What to Say to a Grieving Mother and How Else to Help

Losing a child is an unfathomable experience for any parent. Children are the bright center of the universe to which parents devote their hearts, minds, and souls to nurturing and protecting. Whether it’s during pregnancy, childhood, or even adulthood, the pain of losing a child is devastating. It goes against the grain of nature for a parent to outlive their child. Knowing how best to support a grieving mother can be overwhelming unless you have experienced this tremendous and unimaginable loss. It’s a situation no one expects to be in. In these times, grieving parents need the love and care of their family and friends more than ever, which is why Ecorial has created this guide to knowing what you can do to support parents in their time of need.   

What To Say To a Grieving Mother

While it’s hard to know where to begin or what to say to someone who lost a child, remember that a grieving mother is having an even harder time knowing how to cope with her loss. The most important thing you can do is show up. Don’t worry about finding the “right” words because there are none. Silence is ok. Being there and being present is more important than any words you can offer. When it comes to supporting someone in their grief, listening can be one of the most powerful things you can do to help. With grief, an immeasurable amount of feelings and emotions spring up; there is no blueprint for how it unfolds. Acknowledging her loss, validating those feelings, and allowing the mother permission to express herself freely and openly can ultimately be a soothing balm to her.

It’s ok to lean into your instincts. If you feel compelled to speak, let it come from your heart. To start, it’s helpful to offer messages of love and support such as:

  • “I’m so sorry.”  
  • “I love you, and I am here for you.”
  • “If there’s anything I can do for you, please let me know.”

What Not to Say to a Grieving Parent

The encounter with a grieving parent may feel awkward and uncomfortable for you. It’s perfectly natural to feel this way, so it’s important to acknowledge it, accept it, and move forward.

It can feel tempting to want to talk for the sake of talking. Bear in mind: grieving parents are going through a tremendous loss, and it isn’t about you. There’s no need to try to break the silence. So please refrain from talking about your own loss. This is about their grief, and you want to keep the focus on them. Less is more. Your purpose now is not to “fix” or make things better but to simply be there. Grief isn’t something to be solved nor is it something that will ever go away. When a parent suffers the loss of a child, they are forever changed.

Anything you do say should be considerate of their beliefs. So unless you know it suits them, avoid some of the following phrases: 

  • “It was God’s Will.” Be careful not to force a belief. 

  • “It’s meant to be.” You don’t want to invalidate their loss.

  • “It’s for the best.” Again, you risk minimizing their loss.

  • “They’re in a better place.” This just isn’t helpful. A better place would be with the parents and not someplace else! Grieving parents are in a state of agony.

  • Avoid the following phrases as well:

  • “I know exactly how you feel.” No. You don’t. Each loss is uniquely it's own. 

  • “At least you have other children.”

  • “You can have other children.” Both of these phrases are extremely hurtful and diminish the life of their departed child. 

  • “You’ll feel better in time.” Sadly, grief is ever-lasting for grieving parents. They are permanently changed by this loss. You simply can’t put a time frame on grief, and there is nothing predictable about how it unfolds.

  •  When is the Best Time to Talk to Someone Who Lost a Child

    While being considerate and respectful of a grieving parent’s boundaries, it’s best to follow their lead. Over time, hopefully, you will be able to get a sense of their readiness to talk about their grief. If you aren’t sure, you can always ask them. Being present is the most essential element. Letting them know that you are there for them and offering your love is a thoughtful way of opening the door to a possible conversation. It may feel more appropriate not to say anything out of concern of reminding them of their loss, but the truth is: they never forget. Fearful of making them sad, it can take courage and bravery to broach the topic. Consider this: if everyone around a grieving parent chose not to speak of it, they risk making them feel alienated and alone in their grief, and their child forgotten. Raising the subject can actually lift a parent’s spirits believe it or not. It tells them that their child is genuinely remembered, and that is a beautiful gift to bestow upon them.
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