Over the years, I’ve learned to ignore anything that comes after the words “at least” as it relates to the loss of my son. Statements that start with “at least” are not comforting or helpful to parents grieving a child and here is why:
It completely invalidates their loss, their child and their suffering.
At least you didn’t get to know him. At least you know you can get pregnant. At least you know they aren’t suffering anymore.
Not getting to know him adds to the pain. It does not make it easier. Knowing that I can get pregnant does not matter. My son died and having the knowledge that I can get pregnant again does not ease that. Even though I know he’s not suffering anymore, it doesn’t erase the deep sorrow I will carry for the rest of my life.
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In the years since his death, I have grown to realize that people just don’t know what to do to comfort you after child loss. I mean, your child died, how do you comfort someone after their worst fear came true? You can’t. And that makes people really uncomfortable.
It is unbearable to look someone in the face and know they’ve lost a child.
I think deep down others know there is nothing. I mean absolutely nothing, they can do to make it better. I’ve come to believe that it’s this uncomfortableness that leads people to say things that start with “at least”.
I could be angry at them for being insensitive, but that just makes me bitter. People mean well but just don’t know what to do. I can’t blame them. Words escape us in the face of such tragedy and we grasp at ways to ease the suffering.
Although I know the intentions are good, here are some things to remember when supporting grieving parents.
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There is nothing to do to make it better. It’s okay for them not to be okay. If you don’t know what to say, just say “I’m so sorry”, “I don’t know what to say”, or “this freaking sucks”. Anything but “at least”. It will not make them feel better.
Like any other parent, they may want to talk about their child. Ask if they want to tell his/her story. Talk about them. Say their name. Don’t worry that you will upset them if you bring it up. Trust me. They are always thinking about it. If they don’t want to talk about it, they will tell you.
Keep in mind that although their child is not here, they will always be their parent.
They love them just like any other parent loves their child. People forgetting them is one of their biggest fears. Remember them with them. Help others remember. Let them know you haven’t forgotten.
Although the pain may change over time, it does not go away. Do not put a timeline on their grief and expect that at some point they won’t be sad anymore. A piece of them left with their child, leaving them forever changed.
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