Six Things To Stop Saying 
To Bereaved Parents


Throughout the last few years after tragic attacks in Orlando, Manchester, London, San Bernardino, Calif., and Charleston, S.C., too many mothers have experienced the gut-wrenching, hollow feeling that is felt when a child is taken too early.

With every new tragedy, vigil, story on the news or anniversary recognizing these events, plenty of mothers – and fathers as well – feel the sting of the wound that accompanies their loss.

While that wound may have healed, there is still a scar left as a reminder of the pain that still lives on for many grieving family members who are surviving with that pain in many different ways.

When a mother loses a child, the grief dictates her life. She doesn’t see an end to the pain. As the body reacts to the stress, physical pain follows.

Sleep is out of the question.

It’s a grief that only grieving parents understand, however, and one that others usually don’t know how to deal with.

The first time a grieving mother meets a friend since the death of her child occurred can be frightening. It’s not that she doesn’t want to see her friend, it’s just that often she has trouble facing anyone without tearing up.

To avoid those awkward situations, here are some phrases others should avoid saying to grieving parents along with some alternative options:

“You Are So Strong.” In reality we are exhausted from trying to look strong. Try this instead: “I know it’s hard to be strong right now. I’m here for you to lean on anytime. I have an open heart and time to listen.”

“Be Glad You Have Other Children.” We may have other children, but they cannot replace the child we’ve lost. Try this instead: “No child is replaceable, but I hope having your surviving children around you helps in easing the pain of your loss.”

“You’re not the first mother who has lot a child.” Yes, but this is the first time I’ve lost my child. Try this instead: “I know mothers who have lost children and how much they grieved. That has made me aware of what a fight this is for you. You will continue to be in my thoughts.”

“My child almost died, I know how you feel.” If you said this, you only had a clue about how it might feel to lose a child. Try this instead: “My child had a close brush with death, which was terrifying enough. There can be no comparison to actually losing a child.”

“Time heals all wounds.” In time the mind covers wounds with scar tissue and pain lessens. But it’s never gone. Try this instead: “I hope in time your pain and grief will soften. Knowing it will take time, I stand beside you for the long haul.”

“Everything Happens for a Reason.” There is never a good enough reason as to why our children were taken. Try this instead: “It goes beyond reason for any child to be taken from a mother. There was certainly no good reason to lose yours.”

These awkward but common questions and statements can trigger a world of grief for bereaved mothers. When talking to a grieving parent about her lost child, it’s best for those outside the situation to take a step back and choose their words carefully.


About Author

Joan Markwell is a small business and real estate owner who resides in Lawrenceburg, Ken. She is a former board member of the Lawrenceburg (Ken.) Chamber of Commerce, former board member of the Spencer County (Ken.) Tourism Board and former vice president of the National Association of Women in Construction, Bluegrass Chapter (Lexington, Ken.). Markwell published her first book, "Softening the Grief," after the loss of her daughter Cindy – who was a mother of two herself – to cancer in 2013. Cindy’s children, Lucas and Samuel, are a big part of Markwell’s life, as is her son, Kris Fields.

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