What Not to Say to Someone Who Has Lost a Baby
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Do you know what not to say to someone who has lost a baby? Are you the one who has said goodbye to a precious one? I originally posted this to mark Mother’s Day, but this is a message of hope, courage, and compassion that needs to be heard year round. Please pin and share the hearts of these women to your social media channels today.
There is a group of us women who belong to one of those clubs that no one wants to be a member of. These are the moms who have said goodbye to a baby before they ever met on this side of heaven.
I myself am a member of this club, and no matter how many years have passed (for me it has been 16 years since I said goodbye to my first baby and nearly 11 years since I let go of my second “in heaven baby”), it is a journey that is never forgotten, and in this way, it is a journey that never ends.
I think it is human nature to try to explain pain. When we comfort others, we can so often say things that are intended to bring healing that instead bring pain. Things that the speaker would gladly take back if only they knew the wounds their verbal barbs left behind. Words can evoke emotions that were never intended to be awoken.
In talking to several other women who are in this club with me, this club where we have said goodbye to a sweet one much too soon, I came to discover that we heard many of the same things by those who intended to soothe our wounded hearts.
These fellow members lost babies who were only a few days old while others lost babies within days of their due dates and everything in-between, so this group of women is very diverse. We are different ages, have different experiences, different beliefs, and different networks, yet we all have the same gaping hole in our hearts that the loss of our precious sweet ones has left behind. We all share a commonality, a bond, a heartbeat.
Please know that as we shared these comments that caused us so much pain, we also all expressed that we understood how these words were well intended. These words were not meant to cripple us, yet they did.
My goal in sharing these well intended comments is to keep women who join our club in the future, the ones who have yet to lose babies who their heart and arms long to hold, from hearing these same things. My purpose is to share what was said, and then to share how it made us feel. Once you understand how it made us feel, you will be able to choose different words – or no words at all.
- Good thing it wasn’t really a baby. This was my child from the moment I learned they were coming.
- You can always have more. But more children will never bring this one back.
- You should feel blessed that you already have a child. I do, but I wanted this child, too.
- This was all part of God’s plan. This just doesn’t help…it hurts.
- Maybe this was God’s way of telling you that you shouldn’t have any more children. This one just hurts, too.
- Well, at least you didn’t know her. But I did know her, and I would have loved to know her more.
- It’s best that it happened this way because she could have been really disabled if she had survived. I wouldn’t have cared, I would have loved this child in whatever way she came to me.
- You should be grateful for the child you already have. I am, but that does not lessen the hurt I feel in losing this one.
- You’ll have one someday. I long for that day, which may or may not come, but no child will ever replace this one.
- Losing your baby was somehow meant to teach you a lesson. I can’t imagine what lesson that would be. No one should have to be taught this lesson.
These ideas were implied to various women as well, and they were very hurtful, too.
- That she needed to be over it. She was just too sad.
- Her pain was minimized, especially when she was told stories that “one-upped” hers.
- Her pain was dismissed because her experience really wasn’t that bad.
All the moms in this club unanimously agreed that we really don’t need you to say anything. You can just give us a hug. If you do want to say something, just tell us you’re sorry. That’s it. That’s all we really need.
We are a unique group of women who have been asked to travel a path that we would not have chosen to walk. This burden did not break us, and in some ways it may make us stronger, but it is a challenging path to navigate.
Please hear our hearts and choose your words carefully when comforting one of us. Sift your words through the filter we have shared here to embrace these moms rather than hurt these moms. You, and she, will be so glad you did.
Very powerful and important message. I lost an unborn baby 15 years ago that I still wonder what he or she would be like today had the pregnancy gone full term.
Yes, it’s a message that I felt so strongly to share. I hope my words get taken to the right places to comfort hurting hearts…I’m sorry for your loss. It may become easier to deal with over time, but it never goes away. And Mother’s Day can be so hard.
I have lost eleven (I count my IVF embryos that didn’t take). The hardest were my miscarriage at 6 weeks and my daughter Casey was born at 5 months. Too early to survive with us. It’s hard for those who don’t know what to do or say. It’s hard to hear and not want to lash out because you know (most) people mean well. This is timely. Thank you.
Yes. This is what the women I spoke with said, too. We knew that people didn’t mean to hurt, they just didn’t know what to say so maybe didn’t think about what they said first. Blessings from my heart to you this Mother’s Day.
I can’t even believe that some people would say that it’s God’s way of saying you shouldn’t have more children!! How rude!! 🙁 I’m sorry for your loss and thank you for this list.
It is a bit harsh it seems, but I do, as do the other moms I spoke with, feel that it really was well intended. People just try to help, it’s the human spirit, but help is not always help. Thank you, and thank you for reading.
Dealing with loss of ones child is never easy and on “Mother’s Day” I can only imaging this is even harder. I am sure you’ve heard this before from my heart to you I am sorry.
Thanks Patrice. There are numerous readers who have traveled this road who thank you, too.
I think it’s so important to consider how what we say impacts someone going through trauma. These are good reminders to be empathetic and kind
It is so easy to speak without thinking sometimes. I do it at times, too. Thanks for reading!
Great post! My little sis lost her baby and you wouldn’t believe the things people had the nerve to say.
Well, let her know there is a community of women who have walked the same road over here 🙂 Pass along my blessing to her on this Mother’s Day weekend.
Thank you so much for this post! This is definitely something people need to hear and be aware of, especially this time of year. When we see each other in any sort of pain the natural response we all have is to stop or lessen the pain…to distract from it….or seek the “silver lining”. That’s where we end up hurting one another more deeply, there is no sunny side to death….especially that of a child, YOUR own child. Another comment I would like to add to your list that is especially painful, “Well, God just just needed another angel” I don’t want to get too deep into theology, I just believe that God creates angels, he doesn’t reap them, and if we continue to press the idea that death isn’t so bad, not only are we essentially invalidating a grieving mother’s pain and inhibiting her healing, we lose a crucial glimpse at the heartache God must feel at every lost souls eternal death. IF death teaches us anything, it would be that life is precious, and the loss of life….any life is absolutely tragic. Through God’s love, mercy and power HE can bring beauty from ashes, and HE offers us hope with salvation, but it is through Christ alone. We need to allow each other, and ourselves, to grieve and know that the only comfort WE as humans can offer is that of honest community. “Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep” Romans 12: 15
wow, thank you for your heartfelt input. That is so true. I have heard it said that God just needed another angel, too, within the context of even the death of a young child. Yes, just weep with those who weep. That truly is all we need to do. Thank you again for reading and for adding such great input!
Thank you for writing this important post. Unfortunately, people are still very far behind in understanding the painful things that they say to people who have lost a child or struggled to conceive. One of the worst I’ve heard is related to God’s plan, like you so appropriately pointed out. This is too difficult of a message for faithful women to receive. It doesn’t even make sense to them that the God that they have loved so faithfully would not want them to be a loving, faithful parent to a child (or another child): “So, God doesn’t want me to have a (another) baby but He wants the 16-year-old druggy down the street to be a mom?” How is that supposed to make them feel better?!
You’re welcome. I think if people would just slow down before they speak it would help. It’s that knee jerk reaction to “help” that often gets said wrong
This is a good resource and guide for those who don’t know this pain.
My friend has lost several this way and told me how much people have unintentionally hurt her with their well-meaning comments.
Well meaning. So true. I know people wouldn’t really say them if they knew…
A good friend of mine lost her baby just after her birth. I could not believe the well-intended comments from other people. Another friend had 6 miscarriages in 10 years of infertility struggle and was told she was lucky because kids are so demanding. I haven’t lost a baby myself (I don’t count the IVF embryos that didn’t take) but would never try to console grieving women because there is nothing you can say to make them feel better. I’ve been struggling to conceive and had advice from people and they made me furious. I understand that people mean well but it doesn’t mean they should shut down their common sense when speaking. People want to minimize your pain by making it sound like what you’ve been through is not as bad as you think and it sounds condescending. So I don’t tell them how hard it is believing you will never have a child. Or once you do have a perfect little daughter and the doctor says she might stop breathing (turned out it wasn’t that bad). All I hear them saying is – you are overreacting, your pain is mostly in your head, it really isn’t that bad.
Comments can be so harsh. I think so often people just aren’t thinking. I hear crazy things as a mom of 8 rather often too. Again, people who are just not thinking about what they are saying, or remembering that other people have feelings. Sometimes I really do think people mean well, they just don’t say it right. Yet, this is not the case all the time in my experience either!
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