Child Loss,  Stillbirth,  What to Say to a Grieving Parent

What (not) to Say to a Parent Who Has Lost a Child

I am a bereaved mom.

And, that is a very, very, very difficult statement for me to say.  Why?  Because that one sentence makes child loss in my life “real.”  I have suffered the pain of six miscarriages, one stillborn baby boy, and now most recently the sudden, unexpected death of my firstborn son.

My heart is broken.  My grief cannot be described in words — only in feelings.  And, I know with complete certainty that my life has been changed forever.  About a year after Samuel was born still, I wrote a book called “Silent Grief.”  That was not the book I wanted to write.  In fact, the book I sent to publishers was a book called “My Special Gift” — a book that was about the baby girl God blessed me with following my stillborn son.

However, life doesn’t always turn out as we plan, and a publisher approached me and asked me to write a book on child loss.  And, that is how “Silent Grief” came about.

There was one thing I never, ever wanted to experience and that was the death of another child.

But, on May 22, 2015, life took a turn that I begged and prayed would never happen.  My adult son, my firstborn son, Mike, died without warning leaving behind a beautiful wife, his three young children, his siblings, hundreds of friends, and me, his mom,  whose heart has been shattered once again.

Life is often full of very cruel surprises and very painful twists and turns.  Sometimes we don’t know what to think, or where to go to find peace and solace.  For those of us who believe in God, often our core beliefs are challenged in ways we didn’t think possible.

One thing I do know is that we rely heavily on others for support during our darkest hours of grief.  There are times when we don’t have the strength to get through another hour much less another day.

Caring friends can make our broken world seem much more bearable. 

Often, though, our friends want to help, but they don’t know what to say or do when a child has died.  They care deeply, but since they have never walked this lonely, desolate, broken path before, sometimes the words that they say are not the words we need to hear.

As you listen to me talk about what helped me the most when my first son died,  maybe this will help you to explain to others how to help support you during your lonely hours of grief.


Letting others know that we care doesn’t always come by way of our words.  In fact, as you heard in this video  many times the wrong words spoken to a grieving parent can hurt more than help.

Grief from child loss is so complicated.  For a long time following the death of our child we feel so alone that our despair often crushes us.  We are calling out for help in a swirling sea of tears and pain, and we want so desperately for someone to acknowledge that our child meant something to someone other than us.  We need others to remember our child! 

A simple hug speaks volumes to a grieving parent.

We don’t need to hear all of the trite clichés again because we’ve already heard them time and time again.  In fact, we often tune out those words and turn a deaf ear.

What we need is to simply know that others care.




  • Kathy Smith

    Dear Clara, I’m so sorry to hear about the loss of your precious son. I have your book Silent Grief. I ordered it after the loss of my son Quentin, he died on March 23, 2010. Sending hugs and prayers!!! Kathy

    • Clara Hinton

      Thank you so very much. Our hearts are so broken right now, as you know all-too-well. The grief from the loss of Mike is so raw right now. 🙁

      • Donna Ballew

        Clara, i am very sorry for your many losses. I too lost my son Aug 12, 2015 from cardiac arrest. He was of very good physical health and with a blink of an eye he was gone. He left behind A wife and three small children. He turned 34 years old yesterday. As one mother to another who have and are having to travel this horrific road I will keep you in my prayers and thoughts daily.

        • Clara Hinton

          Dear Donna,
          I’m so very sorry for the loss of your son. I “get it” — my son also died of a massive cardiac arrest. We had no warning whatsoever and the shock and trauma is almost more than our heart and minds can take some days.

          Thank you so much for your love and prayers. I pray over each and every one who visits Silent Grief and this blog every day asking God to give us the strength we need to carry on. Blessings to you on this journey ahead.

  • Brenda

    Hi, my beautiful son Angel fought for 6 yrs cancer (ALL) and in 2013 he was so tired and he went to heaven. I’m still and I know I will always carry this pain that breaks my soul. I can’t find anything that will complete my whole happiness and still believe that God is always right that His plans are better than mine but that does not console my broken heart. Angel is so special a blessing in life. Sending hugs to u. Brenda, Angel’s mom

    • Clara Hinton

      I’m so very sorry for the loss of your precious son to cancer. I, too, believe that God is always right, but His ways are not always our ways. Losing Mike has brought so much heartache that I’m not at all sure what good will come from his death. His wife and children are suffering so much. And, that breaks my heart even more. Thank you so much for caring. My love to you as you remember your precious Angel.

  • Penny

    Our daughter was killed in a traffic accident. No warning, no goodbyes. Only a phone call from a stranger telling us what happened.
    Nearly 2 years later there has been no court hearing because the other driver waved his rights to a speedy trial. I know nothing will ever bring her back, there is no “justice” no matter what the outcome may eventually be, but I would like an apology from this man. I want to know he is sorry for what he did. i don’t really want to ever see him because he was the last person to ever see her. We did not have to identify her body, nor did we want to see her on a cold table in a morgue or in a casket. Our memories are of her laugh and spirit and smile. We have been told the coroner’s report was excruciatingly difficult to read-and we should never read it, all the injuries she sustained.
    Simple, silly everyday things bring back memories-like my kitchen towel drawer, because she re-arranged it for me. Her dog lives with us now-our last “connection” with her. I just want to get through an entire day without tears and be able to remember her with a smile instead of heartache.

    • Clara Hinton

      Penny, I’m so very sorry. Oh, how I can identify with the “no warning, no goodbyes.” I, too, got a phone call — the worst phone call of my life.
      You are so right when you say the simple, everyday things bring back memories. My Mike loved to hunt, and he was determined to catch the monster groundhog that lives in my yard. Just seeing a groundhog peeking out of its hole brings on the tears for me.

      Please know that my thoughts and prayers are with you. I feel as though those of us who have experienced the loss of a child are “family” and it is a comfort for me to know that others care. I hope that more gentle days are ahead for you.

  • grahamforeverinmyheart

    I’m so sorry that you suffered another terrible tragedy. What a loss for you and your entire family! It is also a loss for your son who will not be there to watch his children grow up. Hugs to you.

    • Clara Hinton

      Thank you so very much. And, you’re so right. My son’s family will suffer tremendously over the years. This has been a terrible loss for all of us. I appreciate your acknowledgement of the loss of my son.

  • Sandi

    Clara, I also lost my son, my first born on August 22, 2013. He left behind 3 young children, the youngest being only 5 weeks old. It was a horrible accident, he was electrocuted at work. Losing a child is something we will never get over as you well know. I have kind of shut myself off from the world, which I know is not healthy but I am so empty inside, so broken. I am sure I am not saying anything that you are not feeling. I am so so sorry for your loss.

    • Clara Hinton

      I’m so very sorry for the loss of your son. What a sad tragedy. 🙁 I understand shutting yourself off from the world for a time. We tend to do that as a means of giving ourselves time to grieve in our own way and in our own time.

      My special thoughts are with you. Thank you so much for thinking of me, also.

  • Dora-Kay Brockman

    I offer my heartfelt condolences in your loss. I am SO sorry. Being a member of this club is one no one wants to ever be a part of. You have been through so much with your many losses, I pray God’s love and presence be with you. I know what upset me (and still gets me going) how such inappropriate statements are made. I certainly understand they mean well and really don’t know what to say. Just a month or two ago one of my high school friends said, “You were blessed to her ‘that long’.” That struck a nerve. My daughter died December 4, 2013 of an eating disorder. She was 42. There are SO many layers of grief and unfinished business, that hurt will never go away. I am better, but miss her so much. I talk to her often and say out loud, “It’s not right, it’s not right, it’s not right, you are gone”. Please know I am thinking of you with love.
    Dora-Kay Brockman
    Charlottesville, Va.

    • Clara Hinton

      Dear Dora-Kay,
      I’m so very, very sorry for the loss of your daughter. I “get it” when people say we should be so thankful we had our child with us that long. It doesn’t help the deep grief we feel.

      My son was 42, also. He is missed so deeply, as I know your daughter is missed.

      Love and prayers to you, also.

      • Linda Dandrow Bryant

        Dear Clara and Dora-Kay,

        My son passed on April 3, 2015 and he was also 42 years old. My heart goes out to all mom’s who have lost a child, at any age.

        Dora-Kay, I too am fed up with the people who think just because he was in my life for 42 years, I should be grateful. I am tired of hearing “God has a plan” or people rolling their eyes when my tears flow for what seems to them no apparent reason. And yes, the worse is, “I know how you feel”.

        I am in the medical field and assisted the doctor who did the epidural on my son the day he had a massive stroke. I hear his last spoken words every minute of every day “Mom I can’t breath” as he died in my arms. The stroke was not the result of the procedure, it could have happened at anytime. The doctors say he was a walking time bomb, but it happened on my watch. Guilt? Yes, and lots of it. I realize that perhaps the Good Lord thought I could handle it better than if he had a stroke at one of his daughters softball games, or at home watching TV with his family, but the Good Lord is sadly mistaken. That’s another phrase I could stand never to hear again, “God doesn’t give you any more than you can handle”. I have isolated myself from family, friends and coworkers because I know my grief has made them uncomfortable.

        I am now under a doctors care and starting with a grief group at one of our local churches. My life has crumbled spiritually, emotionally, mentally and physically. At least I have the benefit of realizing that I need help in all four aspects of my life. Grief can and does take over our lives.

        Linda Bryant
        El Paso, Texas

        • Clara Hinton

          Thank you so very much for sharing such a large part of your heart with us. I cannot imagine — I truly cannot imagine the pain and trauma of losing a son the way you did. I’m not a believer in those trite clichés about God not giving us more than we can handle, etc., etc., etc. I do believe that really horrible things come into the lives of many, and we are often left with pain, fear, trauma, and all kinds of other side-effects of these things. Losing a child is one of the most horrific pains any parent can go through, and I don’t believe that God “needed just one more flower in His garden.” I believe very terrible things happen to all people, and we’re left trying to dig out of the ashes and find our way back to some kind of living again. For those with faith, often our faith is shattered — at least for a while. Others might cling more tightly to their faith. And, for a long time many of us just wade through the mud hoping and praying to be rescued.

          Child loss is a long, hard journey.

          My love to you as you work with all aspects of your life. I pray that you will find some healing soon.


  • Patty Nettles

    I lost my beautiful first born child right after her 19th birthday. This was 34 years ago! It still is such a painful event, which many do not understand. There is such a hole in my heart, which will never be filled. I pray for each family I read about in your blog. I think the thing that i grieve about the most is that nobody will talk to me about her. It is almost like she was never here, yet I think about her every day. I realize my other two children have grown and have their own family and I know they loved her and miss her, just now like I do I am so sorry for the losses in your life. They are each one, such a loss on their own. I do know the pain of losing you son. This is losing a child, a wonderful friend and part of your heart. I will remember you in my prayer.

    • Clara Hinton

      Dear Patty,
      I’m so very sorry for the loss of your beautiful daughter! I, too, think that one of our greatest fears is that our child will not be remembered. That is a concern of mine already. That’s why I feel it’s so important for us to find ways to include our children in every holiday, every anniversary date, and in our daily conversation. It’s so hard, isn’t it?

      My thoughts and prayers are with you. It’s so good getting to know you better. Thank you so much for your prayers for me.

  • Claire Savino

    Clara I am so deeply sorry for all of your unimaginable losses. Thank you for giving voice to the thoughts & feelings so many are experiencing. This is a journey I would not wish on anyone. My precious daughter Lauren died on August 9 leaving a 7 year old & not yet 3 month old daughter, we are trying to now raise. I am forever changed, & life will never be all right. My heart is beyond broken, I hang in for the children but hang onto the hope of seeing her again.

    • Clara Hinton

      Dear Claire,
      I’m so very sorry for the loss of your precious Lauren. 🙁

      When children are left behind, we have another entire world of grief to deal with, and it’s not easy! My thoughts and prayers are with you/us as we travel this journey of grief, asking God for the strength we need each and every day.

      Thank you for visiting this site, and thank you so much for your comment.

  • Deborah Ann Abood

    Hi Clara,
    I am so sorry for all your losses and sorry to hear of the loss of your son so recently.

    I am having enough trouble coping with the loss of my 23 year son from March 2013. David decided to take his own life and with it so many unanswered questions. Not only did I lose my son but he was also one of my best friends.

    Yes comments people make can at time make things worse, especially when they say they things like they understand as they have lost a parent or partner. I lost my dad when he was 55 to cancer and it comes no where near the pain of losing my son. I don’t think people get that losing a child is losing a part of yourself but I guess when others are caught up in their own grief especially if it is fairly recent they cannot understand.

    Your website and sharing has helped me many a times as sometimes it can sometimes be as simple of hearing others words that help explain something I am feeling but cannot put into words and the strength of people’s faith.

    I have battled severe depression since losing David, as I already had PTSD so it has sent me over the edge. I struggle with my faith and struggle with life in general so sometimes it can just be something that comes up on my facebook page from “silent grief” that helps get me through that moment.

    Thank you for starting this group and for all your sharing and encouragement

    • Clara Hinton

      Dear Deborah Ann,
      My heart always feels so broken when I read of tragedies such as yours. When a child takes his/her life by suicide, there are so many additional unanswered questions and levels of grief that nobody except the parents can grasp. Again, I’m so very sorry.

      When I began the Silent Grief group, the purpose was to provide a safe place for parents to visit each day knowing they would not be judged in any way for expressing their grief. Just yesterday I was told that “you must be strong at all times and never allow your other children to see you grieving.” My question was “why?”. Why do I (or anyone) have to be strong at all times? We are human and our hearts are going to ache and hurt and feel shattered to the very core of our being. And, I believe it is okay for our children to see us crying when we hurt. They’re hurting, too, and it gives them permission to feel the pain. Too many times we “mask” our pain and grief and it comes back to bite us later on.

      Thank you so much for your comments. It’s wonderful getting to know you better.

      • Deborah Ann Abood

        Thank you Clara for your reply. Yes I agree with letting your other children see your pain as it is so easy for them to try and block it out. Hopefully the person who said told you not to let your children see you cry can understand how important this is. Too many things in society are pushed aside and hidden away as if it is wrong, when in reality it is a perfectly normal reaction to have. One of my other sons found David, they were best mates, lived and worked together. Their partners were also both expecting babies around the same time. For Phillip my other son it was their first baby and David’s second. There were relationship issues and his ex-partner was in NZ at the time and he didn’t know if she was coming back. His little boy was his life and turned one the week after he took his life. I have not seen him since the funeral apart from a couple of skype chats and some photos on facebook. I had such a close bond with him prior to this as he was my first grandson. I have not met their second son yet due to them living back in NZ. Phillip has not had any help as he thinks he can deal with it all by himself. This worries me so much as I have explained PTSD to him, especially as he had to try and resuscitate him until the ambulance got there which was about 45 minutes. I live in another state so could do nothing until I got the phone call. It was only because Phillip phoned me that morning when he got to work and said David hadn’t turned up and how he looked that morning that I told him he had to get home straight away but it was too late and in my heart I knew that it was just a matter of waiting for that phone call.
        I don’t know how I can get my son to get help. My other son lives in a different state to Phillip and as he has Aspergus dealt with it in a different way.
        I stayed strong for them both initially and it tore me apart when Phillip locked himself in the bathroom the next day and just screamed and sobbed and there was nothing I could do to make it better. I think I just went through the motions over the next couple of weeks and was in denial. Sometimes I still think I am in denial.
        I ask God why is it some people go through life with so much pain and trauma. I don’t know the answer to this.
        I guess it is just a matter of taking each day or hour as it comes.

  • Betty B. Robertson

    While, I know I don’t know how you feel, I know I feel an empty spot in my heart where Mike used to be. I hurt for you, your children, for Ashley and Mike’s three beautiful children every single day. I share your grief and pray for God’s comfort to be felt by each and every one and for healing to come in the right time and in God’s time. He loves us and is there for each one of us. My love to you and yours!

    • Clara Hinton

      Thank you so very much. Your love and continued support means the world to me and the entire family. I don’t know what we’d do without you.


  • randi pedersen

    Dear Clara I’m so sorry for the loss of your children .I sadly know this deep forever pain of losing a child .my youngest son Karl aged 28 got his angel wings 29/5/13 after a brave courageous battle with brain tumour cancer .
    He fell peacefully asleep forever in my arms in his own room .so we got to say goodbye, this I’m so grateful for ,as I know many of you didn’t get to say goodbye to which I can’t imagine the extra pain this must cause .
    Karl left us a most precious gift his 5yr old son .who is his daddy’s double,my heart breaks for him ,wish I could trade places to give him his daddy back, I’d do it in a heartbeat .
    This pain of losing a child has to be the worst pain ever .my heart went with him as he took his last breath.
    I take each day that passes as one day closer to seeing my beautiful handsome boy again.
    My heart and love go out to all of you who have lost a child/children.
    Our angels will always be with us to help us get through each day, until we take our last breath to be reunited with our precious angel child/children,oh what a glorious day that will be .x

    • Clara Hinton

      I’m so very sorry for the loss of your precious Karl. As moms we hold a very special kind of love for our children. I never, ever wanted to be here and have one of my living children leave this earth, but that wasn’t in the plan for my life, I guess. My Mike was such an adventuresome kind of young man — a super dad and super husband. Like you, I grieve deeply the fact that my grandchildren will grow up and live out the remainder of their lives without their dad. They loved him so! I believe we have a double grief when our child dies and leaves behind a family.

      My love to you. I, too, dream often of that great reunion in heaven!


  • Karla detmering

    I am so sorry for all your losses. You must be an incredible woman with a huge support system. I will say a prayer for you and your family. When we list a previous Angel 4 years ago it was the most devastating thing that could happen to anyone. Thank you for doing this blog. It helps tremendously. It is hard to talk to someone that hasn’t been through this difficult time. I will definitely read your book. I think I read everything I could get my hands on. Again thank you and sending hugs.

    • Clara Hinton

      I’m definitely not an incredible person, but I do have a tremendous support system, and that is what is helping me. I’m going through all of the same emotions of loss as all others, but I’ve learned that as I share with my friends, they’re able to help me. Even if they can only listen, it’s still a very big help. I hope that you’ll follow through and get a copy of the book, “Silent Grief.” I’m not trying to push a book, but I do believe it’s one of the best books out there on child loss. It’s a book written from the heart and with many prayers. I believe God wants this book to be in the hands and hearts of many. My love to you. I’m so very sorry for your loss. 🙁

  • farrah mantooth

    I am sorry for the loss of your son . My daughter was killed in a car accident on August 28,2014 and had her whole life ahead of her she was just 18 years old never gotten her driver license or got up graduate high school or experience mother hood. Oh how I missed her she was just a passager in the truck and died her, the driver, another passager and the man of lawn mower just one survived and that was my daughters friend.

    • Clara Hinton

      I am so, so sorry to hear of this tragic accident. Every time I hear of another child being taken too soon my heart breaks just a bit more. Life can be so very unfair and we are left with no answers — only questions. My heartfelt love is sent to you. Thank you so much for your comment. I appreciate that more than you know.

  • Robert

    I saw an article about clowns working in pediatric wings. A really good clown can sometimes bring a smile to a seriously ill child by doing a sympathy vigil. I am interested in taking up clowning with the goal of developing a robot clown routine to use in pediatric wings sometimes a child is afraid of clowns. I have never known a child who was afraid of a robot. I might be trying one f those vigils myself.

    • Clara Hinton

      Yes, I’m very aware of clowns working in pediatric wings. And, it’s a truly exciting way to help children! Do you remember the movie Patch Adams? A lovely tribute to how important it is to bring a smile to the hearts of those in pain.

      What a great idea of developing a robot clown routine! You’re “right on” about some kids being afraid of clowns. I, like you, have never heard a child who was afraid of a robot. I hope that you’ll follow through on this wonderful idea!