When you're a loss parent, every single day is difficult. That lingering pain doesn't go away, ever, even if you want it to and even when you experience happiness again. Sometimes you'll even momentarily forget how broken you are on the inside, but then something comes along to remind you and you’re back to square one. Many of us loss parents process our grief by talking about our lost babies. It might make some people uncomfortable, but it shouldn’t. In fact, there things we need to hear when we talk about the babies we’ve lost, and if you’re close to a loss parent, you really need to hear this. Trust me when I say that your words can make all the difference.
Loss parents need the support of everyone they know. Family, friends, co-workers, anyone. You see, losing a child is a particularly heavy sort of grief. You plan your life to become a parent and, all of a sudden, your plans are dashed in a horrifically cruel way. Not only are your plans erased, but you're forced to live in a world surrounded by people who did see their plans come to fruition. You're happy for these parents, who see their babies growing every single day, but you're simultaneously destroyed by the knowledge that your baby did not get that chance.
So, us loss parents need compassion whenever we’re willing to finally open up to you. We also need people to check up on us from time to time, because it’s very easy to retreat into ourselves and our pain. Rest assured, even if we don’t seem to be fully receptive to conversations about our babies, we appreciate the effort. If you’re wondering what you can say that might help us at these difficult moments, read on.
"Thank You For Sharing This With Me"
Many if not most bereaved parents won’t talk to just anyone about their loss. They usually pick those closest to them to divulge any information, thoughts, or emotions. Thank them for allowing you to be part of this special and intimate conversation.
"You Can Always Talk To Me About Them..."
Sometimes, loss parents don’t want to talk to people about their experience or how much they miss their baby because they don’t want to bore people or make them uncomfortable. Let them know that it’s alright for them to come to you whenever they need. Make them feel accepted and loved.
"...But You Don’t Have To Or You Can End The Conversation Whenever You Need"
By the same token, you also want to make sure they don’t feel like they all of a sudden have to share every single thought. These conversations can be extremely emotionally draining. Remind them that it’s OK for them to simply stop or change the conversation at any given time.
"I’m So Sorry For Your Loss And Pain"
This never gets old. People can say this to me over and over and I will always appreciate the condolences. In fact, when people don’t say this, I definitely notice (and no, it’s not a good thing).
"It’s OK To Get Emotional. This Is Hard."
If the bereaved parent in question looks like they might need to cry or scream a few lengthy expletives out, let them know you’re fine with it. They might think they have to hold back on your account, so make sure to let them know where they are, with you, is a safe space.
"I Can’t Even Begin To Imagine Your Pain"
If you’ve never lost a baby, please use the first phrase. Don’t start comparing their loss to anything you’ve experienced, because you probably wouldn’t want them doing that regarding a totally different but also painful memory you have.
By the same token, if you are a fellow bereaved parent, let them know you understand their struggle. We appreciate hearing both from the right people.
"How Are You Feeling?"
It’s always nice when people check in with you about how you’re doing after a loss. Even if it’s been months or years, whenever you talk about it, folks should ask how you are. We appreciate the concern, and it can also be helpful in determining whether or not you can help in additional ways (like if we’re in need of any form of therapy or counseling or other support).
"It’s Good That You Can Remember Them In This Way"
Depending on the circumstances of the conversation, this could be an appropriate response. Aside from thanking them for letting you know how they feel, it’s nice when people acknowledge that it’s a positive thing for you to remember your baby. Just because they’re gone does not mean they need to be forgotten.