Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Letter to the not-so-grieved

After experiencing some hurts along this long, winding, very bumpy, pot-holed, under-construction road of sorrow, I decided to write this letter. I wrote it on OUR behalves as I have gathered such insight from other baby loss moms as well. Feel free to use it in any way you see fit- if it fits for you and certainly take liberty to omit or add to. I just needed to get this off my proverbial chest. =)

Dear family and friends of the bereaved mom,

This letter was written to help you respond in a healing way to the bereaved mom in your life.

First, to inform you that you cannot possibly give advice to the grieving mother unless you too have lost a child. Even then- what worked for you may not work for her, so tread lightly. Please do not say anything more than the following statements which have been approved by bereaved mothers: I am so sorry. I am thinking of you. I am praying for you. My heart breaks for you. I wish there were something I could say or do to bring your baby back. This really sucks. This is so unfair. I am here for you. If you want to talk I will listen.
Please only say the last two if you mean them.

Please call and ask how she is dealing with the loss 3,6,9 and 12 months later and simply say you are thinking of her. It is important to remember the birth/death day, send a note or card if you are not comfortable with a call. She is still grieving, she has not gotten over it and she will never "get over it."If you have left a message and she has not responded please do not mention to her that she isn't getting back to you. She needs to know you are willing to listen and comfort, but also not feel pressured to return messages. She will reach out when/if she needs you. She will appreciate the gesture.

Do not be afraid of her tears, they are cleansing to her, and you will not make her mad for asking about the child she continually thinks about and misses.

Please do not expect anything or need anything from her for at least 6 months to a year (everyone grieves in a unique way this is just a guideline). And by expecting/needing anything this includes attending any family or special gatherings, especially holidays and baby showers or any place there may be a baby. Simply extend the invite and leave it at that. This also includes your need to be there for her, your feelings may be hurt if she doesn't come to you. Find a way to get past it without her knowing.

Let her off the hook if she says she will be somewhere and she changes her mind and cancels. You cannot take her decisions personally!

Do not go into great detail about someone else's new baby, if she wants to know she will ask.

If she and her significant other plan to "try again" you will know IF she tells you, this is not an appropriate question.

Don't ever assume she has other people supporting her. Don't think you have nothing to offer. She may be all alone in her grief with no one to talk to, the only way you can know this is by contacting her.

When speaking of her child use his/her name, it is important to recognize him/her as a person.

If you are close to her and someone who is not continues to ask about how she is doing, encourage the individual/s to reach out to her. If the individual does not, keep your statements vague in order to protect her privacy. And do not tell her all about how this individual keeps asking specific questions about her (she doesn't need to know that so-and-so keeps asking if you are still crying all the time and won't call to offer her condolences). This is called gossip, no one likes being talked about and not to.

It is a wise idea to do some research regarding the loss of a child. There are many books, websites, blogs, ministries and gifts available that will help you learn how to respond to a grieving parent. And better yet ask the bereaved mother in your life how she would prefer to be comforted, she may not know, especially if it is a very recent loss. She will appreciate you asking and there is nothing wrong with admitting you don't know how to act. There was a time when she didn't know what it was like to be in the shoes of a mother without her baby to hold.

And finally, avoidance is NOT the best policy. Despite what you may think she knows you are avoiding her and chances are that hurts her more than you saying the wrong thing. Again use the aforementioned statements or resources. Not saying anything can be interpreted as an attitude of indifference. It can also make you look like a coward.

I cannot apologize if this letter seems too harsh or uncomfortable for you. The emotions a mother feels are harsh and uncomfortable and for months at a time. The last thing she needs is someone she loves making her feel worse by your words or actions. I do hope that the manner in which I wrote this letter does not tempt you to dismiss the content. Thank you for reading and being a support to us.

Audrey's bereaved mom


  1. Very well written, Michelle.

    I think it is very important to get these messages out to the general public. Some people's words/phrases are really hurtful however they think they are well meaning because they have not been educated or guided towards what really does help.

    When I created my website I included a few articles like the one you have written above and my own mother came crying to me saying she was sorry if she ever unintentionally said anything to hurt me. Older generations (and my mother isn't very old) were taught to sweep the loss of a baby under the carpet and to move forward... unfortunately it isn't the best advice, as we know.

    Thank you for reaching out to the not-so-grieved. I am sure you will open a few eyes and help a few people learn what can help us BLMs the most.


  2. Wow, I wish I had this letter when Jenna first died!!! Everyone including my parents, siblings, some friends and distant acquaintances NEEDED to read this! Thanks for putting it out there. I hope someone will take this to heart as it is written by someone who KNOWS and GETS it, every last bit of this grief.


  3. That is so perfect and well said! I wish I could mail it to every single person I know. :) XO

  4. I LOVE this post. I am thinking of "borrowing" it because it is so very true. After my son died, it's like people just kinda lost all sense of what they were supposed to do, leaving me to have to tell them what I needed. How was I even supposed to know?! Thank you for writing this. It is a shame that it is not handed out at funerals and memorial services to all the friends who truly want to help.

  5. This is beautifully written. It's so, so true. After our daughter died, my close friend told me she'd be there for me and then completely disappeared. Avoided me like the plague, and it really hurt. I wish she and other people around me had read this so they could be a bit kinder.

  6. thank you for posting this. it's extremely helpful; and so beautifully written.

  7. Thank you for writing this. It's says so much of what I wish my family and friends knew. And so much of what I had no idea how to express when our daughter died.