In 2013, I found out I was pregnant with triplets. My husband and I were in shock, but thrilled at the news after dealing with infertility for years. And it didn’t take long for the comments to begin. When people found out, the usual remarks followed: Triplets?!?! What are you going to do? 3 kids at once?!? Glad it’s not me! After mastering my response (and sometimes an evil look), I figured that was the worst of it. But little did I know, I would be facing far worse comments after two of my triplets passed away.
On June 23, 2013, I gave birth to my triplets, more than 4 months premature. My daughter, Abigail, passed away that same day; my son, Parker, died just shy of two months old. Before then, I didn’t know much about child loss; it was uncharted territory. Like most people, I wouldn’t know how to respond or what to say if a friend’s child passed away. But two years later, I have found that some things are better left unsaid. These comments come from a good place and I know people mean well, but they sure do sting. Here are my Top 5 things not to say to a grieving parent:
Everything happens for a reason
It’s a cringe-worthy comment for those of us who lost a child. Sometimes, there is no rhyme or reason why things happen in life. A parent should not outlive their child. I don’t know why my body couldn’t handle my pregnancy or why I went into labor at 22 weeks. This phrase goes along with another I often hear: “God only gives us what we can handle.” I remember talking with my childhood Rabbi the night before my son passed away and I asked her, why me? Her response is something I now live by every single day. She said, “God doesn’t give us only what we can handle. He helps us handle what we’ve been given.”
They are in a better place
Excuse me? Instead of comforting, this is a phrase that makes me feel down in the dumps. I longed to be a parent for so many years. Children are meant to be in the loving arms of their parents. I think I speak for every grieving mother and father when I say, we would give anything to hold our babies again.
At least you have one survivor, Count your blessings
So you’re telling me that having one survivor makes up for losing the other two? I like to think of myself as a positive person. But even 2 years later, my heart still aches for Parker and Abby. And on the most difficult, dark days of grief, it’s hard to “count my blessings.” Yes, I am blessed. I have a gorgeous miracle child who is the light of my life. But, Peyton should be playing with her brother and sister in our home, not just waving to their pictures and blowing kisses to heaven.
You are still young, you can have more children
It doesn’t matter whether our biological clock is ticking. Many people have no idea what couples go through to have a child. Some can’t have children of their own, others may face years of infertility or miscarriages. And for people like me, trying for more children may be something too scary to even think about. I came close to death after delivering my children, that’s enough to scar me for life.
I don’t know how you do it. I couldn’t imagine losing two children
Some days I don’t know how I do it either. But, we learn how to live with it. We learn a “new normal,” and in those tough moments, we celebrate that we survived the day. This comment is a difficult reminder of our grief and the children who were sent to heaven.
So, what should you say to a grieving parent? There are no words to take the pain away, but simply letting that person know you are there for them is more than enough. For me, the best thing someone can do is to talk about my angels. Say Parker and Abby by name and don’t be afraid to ask questions about them. While they were only here for a short time, they left a huge imprint on this world. I love talking about my angels, and simply hearing someone else mention them by name, is enough to wipe away the grief and warm my heart for days.
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A version of this originally appeared in the fall on Her View From Home
Very good points to make Stacey. I just love to see Ms P on the steps and her great big smile. I know that you will always have Parker and Abby in your heart and Peyton will know, if she already doesn’t, that her brother and sister will always be close to her. It is so sweet that she waves to them when she goes up and down the stairs. That’s love that no one else will know. Hugs to all and have a very safe weekend.
Maria Mccloughan says
Thank you those are all the comments I heard and still cringe when I think of them
I also knew people meant well but????
Wow! You are strong mama. I’ve lost a baby too. I’m very thankful my baby in heaven sent his brother down here on earth so I could share life with him BUT like you said, I still miss my angel very much! <3 🙁
So thankful you shared this! There are never the right words for any loss but it’s important to hear first hand experiences of what NOT to say. When my sons dad passed last fall, I learned a lot about what I wish people wouldn’t say to us…. You’ve inspired me to start writing a post of my own… Xoxo
Juliet @ Bowl of Cherries says
This is a truly amazing post! I cringed when I read some of the comments that people made to you – they would have ruined my day. It’s hard to know what to say, but spreading these tips will help people understand. Thank you so much for sharing this with us ❤︎
Thank you so much for sharing this, it’s helpful to know what not to say.
Allison - Celebrating Sweets says
Thanks for sharing your experience. Your tips are so helpful!
Jasmine Hewitt says
You are incredibly brave for sharing this, and it’s a very important thing to learn from and take in
Such a beautiful post! I love that you spell out what to say or not to say. It will help me in the future. I know a few people with angel babies, and it can be a little frightening knowing what to say without upseting.
Susan Zuckermsn says
Excellent advice, Stacey. Sadly, most of these individuals sincerely want to say the right thing – if there is such a thing – and have no idea how their good intentions have gone terribly awry.
Very authentic post. I’m so sorry for your losses. I think it’s good to let people know what not to say and also what you do want to hear in that situation. I’m a labor and delivery nurse and I always worry about saying the wrong thing. We’re taught to avoid all the examples you shared and encourage mom to talk about her baby/babies. We are encouraged to cry right along side mom if we’re so moved, and we do. I do.
Thank you Jen. I have nothing but love and respect for the doctors and nurses who care for those of us bereaved parents. I’m sure there are many difficult days for you as a nurse.