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What NOT to say to the grieving parent
Think of it this way - would you say the same thing to someone who had lost their husband or wife, their brother or sister or grandparent? If the answer is no - then don't say it.
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Search any pregnancy or baby forum and you will come across numerous topics on insensitive things people have said to someone who had suffered a miscarriage. And it tends to be a long list with the same cliches recycled time and time again.
In the hope of offering words of comfort many people tend to say the wrong thing. Even with the best of intentions it can be hard to know what to say.
It is a very difficult topic and any statement they might think are okay to say can easily be to be taken the wrong way.
Remember the grieving parent is in a deep state of distress right now and hearing anything that downplays their baby or their loss can be very hurtful and insulting.
Below is a list of common statements that bereaved parents have said they experienced. The list comes from a combination of personal experience, grief resources and various online pregnancy forums.
- It was your fault
- It happened because you did ....
- It happened because you didn't do .....
- You should have gone to the hospital earlier
- It was because of ..... (don't lay blame on anything or anyone)
Comments like these are not going to help at all and will only make the person feel worse and guilty - which is only going to add to their anguish. Regardless of whether something or someone was at fault, nothing will bring their baby back, so don't make them feel any worse. Parents will be blaming themselves enough already. You are better of saying nothing at all.
- It happened for a reason. There is no reason that could justify the death of a baby. Would you say to someone that their brother's death happened for a reason?
- It wasn't meant to be. How can you say to someone that their baby was not meant to be? You are talking about the most important thing in their life and that comment is very belittling. No one has the knowledge to determine fate.
- It was for the best. The best for whom? Never say this, even if you believe it to be true. This is not about your feelings right now, it is about the person suffering the loss. And no one has the right to make this assumption on their behalf.This will contribute nothing to the support they need right now.
- It could have been worse - imagine if you lost an older child (or its better that it happened now instead of later on). Loss of life at any stage is very painful. Losing someone you have not met yet or have not had the chance to know is different to someone you have gotten to know, but the losses can be equally as painful. Each person is unique in how they grieve and the loss will affect them differently. It is not up to you to tell them what would be better for them.
- You were only early - it wasn't a baby yet, just a bunch of cells. A mother can bond with her baby from the moment of conception and even before then because plans, hopes and dreams are made very early on. A baby starts forming from the moment of conception - and they are very real to the mother. Insulting their baby's appearance is not going to help. The baby had great meaning in her life already.
- There must have been something wrong with it. Sometimes there are reasons for a miscarriage, and other times there aren't. Don't try and be a medical expert as often no one knows the answer to this. Even if there was something "wrong" with the baby, they would be grieving that fact already and would be very saddened that something happened to their baby. Don't add further insult to their them or their baby.
- You can try again, or you can have another baby. Even if this is the case, they are grieving the loss of THIS baby. Another baby won't take away the pain or the memory of the baby that was lost. You cannot "replace" one baby with another. Even if the mother has further children, or lost one twin while the other survived, she will always long for the baby that was lost. That baby is still a life.
- As least you have another child. Of course the parent would be grateful to have a child already but they will still be grieving the loss of THIS baby, a separate individual. A whole new life. By saying this you are taking away their right to grieve and not acknowledging the pain or the loss of their baby
- It was God's will. This is not helpful at all. While some people are more spiritual or religious, others may question their beliefs. Even if you believe there are higher forces at play, no one has the right to speak on God's behalf and this comment would not make the grieving parent feel better.
- At least you know you can get pregnant. While that comment may be true in that the person did have a pregnancy - it offers no comfort for the loss of THIS baby. Each experience with a pregnancy and baby is different, as is trying to get pregnant. Having one pregnancy does not mean another pregnancy will definitely happen, and it also doesn't mean the same outcome will happen again.
After reading the above list you may be wondering what there is left to say that won't offend. The truth is, if you support them and feel for their loss, you can give them sympathy without offering explanations, judgements, opinions or comments. Just say the truth: that you are sorry for their loss, that you are sorry that they have to go through this. Remember that they have lost not only a baby, but their plans, hopes and dreams for the future. Like any disappointment in life, a true friend will be there to support the person who is going through the loss - whatever that loss may be. If a friend's house burnt down and they lost everything, you would not say it was meant to be. Please see our What to say page for more.