Dr. Brene Brown put together a great video that discusses the difference between empathy and sympathy. While the parents who lost their child know that everyone means well, some things can be really insensitive and hurtful. This page is meant to act as a guide for what to say and what not to say.
What To Say:
- I’m so sorry for your loss. Important: There is nothing you can say to make the parents feel better so leaving it as I’m sorry for your loss is your safest bet.
- This freakin sucks. (Because it does and there is nothing else to say).
- How can I help? Important: Grievers cannot think about what they actually need so put yourself in their shoes for a moment. If you felt compeletely numb to the world, what would you wish someone did for you? Give specific examples of how you can help. Ie. What do you need from the grocery store, I’m going there now. Is there any errand I can run for you? Heading to the mall, do you need me to return something? Is there dry cleaning I can pick up or drop off? Laundry I can do?
- You and your loved one will be in my thoughts and prayers.
There are gestures you can make that are far better than words. Flowers with a card that simply reads “I hope this brightens up a room you put it in,” a donation to a charity in honor of their baby, a book or magazines,
What Not To Say:
- Never start a sentence with the words “At least.”
- You are young and healthy. You will have plenty of time to have children. Why this is insensitive: These parents just lost their child, while you are trying to see the “brighter side,” for them, in this moment, there is no silver lining and you are belittling their experience by not focusing on their current state of affairs.
- Thank G-d this happened now and not later. Why this is insensitive: These parents just lost their child, while you are trying to see the “brighter side,” for them, in this moment, there is no silver lining and you are belittling their experience by not focusing on their current state of affairs.
- I’m sorry this happened. You know I went through something similar… Why this is insensitive: Every situation is unique and drawing false parallels can be counter-productive and hurtful. It's incorrect to compare a miscarriage to a still birth as they are different experiences in many regards. Only bring up a past experience if there is a strong similarity to what the grieving parents are experiencing.
- This is hurting me as much as it’s hurting you. Why this is insensitive: You may be a parent, grandparent or sibling but this was not your child. You may think you feel as terribly as the mom and dad but this is not possible and it’s hurtful for the parents to hear.
- There is a reason for everything
- Be strong
- You will be parents again soon. Why this is insensitive: They are already parents.