What to say to someone coping with grief

It’s hard enough to cope with your own grief after losing someone special to you, but to swallow the words that your support network try and offer, can also be difficult.

Recently, I have been in the unfortunate situation of having to go through losing my baby boy at 24.4 weeks gestation, two days after a traumatic labour and birth. I’m the kind of person who just wanted to be left alone, to find my own way out of the hell hole I was in, but the uniqueness of losing a baby or a child, is that you’re sharing the grief with someone else. So, my husband and I had to give and take a lot in the first week after losing our child so that we could both feel satisfied and content in the most appropriate way possible to allow our grief to flow freely.

Our natural instinct as humans, as New Zealanders, is to want to help others in the event of a tragedy, big or small. So in relevance to losing a baby, I wanted to provide some ideas on what to say to someone going through a similar situation. Every situation is different though, so remember that these are just my own thoughts and in no way gospel

Do say:

  • I’m sorry. This is the most commonly used phrase in the event of a tragedy but from a grieving person’s perspective, it shows that you care about them and that’s all they need to know
  • Tell me about your day today. Let the person grieving a chance to talk about something. This way you can grab hold of something that they have opened up about and ask them further open questions about that (how they felt, what they thought).
  • I’ve made you dinner for tonight. I’ll drop it to your doorstep at 5pm but I don’t need to stay Blimin heck, this one is a goodie. We need to eat but having to think about it hasn’t crossed our minds due to all the other crap going on in there

Don’t Say:

  • Thank you. I had someone say this to me at my son’s cremation and it left a pretty bad taste in my mouth. I’m fully aware that that person was possibly just thanking me for possibly letting us include them in saying goodbye, but there are so many other words that are a heck of a lot more appropriate
  • How are you. We’re shit. You already know that. We’ve had someone close to us die.
  • Let me know if there’s anything I can do for you. We probably wont ask as we know you’re just being polite. If you really want to do something, have that certain thing in mind (like mowing the lawns, weeding, washing etc) and say you would really like to come and do that specific thing for them and to let you know what day suits.

Don’t ignore me and not contact me because you don’t know the right thing to say. Make time to see me and hear me. I need you.

Be an active listener, not a static listener

Support services for dealing with grief and loss include;


True Colours

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