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Thank you. I really needed this post right now. Everything is still so new and raw. Everything "hurts". There are no right words, and there is nothing anyone can do to make it "go away". I am so scared, and so lonely, and so sad. I hurt. I feel broken.

Laura, I went to your website. I am so sorry.

Tertia, great idea for a post.

I can't think of a specific link to post but I have written a lot about how the reactions of others can effect the grieving process. When our son died (after a month in the NICU - he never came home), it hurt inexplicably. Down to the marrow of our bones there was pain and loss that there isn't language to describe and I assure you we weren't anymore ''reminded'' by someone saying, ''I'm sorry for your loss' than we were by breathing; the acknowledgment is precious and needed; pretending it never happened doesn't make our son less dead.

The only other thing I can say, particularly as it refers to the loss of a child, is that you would never, ever approach a grieving spouse and say, ''Worry not. You can always remarry.'' so please keep that in mind before opening your mouth to say, ''Worry not. You can always have more.'' because...no. Not only does that completely minimize the child and diminish their being an actual person, you also have no idea, at all, if that is possible. For us, it absolutely isn't possible and hearing those words was like feeling a knife in the womb. Don't minimize the loss and don't offer empty possibly hurtful ''suggestions''; acknowledge the loss but don't offer a solution to an unsolvable ache.

And one more thing, please remember, unless you are me and you lost my child, don't tell me you know how I feel. You can empathize (and I hope you do, honestly) but don't tell me, or any grieving parent, that you ''know how they feel'' because: You don't. You can't. Even if you have experienced a similar loss, you don't know, at all, how they feel and saying so, again like implying kids are replaceable, is like saying the worst loss they've ever suffered is some kind of universal experience when, in fact, nothing could be further from the truth.

Sorry to hi-jack the comments. And Laura, I am so, so sorry for your family.

Beautiful post! Very well said. We do all experience grief differently, but I honestly believe you have described the commonality in everyone. Acknowledgement is definitely the most important thing.

This post made me cry again for Ben. I can tell you what NOT to say to your co-workers who've had a loss: a few months ago, my dad died. I'm an attorney in a law firm; they bill us out by the ours. Of course, my billable hours took a big hit the month my dad died. Shortly thereafter, my boss called me into his office to say, "Sorry about your dad and all but we need to know what you plan to do to make up your hours before the end of the year." Uh, yeah: whatever happens to me, I will definitely make sure my personal loss doesn't hurt your bottom line.

I think it is also a wonderful thing when people who are close to you go beyond "let me know if you need anything," but also offer something specific, such as -- "I would really like to bring your family dinner one day this week if that would be helpful" or "I am going to the grocery today -- may I do some shopping or errands for you?" or "do you need babysitting help in the near future? I would be so glad to help with that" or "I would love to take you out to dinner/coffee if you need to get out" or whatever the situation seems to call for. For me, anyway, it can be hard to summon the emotional energy to actually ask for help, even if "anything I can do" has been offered -- but if someone comes with a concrete offer of something, it is much easier to accept.

This is a wonderful idea. Thank you. I think you hit the nail on the head when you said "people want their loss acknowledged." Its what I want anyway.

The two things I hated after my loss were:
A: innapropriate latitudes that all would turn out well in the end. I mean clearly not thus far, and they can't be sure about the without a crystal ball,
B: Those who just never mentioned it....I mean, honestly.


This is a good thing to talk about, Tertia.

I admire what you did with your email about Ben.

My mum died earlier this year. It was really hard, and sucky. I didn't tell everyone at work because damn, what do you say? (It wasn't like losing a baby where everyone KNOWS you were pregnant - I'm so sorry about Ben, sweetie - and so everyone knows something must've happened.)

I didn't want everyone making a fuss when I came back to work. A few people said really nice things to me, and acknowledged what had happened, which was perfect. Quite a few more people just said something short like "I'm sorry about your mum," which was also perfect. And the rest didn't really say anything, which I understood.

I badly needed things to be normal to some extent; so I wasn't thinking about it ALL the time. So I was really glad that I didn't have people approaching me all day, but my loss was still acknowledged and I knew people cared about me and my mum.

I was miffed in a way about the people who didn't say anything. But at work, I have people I'm really close to, people I'm friends with, people I'm pleasant towards, and people I really don't know. The last two categories - I didn't really expect them to say anything because we don't know each other that well. I don't know if I'd say anything to them either, if they were grieving.

A girl I know lost her baby when she was 7 months pregnant. I don't know her all that well, but I sent her an email that basically just said, "Oh, God, you poor bugger, how awful," and she was so grateful. She said hardly anyone had talked to her about it except for her family.

I second the idea above about offering/giving specific help. I think there are some nice *little* gestures that you can give someone without asking, which is also good - a little extra help with something. A bunch of flowers. A little bag of cheap-but-good groceries.

Of course some people would really appreciate help, and want to talk about it a lot, and would want people around them a lot, and some people wouldn't want any kind of fuss, and some people would be in between. Can be hard to gauge.

I think in every case sending the message of "I heard what happened. I'm really sorry," whether in person or by email, is important and will be appreciated.

And another good read:


Sadly she also has had more than her share of grief. But now a happy ending. I highly recommend her archives!

That is a great letter. I hope it helped your work colleagues understand how to respond.

I read your book again on Saturday and cried so hard for you, and for all of us who so desperately want to be mommies. So, even after all these years, know that people are still mourning your losses.

Thanks for inviting me to participate.

Thank you for this post Tertia. I read all the other bloggers' posts as well. While I certainly can't imagine the pain that you and these other ladies have experienced, I got a small dose of it 2 weeks ago when I miscarried at 9 weeks. Whilst I had very little time to get over the shock of an unplanned pregnancy, and get excited about it, I still felt a huge sense of loss when it ended. I felt the tears just lurking there all the time, waiting like a dam-wall ready to burst. I'm feeling a bit better now, and I am sure in time I will feel brave enough to try again. For now, I am enjoying each and every precious moment with my son. I agree with Meg that a simple "I'm sorry" (and a big hug) meant a lot.

Thanks for that Tertia. People do need to acknowledge anothers grief. I was treated like the plague when my FET failed and all 12 embroyo's "died". i needed the support of friends, especially those at work, as they were around every day when i had to have my injections. i also spoke up and it made things a lot easier. You feel like you are so alone without their support.

thank you for this, tee.

Thankyou for a wonderful topic.
I agree that it is vital to acknowledge someone's loss. Say "I am sorry" and say nothing more if you dont know what else to
say -but the worse it to pretend that nothing has happened.
My dad died when I was 23 and most of my friends had no clue how to handle it. One sent flowers( a perfect gesture)
but most said nothing. I left to go to the funeral and be with my family and when I came back- nothing.
The absolute worst though was the one who shouted across a crowded table " oh yes- I forgot- your dad died"
I have never been able to forget that moment- everyone stopped and stared at me- total silence.
And as for my older friends and family - all they would ask is ' how is your mom?"
I did not want a pity-party but it would really have been helpful if people had at least acknowedged the loss.

Thank you Tertia and all the ladies for your valuable comments!
I have not lost a child or a parent so I cannot even begin to imagine what you all must have gone through.
I have however suffered a number of pregnancy losses and have to agree, for me the most important thing was to have the loss acknowledged. I've heard some truly cruel comments as well like, nevermind, you can have another one, or what are you so upset about it wasn't an actual baby and my best ever was when someone I thought was my best friend told me to get over mysef the world doesn't revolve around me and her pregnancy was still going well and I needed to participate in it.
I thought I would suffocate from the pain.

The hardest part for me, after my husband died, was about a month after he died and the cards and kind words just stopped and it seemed I was expected to bounce back and get on with my life (everyone else had!). Our IF journey ended with no children, so I truly was alone.

I really wanted someone to help take care of me. I wanted someone to remember longer than a month. It would have been nice for someone to stop in with a dinner or a treat. For someone to come by and not even ask, just do a couple of loads of laundry, or tidy up a bit, run the vacuum, or clean the bathroom; and/or sit with me. Just sit there with me. I was so desperately alone. When my husband died, I stopped living too, and to have someone come in and do some of the tasks I could not bring myself to do would have meant so much.


I think it's also important to point out that some people can't/won't grieve. It's too hard for us, so we just act like nothing happened. For some of those types of people, it's easier to ignore it with them. For others, they need the extra push - "I am very sorry for your loss," to make it real enough for them to deal with. Like you said, what works for you may not work for me - it's all about knowing the person you're trying to offer solace to. This March will mark 2 years since Gram died... She was the strongest maternal figure in my life and my most beloved family member (which sounds horrible to say, I know, but it's true). I keep telling myself she's on vacation. I have days where I swear I will seek grief counseling so I can accept it and move on, but then I get a box "from her" and it sits for a week, unopened, and I just continue to tell myself, "Ha! Souvenirs from her trip! Lovely! Will open them soon!" The closest thing I have done to really grieving is ask for something of hers like a sweater or blanket to get cozy in when I miss her. My hope was that being able to snuggle myself in her would make me cry and let it out so I could start to grieve, but it didn't happen. It just makes me freeze up even more than pictures. My middle name has almost become sacred because it's her middle name and everyone knows how I feel about her. It's crazy what we can convince ourselves of in the face of loss...

Anyway, more of my thoughts and experiences with non-grief are in my archives: http://between3boys.typepad.com/because_too_many_funny_th/grief/index.html

And there is a slideshow for Gram, which again, probably the closest thing I have done to grieving: http://between3boys.typepad.com/because_too_many_funny_th/token.html

I'm going to go NOT cry now.

Great topic. I read all the posts and they are lovely.

I wrote one, specifically on the "angel baby" aspect. My blog's at:


and the post is at:


I feel so grateful to be 11 years on since the tragic loss of my dad in a plane crash (I truly feel healed), and everyone's right - a simple acknowledgement - even if its "I don't know what to say" is perfect, practical help is great too, but to carry on from Vicki above - my favourite thing is when my 2 best friends remember to text or e-mail me EVERY year on the anniversary and say they are thinking of me - cos whilst everyone else's life goes back to normal again - yours never will..

when my precious daughter died at ten weeks from sids, a lot of people were unable to talk to me. even harder to take was that some of my friends could not bring themselves to come to her funeral, or to see her in her coffin. in a way, this was as if she had not existed, and in turn, that i did not exist. i forgave them (this is 22 years ago), but was in agony at the time. i felt so very alone in my grief, as i had no-one who would allow me to be in pain around them, including my parents. my grief hurt others, and i ended up protecting them by not showing it. my husband at the time could not talk about it, and after a few months, became angry that i was 'still' grieving. his anger meant that i had to bottle my own grief up to survive. when i had two miscarriages in the next two years, he would ask me 'aren't you over that yet?' needless to say, our marriage did not survive. 22 years later, i have not 'got over it' at all. i have accommodated it, accepted it, stitched it into place in the fabric of my life . . . but my god it is raw in that place where emily was, and still should be, alive.
my closest and dearest companions are those who talk of her as a reality, and who let me cry and wail and smear snot all over their shoulders when the agony returns - and it comes and goes - less frequently as the years progress.
after that, when friends lost babies from stillbirth or cot death or similar (7 in two years), i made a point of going to see the babies if possible. the mothers in particular were unbelievably grateful that they could talk about
THEIR baby with another person. who he looked like, the shape of her eyes, the length of their fingers. acknowledging the lost person makes them more real to the griever. it keeps them in touch with reality, as harsh and as terror-filled as that may be, because you feel as though you are losing your mind when hit by death. you become their companion in truth, sharing knowledge of the precious person they have lost.
if you are able, look the grieving person in the eye, touch their hand softly and say, 'i am so sorry you are going through this.' say 'I don't know how you feel, but I am here for you' and then BE THERE. listening is huge - women tend to repeat the same story a million times over, which is a way of healing - apparently we produce oxytocin when we do this - and it helps us recover.
don't be afraid of tears. if allowed to run freely when they start, they will stop in their own time. like when kids fall over and scream and yell and cry. they do stop eventually, in their own time. don't be afraid of your friend's pain. it is normal, and natural, and agonising. she needs people who are not scared to be in the same room as her pain (i knicked that phrase from an ally mcbeal episode - someone said ally 'was not scared to be in the same room as her own pain' kinda powerful when you think about it). you may cry. GOOD. your friend needs people to cry with her and for her, and to KNOW that they are. nothing is going to stop her pain, but sharing it will make it at least more, slightly more, bearable. one good friend said when emily died 'if i had a bucket, i would fill it with the tears i have shed for you'. 22 years later, i can see and hear her saying it, standing in my kitchen with arms outstretched to me. later she helped bind my breasts to stop the milk coming in so hard. true true friendship.
my second husband, the love of my eternal life, melded himself to me in the way he responded to emily's death. i met him 10 years after her death, and he asked me if he could accompany me to the cemetery for one of my grave days. he came, with a box of chocolates and a heartfelt note about how sad he was that i should go through this. later that day, back at my house, he asked if he could see the clothes emily was wearing when she died. when he handled them so gently, turning them over as if to try and envisage my darling baby inside them, i had to leave the room - my emotions were so intense. he of all people treated her as someone real and vital.
we have been married six years, and have just had a baby girl of our own - me at 46 years old!!! he counted out the days of emily's life as Amelia reached the age at which emily had died. a true companion in my joys and agonies. unequalled.
just be with your friend when she is in pain. don't disappear physically (by avoiding her), or emotionally (by avoiding the subject. the person she lost is there in the room with you both, and needs to be acknowledged (i dont mean as in a ghost, but as in an entity in your friends mind). she will love you for it, and your openess will endear you to her.
death is so much a part of our lives. we can't avoid it. but we make other people lonelier than they have to be when we are scared to talk of it. raw agonising grief is such a solitary place, and makes our agony greater.
you can't avoid it, but you can soften its blow on yourself and others.
peace out. xxx

K - you have a powerful message in your comments. I'm normally an avoider when it comes to others pain - but you've changed my way of thinking. Even if I don't know what to say, just saying something like "I'm sorry" means something to people who are greiving. Thank you for sharing your story.

Ruth - you have a powerful message in your comments. I'm normally an avoider when it comes to others pain - but you've changed my way of thinking. Even if I don't know what to say, just saying something like "I'm sorry" means something to people who are greiving. Thank you for sharing your story of your daughter Emilia.

thank you for this. it's exactly what we wanted our friends and family to know. when my dad flew in for our twins' funeral, he was at a loss for words except for these: at least you're still pretty. *sigh*

Thank you for this. I've written bits and pieces before. If I am up to it tomorrow, I may write something more coherent.
Thank you.

In my own experience, never ever say "It was not meant to be" to a person who has had a miscarriage or lost a loved one. It is the worst thing ever that people kept saying to me over and over again after my first and very recently again after my second miscarriage. It makes absolutely no sense, how can it be "not meant to be" then why fall pregnant in the first place?

I think the best thing to say to a person grieving would be "I am here for you" and then let them decide what they need from you.

Julia sent me over here...thanks for this, for all you've laid out here. i'm currently in the midst of a m/c and the idiocy of some people's comments - or lack of acknowledgement - is bringing up a lot of the old wounds from when my son died in 2005. people's reaction really does make the grieving worse, for me, because it reminds me yet again how oblivious they get to be to this particular pain. and then the cycle of anger starts again...sigh.

I lost Zoe at 37 weeks; she was stillborn. 24hrs before she died we had had an emergency scan, only to be told that everything was fine. Then she died suddenly and inexplicably. Losing her has been the most difficult thing I have ever had to come to terms with. Even now, 8 months later, she is never far from my thoughts.

Talking helps, but even if it can't happen, acknowledgement is vital. I need to know that people know about Zoe and acknowledge her life. She was, is, and always will be my precious little girl. (The full story is on my blog - starting around the 18th March 2007.)

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