Almost three and a half years ago I was thrown into the world of the grieving parent. At the time, I was in a highly alert state, taking words that were said to me and dissecting them one by one. Sometimes people said things that I found confusing, and maybe even hurtful. I started reading other grieving parents’ accounts and it felt good to know that I was not alone in my hurt. I’ve since read several articles and posts with titles like “What Not To Say To A Grieving Parent,” or “Terrible Things People Say to Grieving Parents.” Articles with lists of things people should say, not say, do, or not do, often followed.
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I read these lists and nodded and agreed. The ever famous, “God will not give you more than you can handle”, “Things happen for a reason”, “At least you have other kids”, and “You’re so strong” were at the top of my personal, “Please don’t say these things to me or I will be offended” list. I knew I wasn’t the only one feeling this way about these over-used platitudes.
Time has changed my feelings on this.
There are so many, “Don’t say this”, “Do say that” lists out there that I fear many people worry in the moment about saying the wrong thing. Therefore, they say nothing.
I’ve come to understand that the comments that hit a nerve are usually said out of love. They are said because they want their loved one to feel better. They are said because they want to provide comfort. They are said because the speaker wants desperately to help in some small way.
I understand now that unless they themselves have lost a child, they will never know the exact “right” thing to say. But I applaud them for saying something, ANYTHING, that acknowledges my grief, pain, or my child that is gone.
It doesn’t matter to me what the words are anymore. The act of speaking to me about grief, in any way shape or form, is an act that touches me. As time goes on, and our loss gets further and further from people’s minds, every word said about it is cherished.
I also understand that it isn’t easy to say something to someone that has been grieving for over three years. No one wants to bring up something that might inflict more pain. No one wants to take the risk of causing someone else to cry. No one wants to unintentionally say the “wrong thing” and become the subject of those articles about the time someone was hurt by well-meaning words. Grief is not an easy subject to bring up and not a fun topic to discuss.
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So, to those that do say something, anything, thank you. Don’t worry about what the words themselves are, though I can suggest my favorites: “I love you.” “I am here for you.” “I am thinking about your child today.” But whatever it is, do say something if it’s on your heart, or on the tip of your tongue. Saying something to your grieving loved one is more important than saying nothing at all.
Fellow grieving parents, sometimes I have to ignore the words themselves; they may not be perfectly stated. I instead receive the intention of love that is underneath the individual words. I believe that they were said because the speaker loves me and my child. They said something, and that is what matters.