Child Loss,  What to Say to a Grieving Parent

Stop Saying This to Grieving Parents, Please!

My heart has been broken, divided, smashed, and left empty by the loss of two children, an infant son and an adult son. I’m still in “recovery” and I will be for the rest of my life. I’ve come to understand that pain is the reality of child loss. At least I know what to expect. What I’m not okay with are the things that have been said to me following my losses! Why do people say these things to grieving parents?  Do they think these comments will help? Do they not take time to think  through what they’re saying? Or do they really believe what they’re saying will give comfort?

Maybe I’m sounding harsh, but I really wish that sometimes I had a neon sign above my head that said “don’t say these things to me!”  

Shortly after I delivered my stillborn son, I can’t tell you how many times I was told “God needed one more little angel, so He chose yours.”  What?  What did you say?  NEVER!  I will never, ever accept that as a reason for the death of my child!  The God I know doesn’t need any more angels.  There are enough angels already, and for sure God didn’t need my precious baby!  That statement felt like a punch right in the center of my heart!  I assume that the people who said that meant well, but they didn’t think it through.  I even received several sympathy cards saying the same thing.  “God needed another rose in His garden.”  “God needed another flower, so He chose yours.”  I cringe every time I think back on this.  I finally got to the point when someone said this that I just looked and walked away.  How is this supposed to comfort a grieving parent?  How would this point a broken parent to God? This statement makes no sense at all.

After my adult son died, I wasn’t told any more that God needed another rosebud in heaven. But, I did get told something that shattered my heart just as bad!  “God only takes the best first.” WOW! Another blow to the heart! So, because my son was among “the best” God struck him at a young age with a massive heart attack, killed him in front of his children, and left a grieving widow? I don’t see how anyone in their right mind could possibly think that telling me this could give me comfort!  My son died too soon and in a tragic way. His death left brokenness that will be felt by family and friends forever. In no way do I think he died because “God takes the best first.” Where is the help in this statement?  I certainly never felt it!

Time and time again I continue to get told, “I know exactly how you feel.”  One woman referenced her grief when her dog died, and then said, “Oh, I know exactly what your pain feels like.  I’ll grieve my dog forever.”  Believe me, I’ve had my dog die, too, but in no way is that pain comparable to the loss of my two sons!  It’s offensive to me to think that someone else knows “exactly” how I feel.  That’s impossible!  I will never know exactly how another parent of loss feels.  Each parent has a uniquely different pain.  Yes, we all feel brokenness.  We all feel like there is a huge, gaping hole in the heart. But, every parent has his or her own set of memories and experiences with their child that makes their pain uniquely different.

I wish that others understood that sometimes it’s better to say absolutely nothing and simply listen. I have a need to tell my stories of loss again and again. Why? Because I don’t want to forget even one thing.  I need to remember because I need to validate my loss.  I need the pain validated. I need the lives of my children validated.

About two weeks after the delivery of my Samuel who was born still, I was in church and most people either said something that was totally absurd such as, “Well, at least you don’t have a child with birth defects or heart problems.”  I cringe as I think of that one. Soon after, I ended my friendship with the woman who said that.  Standing in church, an older man came up to me, put his arm around me, placed his head on my right shoulder and cried real tears of sorrow.  He never said a word. He didn’t have to. I understood immediately that his heart wept with mine and I will always cherish that moment when I knew that someone cared that much.

I was so sensitive to words after the loss of my children, that often the slightest slip of the tongue hurts. It has been twenty-nine years since my Samuel was born sleeping. It has been almost three years since my adult son Mike died so unexpectedly. I still grieve. I will always grieve. Holidays and anniversary dates are especially hard. What helps? Just being remembered. A simple hug. No words needed. Just look into my eyes and show me that you care!

With love,

Clara

*****If these words resonated with you, I know that you will receive help from the book Child Loss – the Heartbreak and the Hope. I wrote this book a year after my son Mike died. If you are grieving from a miscarriage, stillbirth or other early loss, I know that Silent Grief will help you. I wrote this book shortly after the death of my precious Samuel.  If you are struggling in grief and feel like you’ve lost all hope, I know that Hope 365 will help you.   Hope 365 is like taking a daily vitamin of hope for one full year.  I promise that if  you read each brief hope filled meditation a day, at the end of ninety days you’ll begin noticing a shift in your thinking.  Hope will begin entering your heart and help you so much on this grief journey!

It is my prayer that something that was shared here today has been an encouragement and help to you!  

Child Loss Book  – any age

Silent Grief – early child loss

Hope 365 – Daily meditations for the grieving heart

Clara’s Child Loss Blog 

11 Comments

  • Denise Tuxford

    Clara, Your Post brought tears to my eyes. I truly understand your losses. Our son was murdered in January of 2015. Parents who have lost a child truly can grasp your feelings. The only way I can go on living is I realized I have to be here for the family I have left, a daughter and a grandson that need us. But after it happened I cried every day for 3 months. Even now I cry if I talk about it.Our son was 38 and I feel so sad to think he only lived half a life. He wasn’t married and had no children and the girl he was with that day was brutally murdered too. We have the trial of his killer coming up soon, a truly awful thing we have to go through. Hopefully we will get justice, but nothing will ever bring them back. You My deepest sympathy goes out to you and your family. Sending a hug 😘💜

    • Clara Hinton

      Dear Denise, Oh, how my heart hurts reading this. Murder is one of the hardest deaths to understand. I don’t think I’ll ever understand how or why someone can take another’s life. I’m so very, very sorry for the tragic loss of your son and for the tragic loss of the girls that he was with. There are no words that can truly bring comfort, but I want you to know that I’m holding you close in prayer as this trial comes about. I am praying for justice. You’re so right, nothing will ever bring your precious son back, but in some small way you will know that justice has been served.

      I’m so thankful that you’re able to go on knowing that you still have a vital place in life. So many parents of loss give up on life. Together we will continue to travel this journey of loss and find our way back to life and meaning once again. My love to you. Thank you so much for your comments. Again, I’m so very, very sorry for the loss of your son.

  • Cheryl Imeson

    I just wanted to say it’s been 22 years my oldest was taken in a cY THANK YOU nt and everything you said is absolutely true and as the years pass nobody understands why ,well me myself , is such a mess on the date and birthdays, all I say is until you walk in my shoes you’ll never understand I was told to pull up its been 21 years … I have never been introduced to anyone who gets it so good luck and the only ones who do have had the same loss. I’m going to look up the books and I hope my grief lightens a little cause it will be 22 years on November 10 . Thankyou

    • Clara Hinton

      Cheryl, Thank you for your comments. These anniversary dates are so very important to us and it’s heart-crushing when others either don’t remember or say comments that carelessly hurt us. I’m so very, very sorry for your loss. I hope you will read the books and visit here often. I think you’ll get a lot of support that you need. My love to you, Clara

  • Jenny Brentor

    I lost my Alecia a little over 7 years ago & it amazed me at the things that people said to me. So many people said they knew exactly how I felt and it angered me so much! I just wanted to scream that they couldn’t possibly have even the vaguest idea unless they also lost a child. It is nothing like losing a pet. It isn’t the same as losing a parent. You expect your parents to die before you, it isn’t supposed to be that way with our children. It the span of five years I lost Alecia & both of my parents. Nothing matches the pain in my heart of losing my daughter. It is a pain that I wish on no one, it is a pain so profound that some days it feels like it is crushing me. I am fortunate that I have had a couple of wonderful therapists & a very strong support system. Thank you for sharing your stories & helping those who are lost in grief find some solace. You are doing a beautiful thing. I am very sorry that you have not one but two gaping wounds in your heart. I came across this sight via a friend’s Facebook page & have already found some words that captured exactly how I feel. My husband is a wonderful man who came into my life just 3 months before I lost my daughter. He carried me through my grief. He knows he can never begin to understand but I feel like I at least found some things that will help better explain my pain to him. Thank you.

    • Clara Hinton

      Jenny, Oh, how sorry I am for the loss of your precious daughter! You’re so right…….nobody can know exactly how you feel or how you hurt. Every loss of a child is unique to that parent. We grieve on so many different levels that it’s impossible to explain to another. I don’t really know why people say careless things to grieving parents except they feel a need to say “something” and often don’t realize that their words are more hurtful than good.

      I’m so glad you’ve found this blog, and I hope that you’ll visit here often. It’s always my hope and prayer that something that is said here will be an encouragement to those going through the trauma and pain of losing a child.

      I’m so glad that you have such a supportive husband — what a tremendous blessing!

      Again, thank you for stopping by and leaving a comment. I look forward to getting to know you more in the weeks and months ahead. Love, Clara

  • GAILA ADAMS

    Clara, February 23 will be 5 years since we lost two of my beautiful grandchildren, Noah 4 and Lily 2. We don’t really know if Lily was 2 or 3, because Feb 23 was her birthday but they couldn’t figured out if she died before midnight or after. Their mother had some mental problems, that bad we didn’t know. The day after Noah’s 4th birthday party she took the kids and ran. When we found them gone with Noah’s birthday presents in the trash, I thought was one of the worst days of our lives. My son was devistated, he was such a good father. We searched, but had no ideal where they were, then suddenly fee days before Lily’s birthday, ,she called and was ready to come home. We we so happy, birthday presents in the trunk of yhe car, and big party planned, we were on the way to get them, 3 hour ride from us. As we became close to the directions she gave us, police cars and fire trucks made it hard to get to the house number we were looking for. Then, OMG, it was the same house that was on fire. We pulled up just as they were bringing the bodies of our precious children out. We only thought her taking them away was worst day of our lives. As my son ran to his kids,police officers struggled to bring him to the ground, he and I layed there in the street, totally broken.
    We were taken to the police station and questioned, mostly about my son and the babies momma’s relationship. The looks we were getting and the whispers all through the department, I knew something was wrong, so wrong. They told us to go home, autopsy had to be done. The trip home was a blur.
    The next day I was the one that received the call and had to tell Shawn, that the babies own mother had burtly murdered them and set the house on fire. How I wish she hadn’t died in the fire, so I could murder her myself.
    Furneral arrangememts, completed, I was last one remaining when they said, the children are here, do you want to see them. Oh how I wish I would have said no, but being a nurse all my life, I always had to know all the details. As they lead me down the stairs, I remember thinking, just like the movies, chill in the air and hushed silence, I was expecting the scary music to start any time. I rushed to the gurney that held the children, feet to feet, on one side of the room. As I stroked sweet Noah’s face, I could see that his throat had been cut, and multiple stab wounds on his chest. Then I went to our princess, Miss Lily, I knew how she died whiteout being told, a pillow or something had been placed over her face and she was sufficated. The bruising on her face and chest was horrific, OMG, where was GOD, when these children suffered, and what must have been going through their minds when their mommy’s hands were around their necks. Normally I would have asked God to help me get through this, but I was so mad at God at that moment.
    I slowly walked to the other side of the room where the other gurney held a bodybag. As I got closer, I saw her turn her face toward me and with a sneer she stuck a long tongue out, as if she was saying, I win. I stopped in my tracks, goosebumps popped out on my neck and arms. I turned to look at the kids to make sure they were safe and turned back around, there was nothing but a body in a body bag. I unzipped the bag from her face, expecting possibly another devilish face, but all I saw was a perfectly flawless face. But I know I saw the devil that day.
    But getting back to the topic, one of yhe worst thing said to me, was my first conuslor told me, “it was probably for the best, they would of had a rough life with their momma. I was stunned, I picked up my purse and walked out. My own father once told me I need to hurry up and get over it. There is no getting over it.
    The best experience I had one day, as I was using kiosk at walmart, to print pictures of them for a memory book, tears were just rolling down my face, a stranger said, honey you look like you could use a hug. I hugged her so tight, I felt like I had just been handed a lifeline. She held me rocking gently, humming a song. When I finely pulled back she gave me a kleenex and said, don’t blame god, let him hug you.
    As she walked away, I finished my pictures and realized this stranger had accomplished more than my well meaning friends and family, and professionals could. That night, I prayed to God.
    Five years later the hole is still in my heart, I learned to just go on. Most time when some ask me how I’m doing, I say just fine and walk away. My heart cries out, LIAR.

  • Christina

    My daughter, Alexis, took her life October 24th 2017. We buried her two weeks ago, one day before her 16th birthday. She had expressed emotional pain and we didn’t know why but we took her to the hospital and she was there a week when they assured us this new med would help and she had signed a contract to not hurt herself. For not even two weeks Home she was loving and smiling again. The day it happened, I had a roast in the oven and I made cookies with her. It was my day off. She had been on my mind all day. After we put the dough to chill, she hugged me and told me she loved me. She repeated this and my heart was warmed. My 11 year old son asked her what she wanted for her sweet sixteen and she agreed to his idea of money and the mall. I laughed and said it’s a deal. As I called to her to come upstairs and shape the cookies with me, I noticed she had been eating the sprinkles already while we made the dough earlier. That’s when I heard what I know now was the sound of a bullet being torn through her and the entirety of the downstairs. My 11 year old ran down to check on her first. My older son 17, ran home to the sound of all the emergency personnel. I’m 25 weeks pregnant with another daughter, yet my joy is on hold. People have said all kinds of things as you can imagine. Most well meaning. Everyone asks my husband and I “if there’s anything we can do let us know”. I don’t want their food or their cards. I appreciate those things but all I want is my daughter. I’ve been hearing a lot of “God needed her with Him”. I can’t believe I was even looking at the internet today as I’m despeartely looking for any ounce of distraction, but it brought me to your blog today. We will begin couceling next week finally and I’m thankful for my support system, but nothing and no one is quite enough right now. I want to be alone. I want company. I want to be alone. Why is it so quiet?! I just want to fast forward through all this pain.

    • Clara Hinton

      Christina, My heart breaks every time I read of another suicide. We have no real answers, and there will never be anything that will bring true closure to a death like this. Sadly, we don’t understand enough about the mind or what goes on inside the heart and the mind to predict an outcome like this. I’m so, so sorry for all of the pain. I can appreciate you saying your joy is on hold. How can it be any other way? You’ve been through a trauma like none other. I’m so thankful you’re getting counseling. I hope and pray that will help. I’m certain your emotions will be all over the place for a long time to come.

      Thank you for writing. I pray that in some small way each time you visit here you will receive a bit of hope and encouragement. My love to you, Clara

  • Bob

    My youngest child comitted suicide in early October. I am so angry with her for putting us through this. Angry that she didnt reach out. Angry at myself for not being a better father.

  • Pattie Scott

    I just happened to stumble upon this site while reading posts on facebook. Divine intervention I believe. God put me where I needed to be I believe. A picture in my FB memoriesfrom 1 yr ago today was of my 36 yr old son Matthew propped up on my bed with my newest grandson Raymond laying across his lap. We were having our morning ritual of coffee in bed. I hopped up an snapped a pic never imagining in my wildest dreams Matthew would pass away a few weeks later on Nov 30th. A year is coming up in a few weeks an the fog an denial that he isn’t going to walk thru the kitchen door saying “what’s up Mom” is never going to happen leaves me struggling to breathe. His 38th birthday is Dec. 2nd and with Thanksgiving and Christmas coming I feel myself slipping back under the waves if pure anguish that drown me. Since the 1st day of Nov it started an has gotten progressively worse. My daughter Melyssa, Matthew’s sister an best friend lives with me along with Raymond her 16 month old son. To see the pain an sadness in her eyes daily knowing how bad my heart hurts let’s me know how badly she is feeling. We are like 2 lost souls just praying the end is near to end our suffering an we can all be together again in the afterlife. We both are on auto pilot an know we are blessed to have Ray in our lives at such a sad time. His dimpled smiles, his hugs, his total dependance on us gives us the will to move forward. We call him our Ray of sunshine because that is what he brings to us. Light into our darkness with an unending love that is so total an pure. 3 months ago Ray after being the picture of healthhis whole 1st yr without ever an illness was diagnosed with a very rare heart defect causing cardio myopothy. So rare the gene an at his age the pediactric cardiologists don’t know how to proceed. He needs a heart transplant is the “best case senario” they have told us. He has been accepted into the Joe DeMaggio Children’s Hospital Heart Institute down in Hollywood FL. The director of the institute transplant director is his Dr. We are so blessed that they accepted him an are praying along with many many people that he survives this ordeal while they continue to research his condition. He is a typical fiesty playful robust little boy that nobody would know he has such a bad heart condition. He is on blood pressure meds to slow his heart down so it doesn’t have to pump the heart muscle so vigorously making it continue to enlarge an press on his aorta impeeding blood flow to his brain. A total shock when we found out our perfect little boycould die at any time. We now have a defibrillator at home that we take where ever we go incase he has heart failure. The day to day state of affairs of raising our little man as normal as possible always hangs in the balance. We are praying for a miracle healing in Jesus name for that is all we have is our faith in a loving God. It’s not easy after being mad at God for not saving Matthew an now begging him to heal Raymond. My emotions go from sheer panic and fear to an almost total faith that there will be a miraculous healing or he will qualify for a heart transplant. I don’t know where I’m going with this I’m rambling. I just ordered your 3 books an I’m hoping they help me with my pain an give me some tools for healing. I’ve been thru grief counseling an also belong to a few on line support groups. I also have 3 friends I grew up with that reached out to me that have all lost a child. Im from a small town in CT but have lived in FL for the last 30 years. It is amazing but facebook brought me back in touch with all 3 women I grew up with an they have all been a source of support to me. All in different years of grieving from 12 years down to Sue who lost her son 2 weeks before I lost mine. This club I never asked to join but it has kept me sane sharing an listening to other Mom’s tell me their stories an what they do to get thru this most heartbreaking time of their lives. I’m praying Raymond’s heart will be healed because I do not want my daughter to have to feel this pain on top of losing her brother. She told me after Matthew passed that if it wasn’t for the fact she had her son she would have ended her life because of her pain. I identify with what she said because I too thought that way. But I continued on for her Ray and Matthews 17 year old son Kyle. I chose to go forward with life the best I could for them. To keep Matthew’s memory alive and valued. My son died from an overdose of fentanyl. He had 2 back surgeries an became addicted to pain medications. Kyle and I found him that morning and did CPR until the first responders arrived. But it was too late an he wasn’t breathing nor had a pulse when we found him but we tried anyways. That vision is ingrained in my mind forever. My grandson Kyle has moved back to CA to live with his Mom after my son having sole custody since Kyle was 6. Matt was a great and loving Dad all those years always putting Kyle 1st in everything. We all have suffered a tremendous loss that will forever alter our lives. Thank you for your blog, your books, just bearing your heart an soul in hopes of not just helping yourself but others. I’m truly grateful I found you today I really am. I couldn’t even see my phone thru my tears when I started to write this mini novel. I’m no longer crying so yes writing obviously is helping me too. I look forward to your books arriving especially with 1 yr a few weeks away my emotions are all iver the place. Today I had to go to my attys for my sons probate work an went by the street Matt an Kyle had just gotten fresh haircuts on. I had to pull over because I was blinded by tears. It’s so raw an I don’t know when or why but it just comes in torrents. Thank you for sharing with us here. I truly believe it was divine intervention your page just happened on my fb feed an for that I’m grateful. Please keep our Raymond in prayer. I know the power if prayer works miracles an that is what we need, a miracle. I will add you to my daily prayers an positive intentions along with the other Moms whose posts I have read here. Xoxo Pattie