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4 things you should never say to grieving parents

Man shouting, pulling hair

I made a pact that I was not going to get upset with people regarding what they said after Charles’ suicide. After all, it’s hard to know what to say and I was thankful when someone said anything. However, there are some classic zingers you should know to avoid.

1. Say nothing

I think this is the worst. If your child had stigmatized illnesses, you are used to nothing. No emotional support. No conversation. No resources. Saying nothing appears as though you are erasing this child because the mention of him/her makes you uncomfortable. Many times people make excuses like, “I don’t want to remind them.” You know that’s a cop-out. Like there is a day that goes by we don’t think of our lost loved one. It’s OK to say you are not sure what to say. Just saying, “I am here for you” is good. Stories about their child or donations to their memorial fund are always welcome. Saying nothing? Not acceptable.

2. You’ll have another

This isn’t an issue for me since my factory is closed and my son died by suicide when he was 20. But I can tell you that those who’ve lost a younger child do not care for this comment. You can’t “replace” a child that has died and they hurt for the one they lost even if they have more children later. Children are not interchangeable either. So having other children doesn’t mean they “replace” the one I lost.

3. He/She is in a better place

I don’t care how religious you are, you never feel like your child is in a better place if he’s not alive with you. Losing a child is out of the natural order. Personally, I don’t think it’s the same as, “They are at peace.” I know that one gets some people but I have no issue with it and I say that to comfort myself at times since he struggled so with depression. It’s the “better place” part of that phrase that gets me because I don’t want to check out now and go to that “better place” so why would I want my child to go there before me?

4. This, too shall pass

No one has ever said this to me. I wouldn’t let it go if they did. 🙂 I would gently point out that it is something I’ll never “get over” because you never stop grieving the child you lost. But you do learn to move forward and carry them in your heart. I am just realizing that now. Others who’ve gone through this said that this one was the most hurtful so it’s important to mention.

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Published by

Anne Moss Rogers

I am an emotionally naked mental health speaker, and author of the Book, Diary of a Broken Mind and co-author with Kim O'Brien PhD, LICSW of Emotionally Naked: A Teacher's Guide to Preventing Suicide and Recognizing Students at Risk. I raised two boys, Richard and Charles, and lost my younger son, Charles to addiction and suicide on June 5, 2015. I help people foster a culture of connection to prevent suicide, reduce substance misuse and find life after loss. My motivational mental health keynotes, training and workshop topics include suicide prevention, addiction, mental illness, anxiety, coping strategies/resilience, and grief. As talented and funny as Charles was, letting other people know they matter was his greatest gift. And now the legacy I try and carry forward in my son's memory. Mental Health Speakers Website. Trained in ASIST and trainer for the evidence-based 4-hour training for everyone called safeTALK.

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