What To Do or Say?


 A reader left the following comment in response to an earlier post called In Remembrance. (I’m putting this in the Act of Kindness category for all the obvious reasons.) She’s asking for our thoughts. Please share your recommendations:

“I know this was posted a while ago, but I want to remember a couple I know from church. They just lost their (prematurely born) child yesterday morning. The woman has given prematurely twice before – including the one child that she does have that survived.

I’m very sorry for all of you who have had to go through this. For all I can see, it’s horrible and sometimes people don’t treat you like you lost a “real child”

supportI am also asking for advice from all of you who respond to this blog: I don’t know this couple horribly well – I speak with the family from time to time after church and at social events, but I’m not a close,
personal friend.

My question is, how should I respond/what should I say when I see them again?

I don’t want to pry into their personal business or make them more sad than they already are, but I feel like I should say something. Do I ask them how their doing the first time I see them, but not the second time? Do I keep asking each time? Do I act like nothing happened at some point?”

See also  Sitting Down in Support

9 Responses

  1. DD

    November 4, 2007 5:17 pm

    I’m presuming that this couple are “casual” aquaintances, i.e. fellow church members.

    If you can think of nothing else to say, the most important is to tell them both, “I’m so sorry about the loss of your son/daughter.”

    Do not say “It’s God’s will” even if they do. Do not say, “He/She is in a better place.” Do not say, “At least you have XYZ.”

    Just a heartfelt “I’m sorry,” and a hug.

  2. motherofnone

    November 4, 2007 6:56 pm

    Hello there – Thanks for posting this. My advice is that if you know this couple at all, it is appropriate to tell them that you are sorry for their loss and that they are in your thoughts. I have never conceived or lost a baby, but I know that one of the hardest parts of infertility is that your pain is never acknowledged.

  3. iota

    November 5, 2007 12:02 am

    It would be better to acknowledge their bereavement, than to pretend it hasn’t happened. I think it can’t go amiss to say how sorry you are, but often in these situations the less you say, the better. Just let them know you are thinking of them. As for how long to keep asking how they are doing, I think you have to judge that according to how well you know them, and how involved you are in each other’s lives – as is the case with any bereavement. The fact that you are asking the questions you ask indicates to me that you probably have the sensitivity to be supportive without being intrusive.

  4. Bea

    November 5, 2007 2:32 am

    An initial “sorry for your loss” is very appropriate. I would also ask how they are from time to time – not in a pitying way, but in a tone of gentle and warm concern, as if you have no preconceptions about how they might be feeling at that very moment, but are ready to listen if the answer is not “fine”.


  5. meghan

    November 5, 2007 2:56 am

    Sometimes the best thing someone can say is that they don’t know what to say. That along with a “I’m so sorry for your loss” will cover it. It lets them know you are thinking of them and recognize the significance of their loss.

    And a hug (if you know them well enough) can go a long way

  6. Kami

    November 5, 2007 3:50 am

    I agree with previous posters. Acknowledge the loss, express your condolences and don’t offer advice. I think it is good to inquire how they are doing in the future too. It always surprised and hurt me when people acted like everything was ok just because they said something once.

  7. loribeth

    November 5, 2007 3:53 pm

    The other posters are bang on. Please do acknowledge their loss. A simple “I’m so sorry for your loss” goes a long, long way. It is nice to enquire how they are doing when you see them again later, & perhaps add something like “we’ve been thinking of you” — especially around times like Christmas, Mother’s Day, due dates and “anniversaries.” People tend to ask once & then act as though everything is or should be fine, when it is not, and family-focused occasions such as holidays & other celebrations can be extremely painful.

    Trust me, you cannot make them any sadder than they are already. For the most part, I was (& still am) grateful for any acknowledgement of our loss, and often it was the unexpected kind words from the people we least expected would say anything that meant the most to us.

  8. JJ

    November 5, 2007 8:48 pm

    That is so tough….I do agree that you should acknowledge it–just a simple I’m sorry could mean so much to them. It’s so sweet of you to be considerate of all their feelings.

  9. Deathstar

    November 6, 2007 1:51 am

    Better to have your loss acknowledged by someone who really cares than not. Say whatever is in your heart. It happened to a former neighbour and friend of mine, and it was all that she required from me. I also sent a sympathy card.

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