Do's And Don'ts: How To Approach Mothers Of Pregnancy, Infant, Or Child Loss

January 26, 2017

By Sanda Rathamone
Updated: July 19, 2019

"Sometimes we need someone to just listen. Not to try and fix anything or offer alternatives, but to just be there to listen. An ear that listens can be medicine for a heart that hurts." - Steve Maraboli

Though some may be trying to be kind, sometimes the things others say and do are unintentionally hurtful. This is because many struggle on how to address or approach bereaved mothers. I have found that there are two most important factors: respect and acknowledgment. 

The respect and acknowledgement of our loss, decisions on mourning, and how we choose to express grief is key to understanding how to provide comfort and support. Save the cliche advice, we don't need it. We just need to know that you are present and willing sit with us as we feel our pain. 

1. Don't say: "You're young, you will always/can have more."

Age discrimination exists. After experiencing baby loss, the comment on age does not help and can sound really insensitive. As someone who has had this comment said to, it does not leave any room to explain my battles concerning fertility. Yes I am young, and no, it does not mean that I am happily fertile and can easily become pregnant (infertility is a real issue and can happen at any age). This comment does little to acknowledge the baby that is lost and suggests that the baby can be easily replaced with another. 

Do say: "I am sorry for your loss. I may not understand what you are going through, but I am here for you anytime you need me (AND ACTUALLY BE THERE WE NEED YOU)."

2. Don't ask: " You're still not over it?"

There is no time limit when it comes to grief. Healing after a loss takes time; it can take months or years. However, the healing process is not linear and may or may not improve overtime. Grief is not something we "get over," but rather endure throughout life. Here is a reminder: a loss is not an "event," it is a life-changing experience. 

Do ask: "How are you doing/feeling?

3. Don't suggest: "You need to get over it" or "You need to do this or that."

Grief is personal. One cannot assume that a person needs or should do anything, without first asking if it is okay. 

Do suggest: "Listen to your heart." or "You don't have to do anything you are not ready to do."

4. Don't: Say nothing at all (unless you have nothing nice to say).

What hurts more than saying the wrong thing is saying absolutely nothing. Zero. Zilch. NADA. I know the pain of silence and it hurts to feel like nobody cares or that people are afraid to talk to me. We need to know that you are there and that you care. Say hello, say a prayer, say that you are thinking about us, say something! Just don't disappear. 

Do: Mention their loss.

It is more than okay to talk about my baby. If you think you are saving me from heartache by not mentioning my loss, you are wrong. I want and NEED to talk about it. Mentioning my loss means that you remember and are open to listening. (I am sure that this is also how many other bereaved mothers feel as well.)

5. Don't say: "At least you can now/have/didn't..." 

"At least you're still alive."
"At least you know that you can get pregnant."
"At least you can now do whatever you want."
"At least you have your other children."
"At least you have your job, spouse, family, etc."
"At least your child didn't have to suffer living this life."

There are no "at leasts" in loss. It is not because we are ungrateful, it is because a life is still a life and a loss is still a loss.

Do say: "Your child is in heaven and he/she will always be with you." "Your love for your child is beautiful." "I like the way you honor your child."

6. Don't say: "It happened for a reason."

Or, "It was God's plan." Or, "It was for the best."

Let us find that reason in our own time.

Do say: "I am sorry for your loss."

Sometimes, it is the most simplest of words that can lead to a meaningful conversation. 

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