Supporting Others

Don’t walk ahead of me, I may not want to follow;
Don’t walk behind me, I may not want to lead;
Just walk beside me and be my friend.

(Some people attribute this to having come from the Compassionate Friends organization and others to a woman named Jenny Coffey who is listed on as being the author.)

I wish my child hadn't died. I wish I had her back.I wish you wouldn't be afraid to speak my child’s name. My child lived and was very important to me. I need to hear that she was important to you also.

If I cry and get emotional when you talk about my child I wish you knew that it isn't because you have hurt me. My child’s death is the cause of my tears.
You have talked about my child, and you have allowed me to share my grief. I thank you for both.

I wish you wouldn't “kill” my child again by removing her pictures, artwork, or other remembrances from your home.

Being a bereaved parent is not contagious, so I wish you wouldn't shy away from me. I need you now more than ever.
I need diversions, so I do want to hear about you; but, I also want you to hear about me.
I might be sad and I might cry, but I wish you would let me talk about my child, my favorite topic of the day.

I know you think of and pray for me often. I also know that my child’s death pains you, too.
I wish you would let me know those things through a phone call, a card, note, or a real big hug.

I wish you wouldn't expect my grief to be over in a short period of time. I wish you could understand that my grief will never be over. I will suffer the death of my child until the day I die. Grief is a life long process. I am working very hard in my recovery, but I wish you could understand that I will never fully recover.

I will always miss my child, and I will always grieve that she is dead.
I wish you wouldn't expect me “not to think about it” or to “be happy.” Neither will happen for a very long time, so don’t frustrate yourself. I don’t want to have a “pity party”, but I do wish you would let me grieve. I must hurt before I can heal.

I wish you understood how my life has shattered. I know it is miserable for you to be around me when I’m feeling miserable. Please be as patient with me as I am with you.
When I say “I’m doing okay”, I wish you could understand that I don’t “feel” okay and that I struggle daily.

I wish you knew that all of the grief reactions I’m having are very normal.
Depression, anger, hopelessness and overwhelming sadness are all to be expected. So please excuse me when I’m quiet and withdrawn or irritable and cranky.
Your advice to “take one day at a time” is excellent advice. However, a day is too much and too fast for me right now. I wish you could understand that I’m doing good to handle an hour at a time.

Please excuse me if I seem rude, certainly not my intent. Sometimes the world around me goes too fast and I need to get off. When I walk away, I wish you would let me find a quiet place to spend time alone.

I wish you understood that grief changes people. When my child died, a big part of me died with her. I am not the same person I was before my child died, and I will never be that person again. I wish very much that you could understand my loss and grief, my silence and my tears, my void and my pain. BUT…I pray daily that you will never understand.

Be there
The thought of supporting someone whose baby has died can be frightening. Not knowing what to say can prevent you visiting them during this heartbreaking time. A time when you may be most needed. Please remember that simply being there and offering to listen can mean a lot. If you’re unsure what to say, be honest – “I don’t know what to say” can actually say an awful lot. Don’t be frightened of silence – you can simply sit by them and offer a hug.

Acknowledge baby
It does not matter if the baby died in pregnancy or lived for a short time – an entire lifetime of hopes, dreams and wishes has also gone. Do not be afraid to talk about the baby and ask questions about him/her. It is important to use baby’s name as this lets the parents know that you think the baby is special. You can ask to see photos and point out any special features. Asking about the birth may seem unnatural to you but many mothers love to tell their birth story – a mother of a baby who has died is no different. Do not try to hide your feelings of sadness – if you need to cry, allow this to happen naturally. This will only show how much you care.

Don’t minimise the loss
Often, what may seem comforting to you can be extremely hurtful to parents whose baby has died. Things like “it was meant to be”, “you are young, you can have another baby”, “at least you have other children”, “god needed an angel” etc, can say to a parent that this baby was not important. All though it may be true that another baby is possible, it is this baby that was loved and wanted. This baby was and is special and this baby will always be their child. No child can ever be replaced by another. (see below for more things not to say)

Offer practical support
Instead of saying “just ask if there is anything you would like me to do”, you could offer to take a meal round on a particular day, or babysit (if they have other children). If you are particularly close to the family, you could offer to help with the housework/cooking etc.

Send a card/flowers
If you are unsure about what to write, simply say you are thinking of them. You could also send flowers for the funeral/memorial service. Flowers that can be dried are often a good choice as these can be kept in the baby’s memory box.

Don’t forget Dad
Fathers can often be overlooked but we need to remember that their baby died too. Fathers often feel they need to be strong for their wife/partner and seldom feel free to grieve themselves. Let them open up to you if they need to – maybe offer to take them for a round of golf (or whatever they are interested in) and allow them to express their feelings.

Remember special dates
Many parents find certain days much harder than others. Their baby’s Birthday, Mothers Day, Fathers Day, Christmas etc can all be painful reminders that their baby is not there. Always acknowledge the baby’s birthday by sending a card. This will mean a lot to the parents. A phone call on other special days can show you care and are there to support them.

What Not To Say

“you are young, you can always have another baby”

“it was meant to be”

“god wouldn’t give you anything you couldn’t handle”

“at least you have other children”

“be grateful for your other children”

“these things happen for a reason”

“will you be trying again?”

“at least you didn’t get attached”

“god has a plan – this was part of it”

“you’ll get over it”

“there must have been something wrong”

“it’s for the best”

Better To Say

I haven’t had a chance to see all his pictures…I would love to see them when you are up for it.”

I’m so sorry. It’s just not fair. ~ There’s no good reason this happened. You don’t deserve this pain. I wish I could take it away from you. ~ It breaks my heart to see you suffering.

I am so sorry. I don’t know what to say

I miss him too. I wish he was here with us. ~ What’s your favorite memory of her? ~ What helps you feel closest to him when you miss him the most?

I’m thankful for you. ~ I’m thankful for your child. ~ I’m thankful for our friendship. ~ I’m thankful to witness your courage and bravery and strength.

I’m so sorry. It’s just not fair. ~ There’s no good reason this happened. You don’t deserve this pain. I wish I could take it away from you. ~ It breaks my heart to see you suffering.

I’ll walk with you every step of the way

I am so sorry, no parent should ever lose their child

He was such a beautiful child

I am so sorry, I have no idea what you are going through right now

I am so sorry. You must miss him

I’m so sorry, I don’t know what to say