I’ve written a fair amount about the things you should and shouldn’t say to grieving parents. There’s one expression that I’ve purposely left off the lists. Like most of the “wrong” things people say after a child passes away, this one is well-intentioned. But, this one stings no matter where I am on the grief timeline, and since almost every grieving parent I’ve encountered is also bothered by this platitude I feel like I can’t be silent about it anymore.
Please do not tell me that because my child is dead, you are hugging your own children tighter.
It’s been said to me more times than I can count, and I want to be clear that if you’ve said it to me or someone else you know, it’s okay. Truly. We get that you mean well by this comment. We understand that our lost children are inspiring you to do better by your own kids. And we understand that you don’t know what to say to us, and we appreciate that you say something instead of nothing.
But…enough already. We grieving parents already know that we are a living, breathing representation of your worst nightmare. And as great as it is that you have some perspective, we don’t need to be reminded that it’s at our expense. Would you ever tell a widow or widower that you’re going to hug your (living) spouse tighter? Of course not.
“Hug your kids tighter!” has become the clichéd thing to say whenever something bad happens to a child. Literally every day when I look at Facebook I see the expression used to introduce a sad story. It’s said so often that I think people have completely forgotten what it means, or how a grieving parent might react to hearing it.
I rarely fault people for how they interpret tragedy. Part of processing bad things is running it through the filter of our own experiences. It’s impossible to imagine how it would feel to lose a child until it happens to you. When you place yourself in the shoes of a grieving parent, it’s terrifying. It’s natural to want to hug your kids. So hug them, please. But don’t tell a grieving parent about it.
Thank you for this post. I’ve always found that to be an incredibly offensive comment but unable to express how. It shouldn’t take someone else’s tragedy to gain perspective although I understand why that happens. There is one particular very popular (though I can’t imagine why – she seems like a huge jerk), who uses that phrase fairly regularly. No. Stop it. Thinking of all those who wish they could hold their babies closer especially you and Mike.
I would never, ever presume to know what another grieving parent feels. And, I don’t personally prescribe to “hug tighter”. My mindset and thought process is different than other people when it comes to that. It is rare that I play the woulda, shoulda, coulda game with what is lost. We know they mean well. I guess that’s all we can hope for. It was my mother that said you can never put yourself in someone else’s shoes, even if you’ve been there, too. She is so right.
Oh how I relate to your post Heather. I wish I didn’t, I wish we both didn’t. Even though my daughter was grown, I have still had people say that to me. I want to scream every time I hear it. I know they mean well, but as you said, I don’t WANT to hear it. Ugh, how this sucks! I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy.
I always wondered about your perspective on this, as it makes me cringe and I am not a grieving parent. Thank you for sharing your perspective and for you enormous amounts of grief that you bestow upon those of us who don’t understand but want to comfort you and other grieving families without accidentally wounding them further. If I have ever done so, please forgive me and never ever hesitate to email me & let me know so that I don’t do it again in the future. (For instance, I wasn’t sure about posting that tulip picture on Facebook) Seriously. Love you!
I think people so badly want to say something remarkable that they end up totally missing the mark. “I’m so sorry. I’m praying for you/thinking of you. I love you. I loved _____.” THE END.
And for you, Heather and Mike, and for others who share here who have lost children, I pray for you regularly. Hugs.
What you say is perfect. Thank you so much for praying for us. xoxo
I think I have said just about every wrong thing on your list at some point, and I so very deeply appreciate your advice. Thank you. I’m a regular reader and I love your blog. Please keep going, even when it’s hard to do so.
Ditto to what Jennie said. Thank you Heather for your insight. I’m so very sorry that you have it. I think I’ve tried to comfort grieving parents with this sentiment. And I agree that I would not say I’m hugging my husband tighter to a widow/er. Can’t figure out why I didn’t equate the two?
I can tell you first hand some people say “I’m going to go home and hug my husband”” to me. More than once. Also, the “I know what you are feeling because I divorced my no good husband”. It’s not the same to tell me it’s the same thing–that person had a choice, I didn’t.
UGH. That is so icky. I’m so sorry you have to deal with that. And I can’t believe that anyone cannot see the difference between a marriage ending in divorce vs ending in death. Jeez. Lots of love to you, Charlene xoxo
I’ve said every “wrong” thing, too. Even though I should know better. Saying the wrong thing, but with good intentions, will always be better than saying nothing at all. xoxo
I don’t know. If saying nothing is having no words to express empathy and do justice to the pain of another rather than not caring, I’d say the former is preferable.
(And yes, my go to is “OMG, I have no words for that.”, and to let the other person decide if they want to talk about their pain or not. Listening is so underrated in our society, but so crucial to being connected to others!)
Leigh Anne says:
Some of the other things that have been said to me are “I am so happy that I got to see them graduate/get married/etc. Really? I’m standing there, you are talking to ME, you know I will NEVER see that, and yet you go on and on about he wonderful this day is for you.
I have a smile and wave attitude. Then I go home to cry because I will never know.
So, basically, because you child died people cannot talk to you about the happy moments in their lives?
My daughter died on christmas day 2002, but that doesn’t stop me from celebrating my friend’s daughter graduation, my nephew’s birthday, etc. My beautiful girl is gone, she will never know life beyond nine years. I missed her so much that writing this post is killing me but I can say I’m truly happy watching the children and teens around me reach their milestones. Each one grieves in a different way but I know my friends mean no harm when they talk about their kid’s acompishments.
Correct me if I am completely wrong in my interpretation on this, but I think what she meant was the wording of those statements?
Like, “I am so happy I got to see them…”, sounds sort of like they are counting their blessings that they didn’t lose their child the way someone currently being spoken to did. It has an non-malicious but self-centered tone of “Sure glad it wasn’t me.”
The harm in this statement is that they are AWARE of this person’s loss; they are using that awareness of their tragedy to state to them that they are glad they got to experience something, which they KNOW that person never will. It’s like saying you are counting your blessings right in front of the person who lost someone. Perhaps they truly do feel that way, but it’s rather thoughtless to state that in their presence.
It’s not the statement of joy that’s the problem, but a statement of joy made by reflecting on someone’s loss.
Lots of hugs, Leigh Anne. xoxo
I really don’t understand when people say this. Whenever there is a shooting, or something in the news about kids getting hurt…”go home,
And hug your kids tighter tonight.” I want to say f u! I hug my kids every waking second I can. I don’t need others telling me that cuz of your guilt or cuz you told me on Facebook! If you ever need a list of what not to say to an adoptive mom, let me know I get things along the same lines.
I agree with TonyaM above that you should just indicate your sadness and support and wait for cues. Last week I was working at the high school counseling office and a mom I know came in — her daughter died by suicide in mid-March — we hugged and I asked if there was anything I could do and she said, “just go home and hug your boys”. So, there is nothing right because the situation isn’t right. Every single person grieves differently.
Yes, following cues is so smart and the perfect way to figure out what someone who is grieving needs right in that moment.
I could not agree more with you. I would give anything to hug my lost Jake and Sawyer just once more.
I try to remind myself that people mean well and as you wrote they just want to say something. They just don’t know what to say.
I wish neither of us had to live with being other parents worst nightmares. Sending hugs and hope. xo
I cringe when I hear that phrase too…just rubs me the wrong way
I cannot tell you how to feel because that would be demeaning and insensitive, but I believe what people are saying and doing is related to cherishing what they have because they suddenly realize that death can occur at any given moment (although we do not live our lives wondering if that could be the moment). There are many people who are so consumed with themselves that they do not cherish those around them and in their families and a sudden death can have a powerful effect where a person does change his or her behavior around loved ones and it may start with hugging those close to them.
I do believe that people mean well.
You made a comment about a grief timeline. I actually do not believe there is one. People grieve in different ways and at different times the way a person grieves changes.
My brother passed away on Easter Sunday. He’d been sick for a long time and I’m so over the following: It’s all God’s Plan and Everything Happens for a Reason
And yet, for some reason, I am telling people to stop fighting with their sibling. Life is so short and it can change in the blink of an eye and it hurts me to see people fighting because I didn’t fight with my brother. I wish I could rather than having to bury my beloved baby brother.
Margie, I’m so very sorry for the loss of your baby brother. Wishing you peace and love.
Thank you. Despite being 34, he was my baby brother, the light of my life.
Margie, I’m so sorry for your loss. Prayers and love sent your way.
Abby Leviss says:
People have been telling me lately that “every thing happens for a reason” because of a failed adoption that we’ve just experienced. I feel like I have to keep reminding them that my son died almost three years ago and that I can see no reason at all why that was “meant to be”. And as for hugging children tighter, this is a post that I wrote on the same subject: http://missingmaxie.blogspot.com/2012/12/how-to-say-what-you-mean.html. It is a terrible thing to hear even if it is meant to be comforting somehow.
I am sorry for the loss of your brother… I can tell from your words here that you loved him deeply.
Thank you, Rachel. I love him so very much.
So much love to you, Margie. I’m always here if you need anything. xoxo
Thank you, Heather.
I’m in shock. How did this happen? How did I get here? I don’t understand how I buried my little brother. WTF is this bullshit?
That is what runs through my head 24/7. I need a grief book.
This brought tears to my eyes. I have a brother about that age and I’ve always felt very motherly towards him. I’m so sorry for your loss. Hugs and prayers from Tennessee.
This is good advice. I think people are at a loss for words when talking to someone experiencing grief. Sometimes, no matter is said, some people will find it painful, however well intentioned the person saying it is. Everyone is in a different place and comfort can hurt. I have an adult son with Aspergers who seems to get it.. He just says what he feels (he doesn’t worry about social implications or taboos, because he doesn’t understand them). He likes to remind them of happy memories of the one they lost and likes to talk with them about the person. He listens and then just tells them he feels badly for them and gives them a hug. Once, he lost a friend in second grade. Later, his mother told me that my son was the only one that would still talk with her freely about her son. Even her own family avoided the topic because it was awkward. Knowing what is painful to hear while grieving is helpful.
Your son sounds pretty amazing. xoxo
I am so grateful for these posts, truly. Our friends lost their son a month ago, and it helps to know that sometimes just listening is best. This phrase has always annoyed me too… it’s like rubbing salt in a wound.
Listening helps so much. You’re a good friend, Bethany!
I understand that when faced with tragedy that isn’t their own, but could well be, most people are at a loss what to say and of course mean well, but I agree: Telling others to hug their kids closer or, even worse, that they’re going to “mug” on their own baby, and feel “so blessed” (another overused to the point of utter obnoxiousness phrase) is something one might think, but is completely unnecessary and thoughtless to voice out loud. There is a whole lot of good that happens through the internet — such as helping strangers through truly horrible life events and circumstances — but I believe more and more that many of those who do so are either in a competition to prove who is the most holier-than-thou and at the same time gain more page views. And then there are those who love those hashtags, and feel they are making the world a better place by hash-tagging every cause and/or tragedy they can, particularly when the cause or tragedy in question involves someone who merits their attention only because they belong to the same religion, subscribe to the same political leanings, or are of any other demographic they deem worthy of attention.
Yeah…I totally feel you. It was so different for my family re: social media/page views five years ago. I always want to believe that people have the best of intentions but sometimes things get get a little…tacky.
I couldn’t agree more.
I wrote about the very same thing.
I think it’s another attempt to ‘fix it’ or at least to find *some* kind of silver lining in the situation. I think it can be hard for someone grieving to watch someone else to take their blessings for granted (like fighting with their siblings, as another commenter said). So they’re trying to say, well, at least I’m not doing that, I’m being grateful for my living children. I think the whole impulse to try to offer comfort by finding something ‘good’ about the situation is misguided, although human. You have to just acknowledge that losing a loved one is just plain awful, period.
Amen. Couldn’t have wrote it better myself. This one line really says it all:”We grieving parents already know that we are a living, breathing representation of your worst nightmare.” Twenty six years later I STILL get the “I don’t know how you survive this” which may sound innocent enough but almost always makes me feel like I need to defend my surviving this loss. Because what I hear them say is,”You must not have loved your daughter to the extent I love my kids cause I couldn’t live”. Well, let’s hope you never have to find out is all I can think.
Sally, thank you for sharing your perspective on another common response. What many of us say, and what the grieving hear, are clearly often very different things.
So… I’m kinda guilty of this. Not that I have ever said it straight to a parent who has lost a child. In our town, 7 children died in a tornado almost a year ago. Recently I watched the parents on TV describe what they are going through. I posted the video on FB and did say something about “go hug your kids”. I, now, totally see how this could be offensive to the parents of those children. I hug and kiss my kids as often as they will let me and I tell them I love them even more than that. For me, its not about realizing in the wake of tragedy how much they mean to me – because I know it and live it every day. It’s about the sudden realization that any one of us could be those parents. Its about having empathy and compassion for what they are going through. I will never be able to understand their path of grief. Ever. But I can, go hug my kiddos and feel deep in my soul, real grief. For them. For their child. For the community.
I really appreciate this perspective, as hard though it is for me to read. Yes, it’s something I tend to think–or sometimes say out loud–when any tragedy happens. Whether to kids or not. I can’t imagine saying it directly to someone describing their own personal loss (no more than I could say “he’s gone to a better place” or “it’s for the best” which makes me want to scream) but your point about it hurting others inadvertently is a good one.
Thank you Heather. It’s good for us to learn how to be more sensitive in ways we might not have considered.
Yes! Agree with this 100%. I’ve definitely thought it and hope I haven’t said it (even with a widower). Thank you for the insight, Heather.
Katherine Stone (@postpartumprog) says:
Thank you so much for writing this Heather. Because I never know what to say, and I can only imagine all the wrong things I’ve unwittingly said over the years because I was trying to help in some way or to selfishly make myself feel better.
completely agree! For someone to say they are “blessed” after hearing about someone else’s child passing completely angers me. First of all, you are not BLESSED because your child is alive, because guess what? Tomorrow it could be YOUR child that dies, or maybe something could happen to your child as an adult. So to the people who post they are “blessed” on Facebook, they better knock it off before Karma comes around. You can be thankful and lucky in your own head because something like that hasn’t happen to you. But you don’t go around saying it for crying out loud
cindy w says:
I kind of want to bookmark this post and leave it on Facebook every time someone says something like that. It’s an expression that’s always rubbed me the wrong way, and I couldn’t quite articulate why. So thank you.
Meagan Francis says:
This phrase has never sat well with me, though it’s possible I’ve said it – I’m thinking in particular of times when there has been massive loss of child life, on a scale that really makes me consider how It Can Happen To Anyone. But Heather, I never really considered why until I read this. Even when it’s not said directly TO the grieving parent, it’s still not any kind of comfort to them…how could it be?
The other reason I don’t like it is because, except for some reason with the large-scale tragedies like I mentioned above, other people’s loss rarely makes me think of my own family. Someone I know losing her child really isn’t about me, or my relationship with my child (though I know, it could be.)
I think you’re right that people mostly say stuff like this because we don’t know WHAT to say, so I really appreciate your sensitive explanation here.
Thank you for this. I never know what to say and am afraid of saying the wrong thing. But I’ve learned that saying the wrong thing is always better than saying nothing. And just saying that you’re there is better. We all need to stop trying to fix it. Hugging our kids doesn’t fix the tragedy and heartache of great loss. Doing isn’t the answer. There is no answer. It doesn’t get easier. It can’t. All we can do is just walk with one another. So we don’t have to do any of this alone.
RookieMom Heather says:
Thank you, Heather, My mind is a blank about whether I’ve said this before. My heart hurts and I am at a loss for helpful words and I turn into a blathering idiot.
Thank you so much for this.
Such a good point.
I’m wondering if this post was inspired by the tragic death of Baby Boy Bakery’s son. She is mom blogger, and “instagram famous” and there has been an explosion of support for the family on social media. If you search the hashtag redballoonsforryan you will see a lot of people posting about how they will be hugging their kids tighter as a result of Ryan’s death. Reading all of those posts struck me as insensitive and self-indulgent, like it’s not about you, but the poor family that lost their son. Anyways, thanks for posting this and speaking about what’s best to say and not say during the grieving process.
Thanks for this great post, Heather. While it’s not the same situation you are writing about, I also feel really uncomfortable by comments people make such as “she refused to give up and wasn’t going to let cancer beat her” or “I knew God would see her through this” – if you have lost someone to a terrible disease, these words suggests that those who have succumbed to illnesses didn’t fight “as hard” or must not have been on God’s special list of survivors. It makes sense why people say these kinds of comments, but it’s easy to forget how painful it can be to others whose loved ones weren’t as fortunate.
Amen to all you said! My dad died at 59 of colon cancer. He served 20 years in the Army Special Forces, so yeah, he was a fighter. The bottom line is fighters die too. As do people who are blessed. As do people who “know” God will heal them. Incidentally, he also had a crazy sense of humor. He kept a journal entitled Stupid Things People Say to Cancer Patients. As you can imagine, it was full.
I think I have said this. I am sorry if I have. After miscarrying two babies I got folks saying “it wasn’t meant to be” and that hurt. Grief is such a minefield of emotions and it is hard to know what to say. I cry with you when I read Maddie posts. I hope that is a better thing to say.
I, for one, am one of those people who tend to err on the side of caution by saying nothing, because I am terrified that I am going to say the wrong thing and cause even more pain. I understand though that this can seem insensitive to someone who is grieving.
Just makes me want to hug *you* tighter.
I have read this statement time and time again… most recently with the loss of Ryan Saldana, and it makes me cringe. Why point-out that you can still hold your child when someone just lost their own? I don’t see why people think that would be comforting.
Thank you for clarifying how hurtful that statement can be. Hopefully it makes people think and stop using it.
You’re right, it comes from a place that means well, but I’m stunned at the number of people who don’t think it through. The last thing I would want to hear if I were grieving the loss of my child is that the Internet still have theirs to hold tighter. Everyone needs to read this post.
I’m *sure* I have said the wrong thing to many a grieving person—that’s the bumbly part of me. But that particular phrase never sits right for me so I tend not to use it.
I’m so glad, Heather, that you are sharing this with us—because you are right, it really is from a well-intentioned place—about holding on to the precious things you have in your life when tragedy happens and the world seems upside down.
But it’s just so, so shitty that you can’t do that and I can’t imagine that sting for you when you have to hear it and see it..over and over and over and continuously be reminded.
Love you, my friend. xoxo
Hey lovely, I’ve been thinking about you a lot this week. This post is SO full of wisdom.
So much love to you my favourite Americano xxxxxx
I can’t agree with this post more. I think it would be great if this post or an article like this can be published to a widely public media, like a newspaper or magazine. People should be educated and stop saying insensitive things.
Allison F says:
I am glad you wrote about this…we have friends who lost a child to cancer last year and they, too, heard that sentiment along with “she’s in a better place” quite a bit and it really ticked ME off, I never knew how they felt about it.
I also have a friend who has a daughter with a horrible, regressive disease, called Rett Syndrome and she has told me she can’t stand when people insinuate the more people who pray, the better chance she has of God “healing” her.
I get your perspective, I get her perspective. And I appreciate that you understand that people don’t mean to be hurtful when they say these things.
One of the previous commenters stated, “People should be educated and stop saying insensitive things.” I think that is a bit harsh. I think people who haven’t been in a similar situation just don’t know what to say. Hopefully, your well-written, sensitive post will help people to make wiser choices with their words.
Saying insensitive things is harsh to us grieving parents. You wouldn’t understand this unless you experience yourself. We don’t need be hurt for a second time.
Very, very, well said. I’ve hear that comment too, and each time wanted to say, “Well, I wish I could hug my son too, but that’s not happening this side of heaven.” I’ve started to tell people who ask me for advice on what to say to someone going through loss to say to the parent grieving, “I love you, I loved your child and will always always remember him/her.” Simple and heartfelt, and what I had/hoped people would tell me.
Julie Vitale says:
Thank you, thank you, thank you for posting this. I know the day my son died nearly 4 years ago in a freak accident ( he was 2 years 8 months old) facebook was blowing up with people hugging their children closer and counting their blessings. I share your sentiments 150%. Anytime I hear or see this I want to throw up. People just have no idea. I’m sorry that we both “get it”.
Hugs to you,
Christine Koh says:
“Part of processing bad things is running it through the filter of our own experiences.” <– This hits the nail on the head. I've come to realize that any time anything happens (whether a tragedy or a joyous occasion), humans invariably think about and react to things from an egocentric vantage point. This isn't a criticism, just the way we are (like kids, before they learn that there are actually other people around). Thank you for offering a reminder of the impact of this type of reaction.
And one thing I'd recommend is if you can't find the words, give hugs and prayers.
I so agree with you Christine. And so much with your last sentence…if you really don’t know what to say always go with hugs/prayers
I agree with what you said Heather, I hug my daughter tight 20 times a day, she is a hugger!! As I have said before I lost my baby boy at 6 months pregnant, and the one statement that people make to me, (which truth be told is why I no longer tell many people very often I actually have 2 children, one in heaven and one on earth)”well at least you still have a living child”, or “I bet you hug your daughter tighter every day”. I know people try to say the right things, and sometimes they just don’t translate that way right that minute, they are doing their best in their own way to comfort you but when one of these two things is said to me, I just want to explode!! Thanks for the post!!!
I also wanted to weigh in and say that condolences on social media really bother me. Sending people a quick email with a platitude and an icon of a heart or an angel bugs me. Visit the person, send a card in the mail with a heartfelt letter, but don’t go for the quick and easy route. I also think it’s very honest and appropriate to say, “I feel so bad that I’m having trouble finding any words. Just know I’m here for you and my heart is with you as you go though this” (or something of that nature).
I’ve been a regular reader since Maddie passed away. I can’t remember how I got there….I’ve been following your lives ever since: grief, despair, hope, joy…Maddie being here at every moment.
Maybe I’m going to say something that nobody will understand and find me terrible.
You see I’ m unable to have a baby.
I constantly wonder what is worse:
– having the memories of the one you have lost and deal with the grief
– feeling culprit of not being able to make the family you hoped for when you got married.
I’m not trying to compare grief but trying to understand if any of you wonderful mamas would rather have not have that lost child.
I’m so sorry you must think i’ m a selfish monster but your answers would mean the world to me to help me make peace with my self.
Please Heather know that your wonderful family is always in my prayers and James’ just pieces of joy! Xoxo
You are not terrible. At all.
I used to think about this, actually. There was a time when my OB thought I would miscarry Maddie, and sometimes I wondered if it would have hurt less to lose her then, as opposed to all those months later. And yes, it would have hurt a LOT les. But I can’t imagine my life without having had her in it.
So…I don’t know…there’s no good answer. I would never wish the pain I’ve experienced on anyone, but I can’t imagine not having that love, either.
Also, I’m just so sorry. I can’t imagine the pain and grief you must feel over this. Lots of love to you. xoxo
Virginie I can’t offer the advice you are looking for as I have not lost a child and I have children. However, I have walked the throes of grief and I recognize your situation as grief. Grief for a baby you can’t have. You are not terrible as these questions are real. I find myself at times questioning my thoughts as I deal with grief, are these questions normal, does anyone else feel them, etc… Wish you the best….
You are not a terrible person at all. I relate to what you are saying, it took me a long time and fertility treatments to conceive my daughter, and they thought I might miscarry her, then she was born to early, but she made it, she is 11 and thriving. When I was trying to get pregnant with her I had some of those same thoughts that you do, it is human nature, do not beat yourself up!! I also lost my baby boy at 6 months pregnant, and one of the thoughts that I have a lot is why couldn’t they save him? They save babies born at this mark all the time. I have wondered would it have been better to have not gotten pregnant with my baby boy then to have lost him like I did. You seem to be a very insightful, sincere, compassionate person. Every emotion you are feeling is absolutely normal!!
Thank you for writing this. We spent Saturday with my parents, and the words from this post were fresh in my head. My Mom had a baby boy five years after me, and he died a few hours after his birth. It was a very traumatic birth, following a complicated pregnancy. My Mom began talking about the baby and her experience again on Saturday, and I think for the first time I was really able to listen and embrace her grief (I don’t mean that to sound weird). I have never known how to handle the topic when she would bring it up. On Saturday, she talked about his birth much more openly and emotionally than I think she ever has. I took the advice and “followed her lead”, just letting her talk it out as much as she wanted to. I made sure I told her I was sorry and that I loved her. It was powerful to hear her talk about her feelings of guilt 44 years later. She did nothing wrong at all, but feels like maybe there was something she could have done differently. I appreciate what you have shared, and hope I was able to provide better support for my Mom. Thank you.
Gah, I think I have probably said this before! Admittedly, I suck at knowing what to say and am usually one of those people who hides and instead of sticking my foot in my mouth I just stay quiet. But I’ve been making an effort to say something, anything . . . and in that quest I probably offended someone. Thank you for writing this. I will not ever say this again.
Thank you so much for writing these posts. Although I have not lost a child, I have heard many of these after losing my mom. Although, the worst one has to be that I am lucky to have had the time I had with her. Yes, I am thankful for all the memories that we have together and I am thankful that she shared more with me than many of my friends’ mothers have shared with them, but that does not help with the loss of the future that we were supposed to have together, things I’m not going to get to experience with her like weddings and that my future children will never get the opportunity to know their grandma. Although reminiscing about happier times may temporarily appease our grief it can never fill certain losses. Sending you lots of love. xoxo
After losing my dad, I learned that some things in life just suuuuuuck. There are no words. There’s no consoling the loss of a loved one. I appreciate the “well you know he’s in a better place” as well intended, but I don’t want to hear that ish either. Why is it so hard for us to be honest? I have no idea the immense grief of losing a child. It’s quite ok for us to just say, I have no words. I know that my words will never soothe the ache you feel. I know people feel compelled to try and help, but sometimes I just wanted to hear, I can’t tell you anything to make you feel better. I am inadequate. All I can be is present if that’s what you need.
For me, that would have been totally ok. Does that apply in other situations as well?
Yes, I think that applies! xoxo
I also lost my daughter. The statement I can’t take it that “everything happens for a reason.” I don’t and just can’t believe that my daughter was meant to die at 5 months old. I would appreciate that even if someone believes that, that they would keep in to themselves.
I’m so sorry about your daughter, Lori. I also HATE hearing that statement. Big hugs xoxo
I found this post via a friend who had just read my blog about the same thing. There has been so much tragedy the past couple of weeks and the social media circuit was being bombarded by ‘hugging my children tighter’ posts. I couldn’t agree with you any more as I basically wrote the same thing myself a week ago on my blog. I hate that we have this in common but am also a bit relieved to know that it’s not just me. There’s no handbook on navigating through the loss of a child. Thanks for sharing your heart.
Thank you, Patcine. xoxo
Actually, I am annoyed when some small or larger tragedy happens and am commanded from the TV, Hug your children tighter!, as if I’m not already hugging/loving my kid enough.
My niece died at the age of 5 months and my sister’s loss (and all of our loss) is just that: loss. Even after 17 years, it’s loss, plain and simple.
I understand this when the sentiment is said TO a grieving parent, but the anger that is directed towards people posting on social media (mostly mentioned here in the comments section) seems misplaced.
I felt horrible and broken after the recent kidnappings, and yes, it puts my privilege as a North American in stark contrast — I take it for granted that my daughter can safely go to school and come home everyday. I was at once humbled by my Western privilege (undeserved) while grieving for my sisters whose children’s fate were unknown. I sat there, praying, staring at my child and aching for the moms whose children weren’t in front of their eyes. I didn’t “cherish” having my daughter that much more, but yes, their loss and hurt stood in contrast to my experience. Not all of us are blessed to communicate with different terms how we are processing these tragedies, so we reach for admittedly cliche terms, but I don’t think the majority mean to say that they are lucky in comparison… If we are going to say that these terms shouldn’t be used on social media, perhaps we can suggest alternatives that are less offensive? Create a movement towards a new phrase that expressed the heart-wrenching that these parents are experiencing while not offending those who have suffered so much…
I would just suggest that you try to avoid bringing the situation back to you (“I’m hugging my children tighter” or “I’m so lucky to live in North America”) and instead be direct (“I’m so sorry for your loss” or “This situation with the kidnapped girls is unacceptable”). Hope that helps!
I’m not sure if I was unclear in my distinction between saying things in person vs social media, or if that’s where you and I have a strong difference. I expect social media to be an expression of people’s own processing and relatedness. In person, I would find any of the things I said or you mentioned disrespectful.
I think those of us who use social media as an extension of our professional selves forget what it is for most people who use it primarily for social reasons. Many of the moms that I know have little social contact during the day except through social media. People are going to (feel the) need to express how the tragedy makes them feel in the safety of their social media spheres (and yes, I get how their expression can sometimes make those spheres unsafe for others — the same as how the ubiquitous Friday wine posts will make the recovering alcoholic feel unsafe logging in Friday night), and I guess I feel the need to provide statements that they can use about their own experience that will be less offensive to those who have encountered loss.
I have been thinking about this a lot. Although I’m not guilty of having said I’d hug my children tighter, I did post something here a while back that brought your grief around to me. I don’t remember exactly what I wrote, something to the effect of trying harder at being a parent. Because what happened to Maddie has brought a big picture focus, a reality check: a don’t sweat the small stuff thing.
I can understand how pointless that is for you to hear, how hurtful. I wish I hadn’t said it. I only wanted you to know that that your story, your daughter, affected me in more ways than one. Not only do I feel for you. But your daughter has come to mean something in my daily life. And those of us who stupidly say something like this, that’s what we are clumsily trying to convey. That Maddie not only evokes empathy, for you, for her, but something positive too. That she left more on this earth. That she has inspired a stranger to more than just tears.
I hope this doesn’t sound like a lame excuse. More than anything, I come here because I want to hear you, I want to understand.
PLEASE don’t feel bad about it! I promise, you didn’t hurt me. I appreciate your words and that you read, so much!
Just wanted to add that I hate that saying too. I feel that it’s totally like putting salt on a wound of a grieving person. I can imagine that parents of decreased children want most to hug their child more time and by saying that inane comment it just reminds them of what they can not do. It’s really a terrible thing to say and thank you for explaining that to people with this post.