What NOT to say to someone who’s lost a baby: Grief experts reveals the phrases you should never use, including ‘at least you have other children’ (and the best way to help a loved one)
A series of experts have offered their top tips on how you can best deal with grief after losing a baby and what you should and shouldn’t say to someone else suffering.
Grief is an extremely complex emotion which differs for every individual person – but when it comes to getting support and help, many agree that it can be difficult to know where to start.
Just last week, radio DJ Myleene Klass, 43, has revealed she couldn’t speak about her four miscarriages for a whole year in an upcoming documentary for W.
The TV personality lifted the lid on her mental health battle following the ordeal, in which she experienced ‘grief, trauma, sadness and fear’.
Speaking exclusively to FEMAIL, several UK-based experts have shared some of their best advice to help you or a loved one through the difficult time of losing a baby…
Experts have revealed how you can deal with grief and what you should and shouldn’t say. Pictured, stock image
1. Think before you speak
Psychotherapist Ruth Mark-Roland says that platitudes about loss do not alleviate the pain for the bereaved and instead, communicate that their loss is minimised and unsupported.
‘A bereaved person is not in the space to consider the tomorrow, let alone a future without their child, as everything they imagined does not exist,’ she explains. ‘They are torn by the unimaginable pain of their loss.
‘They want to be heard, they want to be seen. The small act of acknowledging their pain validates their enduring torment of loss.’
However according to Ruth, there are certain phrases that should be said, and others that are best avoided.
What you SHOULD and SHOULDN’T say
‘They are at peace now.’
‘It must be for the best.’
‘At least you have each other’ or ‘At least you have your other child/children.’
‘You’re still young. You can always have more kids.’
‘You’ll be a much stronger and more compassionate because of your loss.’
‘There’s a reason for everything.’
‘My heart hurts for you, I am so sorry for your life altering loss.’
‘This loss is life altering, I can’t begin to imagine your pain.’
‘There are no words to fully express just how sorry I am to hear about your loss.’
‘I’m here for you if you ever want to talk or want someone to be with you, just ask.’
‘I really care for you and will do anything I can to help.’
‘I know it’s impossibly hard for you, but if you would like to talk about [name of the deceased] I would be happy to share my memories of your child.’
2. Talk to the right people
‘Expression is the opposite of depression,’ explains Zoe Clews, a mental health expert. ‘We can’t process grief without verbalising how we feel.
‘But make sure you talk to “safe” people, that might be a grief counsellor, a therapist, a good friend, your partner or someone that has experienced their own very similar and heartbreaking loss and can relate to your pain with understanding and compassion.’
She goes on to say how grieving over the loss of a baby is a particularly ‘vulnerable time in your life,’ so advises being ‘choosy’ with who you share your heart with.
‘Not everyone will understand or have the EQ (emotional intelligence) required to support you,’ she says.
Meanwhile, speaking in partnership with Hand on Heart Jewellery, Ruth explains how in Western society, grief – including those of a baby or child – is frequently silenced and ignored.
‘Many often feel as though there is a shelf-life with grief,’ she says. ‘Once the funeral is over, life seems to resume its normal rhythm for everyone else. Yet, for the bereaved parent, their new reality is just starting to sink in.
‘Allowing space for the parent to speak about their loved one, be it by telling stories or just talking about this life-altering event, is cathartic as they crave a safe space to talk about what is consistently denied to them.’
3. Realise that grief comes in waves and is different for everyone
Zoe Clews also notes that following the tragic loss of a baby, you might ‘one minute be poleaxed by it and the next day you might feel strangely OK – only to find yourself triggered by the most unlikely thing and back at what feels like square.’
She adds: ‘Recovery is not linear, grief is not linear. Allow yourself to feel whatever you are feeling.’
4. A linking object
Ruth explains that aside from simply speaking about their grief, there are other ways in which to help with the grieving process.
‘Many bereaved parents will make use of a linking object – which can be anything from an item belonging to the deceased to a piece of tailor-made jewellery containing their fingerprint or cremation ashes,’ she explains.
‘A linking object keeps the bereaved connected to their loved one, providing a source of comfort and offering a reminder of any cherished memories and experiences the holder shared with the deceased.’
Elsewhere, Gemma goes on to note that there is no timeframe for grieving to be over.
‘Because of how painful grief can be, it can be easy to feel like it “should be over by now”, she says. ‘Grief takes time and that time is different for each of us. There is no one size fits all.’
Highlighting how there is no ‘one way’ to feel grief, she continues: ‘When you are grieving, you can feel a spectrum of emotions for example, sadness, loneliness, relief, anger, disbelief.’
‘The list is endless. It is normal to feel one thing one moment and another thing in another moment because grief often causes emotional shock.
‘Grief does not have to be for someone or something living.
‘One of the big misconceptions about grief is that we only grieve things that have physically died. This is not the case. We can grieve anything that we have been separated from.
‘This means we might grieve losing something significant to us or a time in our lives when things were different.’
Gemma also points out that ‘smiling is okay.’
‘Sometimes, people can feel like they cannot enjoy aspects of life while they are grieving,’ she says. ‘This is not true. There may be times where you feel able to engage in things that make you smile. And there may be times when you don’t. Both are okay.’
5. Do something physical
Zoe notes that as well as duvet days which allow you to ‘collapse’ – and is a temporary but vital part of the healing process following the loss of a child – it’s important to keep your body moving to help process the shock pain and grief.
‘Nothing strenuous or taxing (you’ve gone through enough) but gentle walks in nature to help you ground,’ Zoe advises. ‘Nature is a great shock absorber – let it support you.’
Gemma also highlights the importance of taking care of your physical needs.
‘It is very common for people who are grieving to stop feeling motivated to do the things that are good for their physical health, such as, washing, eating or exercising,’ she explains.
‘It is really important to try and keep these things up as much as possible as they will be working really hard to keep you going at a time when your emotions aren’t able to help as much.
‘If you need to, you can ask a friend or family member to help you keep up with your physical needs.’