There are moments in life when you just can’t find the right words to say. You’ll feel completely and utterly helpless and there’s nothing you can do about it but hope and pray it will just, eventually, get better. One of these instances is when someone you love goes through one of life’s most devastating tragedies: losing a child.
“A friend of mine was in a car accident last week that left both her daughters, ages 7 and 10, on life support and in comas. On Friday her 7-year-old was declared brain dead and they are having her funeral this week… I find myself terrified to talk to her. What can I even say? What do I do?”
“I started a Go Fund Me for her the day after the accident because it was the ONLY thing I could think to do but I’m so scared to talk to her,” she wrote. “I have no idea why. It’s like I’m scared to hear her mourning and heartbreak.”
It’s so difficult to come up with the right words to say in that situation, because honestly there just aren’t any.
You feel you can't ask how they’re doing (they’re not fine), ask what you can do (they'll probably say "nothing"), say corny stuff like "God needed an angel", and you cannot possibly say you understand (unless you too have lost a child – and even then, it’s not the same). But a few fellow Redditors offered words of advice and a few suggestions too.
Here are a few things to keep in mind when someone you love loses a child:
Things you’ll be tempted to say but absolutely shouldn’t
“How are you?” (She’s not doing well)
“Life is too short”
“Everything happens for a reason”
Also read: Helping kids cope with loss
Ways to be considerate
“She may not want to talk anyway”
Check in anyway
This includes sending texts, funny pictures to make her smile and offering to assist her with things she’s probably not going to feel she has the energy or strength to do now, like cooking. On that note…
Meals and deliveries are always welcome
Let them talk and make their own decisions about how they choose to mourn
Stay a little longer after everyone has left
Also read: "No parent should have to bury a child especially if the death could have been avoided!": Readers question school sports and safety
"Be available, but don’t push… you can’t save her, but you can guide her"
Many of the comments and advice came from parents who had lost a child themselves or had been in a similar situation before. They explained that while efforts didn't go unappreciated, nothing would ever change what they were feeling, simply because you could never change what had happened. They did all mention in some or other way though that getting back to life after losing a child, if at all possible, takes time, and a lot of it.
So one user didn't try to offer any meaningful advice but instead cut right to it:
“There’s nothing you can say or do to make her feel better. But you can be there for her.”
Do you have a friend that lost a child? How did you approach the situation? Send your advice we may share it with our readers.