "It wasn't even a baby yet."
This one hurt the most. It was a baby to me as soon as that second pink line showed up on the pregnancy test. This statement is the most grieved in the online support group I am a member of.

2. "It's probably for the best."
How is me not having my child in my arms "for the best?" Don't assume that there was something deathly wrong with the baby, because that is not always the case. Colby was perfect. He was developing on schedule, and all the tests came back normal. So, no, it was not "for the best."

3. "Just get over it already."
Losing a child is not something you "just get over" after a few days. A lot of healing, both physically and mentally, needs to happen. And I don't think any parent gets over not having their child.

4. "Sometimes these things happen."
Yes. We know. We are living it right now. You don't have to tell us.

5. Rushing the parent to "get over it" faster.
Rushing a person through the grieving process is not good for anyone, ever. Each person has their own needs and their own way of coping, so let them. What you may not help them, and vice versa.

6. Ignoring the loss altogether.
It was the ones who said and did nothing that hurt the most for me. I get it, it's an uncomfortable situation for everyone involved and you're not sure what to say. Well, saying nothing at all is worse than saying something that might come out wrong. Because your attempt means that you care.

5. "Are you STILL sad about that?"
Here we go again with the rushing. Guilting a bereaved parent because they aren't "over it" yet is a horrible thing to do.

6. "At least you know you can get pregnant."
For me, this one was ok. I was diagnosed infertile over 2 years ago, and it was a good sign that I can get pregnant. However, many women are hurt by this statement, especially if they have experienced multiple losses. So it's better to just steer clear of this statement unless you have the full story.

9. Not say the baby/child's name.
Many parents decide to name their baby whether they know the sex or not. It's not weird. Referring to their baby as "the baby" or "your baby" or "it" or "them" or any other non-name word can be hurtful. Saying the child's name makes them more real and more important to others and not just the parent.

10. Not acknowledging the baby is real and important.
Because they are. Very much.

If you have said or done any of these things, it's ok. Just keep these things in mind for the future. If the loss was recent, though, perhaps apologizing to the parent could be helpful. That is up to you though. This list might also help to explain why there may be an awkwardness between you and the parent(s) as well.

All of this poses the question of, "what should I say and do instead?" Well here's the bonus, I'm going to get you started on that too.

What you should say/do instead:

1. "I'm so sorry. We are thinking of you/praying for you."

2. "I'm really am here if you want to talk."

3. "It's ok to cry, take all the time you need."

4. Say the baby/child's name when referring to them (unless asked not to).

5. Validate their feelings and emotions.

6. If you are family, recognize the baby/child as your grandchild, niece/nephew, cousin, great-grandchild.

7. If there is a memorial service or a funeral, go if you can go. If you can't go, send flowers, a card, something to acknowledge the event.

8. Don't make the parent feel bad or guilty for honoring their baby/child in their own way, no matter how weird it may seem to you.

9. Reach out and check on the parent.

10. Wish them "Happy Mother's/Father's Day," even if they do not have any other children.

Has anyone said anything insensitive to you in the past?

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