A viral post helps explain what to say - and what not to say - to a parent who has lost a child.

Hope's Seed

No parent can prepare for the death of a child, and no one can take away the pain and grief that comes with such tragedy.

We try, though, bless us. We try so hard to say the right thing, to offer words of hope or support, to take even a fraction of the pain away from our loved ones who have endured every parent's nightmare.

We try, but we fail. Because there's really nothing you can say to a mother or father who has had to bury a child, especially if you haven't experienced it yourself. There are no magic words that can heal such a wound.

I promise, all of those words we think might help fall woefully short. We can honestly say, "I can't imagine," because we can't. Most of us won't even allow ourselves to try to imagine it.


I have friends and family who have lost children—to accidents, to suicide, to disease—and words fail me every time. I put words together for a living, but never feel like I have the right ones for moms and dads grieving the loss of a child.

12-year-old makes and donates bow ties to help shelter animals find their forever homes.

A powerful message to bereaved parents, written by Susi Costello and originally published as "What I Wanted to Say" on the website A Bed for My Heart, drives home how inadequate language is under such circumstances:


"Today I wrote a note to a bereaved mother. I wanted to say don't believe all those sympathy cards. The ones that say "time heals" and "God only takes the best" and "may your sorrows be lessened." You'll only be disappointed. I wanted to say this is the most heart-wrenching, chest crushing, breath stealing tragedy on earth. I wanted to tell her there will be days she wants to die, and friends who will not understand some of the things she does or says.

I wanted to tell her she will still feel her child's presence at times, sometimes so strongly that it is as if they are dancing just at the edge of whatever activity is going on. And other times she might not feel their presence at all.

I wanted to tell her that her life will not go back, that she will never be the same, because a piece of her left with her child. And that even though the pain does not go away, somehow her soul will eventually make enough room so she can hold it all– the grief, the pain, the joy and the love.

I wanted to tell her… but I didn't. Instead, I wrote this: I'm sending love, for words are pointless right now. And that is the truth."

When we don't have the words, it's okay to say so. In fact, it's often preferable to offering platitudes and cliched phrases that we think sound inspiring or helpful. A child's death is not the time for quotes you might put on a meme. It's not the time to preach or to tell a parent that it will get better. That doesn't mean you shouldn't say anything—grieving parents definitely need support—but acknowledging their pain and offering to sit with them in their grief may be more helpful than trying to offer words of hope or inspiration.

Beth Halleck, a mom who lost her son Galen to suicide when he was 15, told Upworthy the most helpful words came from those who shared that they had been through the death of a child or suicide of a loved one. But she also said that one wordless act stood out to her.

"The most powerful communication of compassion and understanding was completely anonymous," Halleck said. "Someone mailed us a gift card to the local grocery store: no name, no return address. They made it impossible for us to feel any sense of obligation/responsibility/expectation/burden to express our thanks. This person understood how even the simplest social norm of thanking for a donation, flowers, or food can add to the sense of feeling overwhelmed by the simple act of being alive. Weeks later when I pulled the gift card out of my wallet at the check-out, it was all I could do to hold back the tears of grief—and gratitude."

We need to fundamentally reexamine how new moms are cared for after childbirth.

My friend Krista's son Griffin was struck by a car and killed during his freshman year of college. She told Upworthy, "The most helpful thing has just been people who showed up. They didn't wait for me to ask, they didn't say, 'Let me know if you need anything.' They provided support unconditionally from minute one. The people that STILL talk about him, that bring him up and say his name, that tell stories, or send photos with just a quick 'this reminded me of Griffin.' That has been the most helpful."

Krista said she attended a school function for one of her younger kids shortly after the accident and the high schoolers' responses were perfect. "Most of them said something along the lines of 'I don't even know what to say, but we love you.' THIS! THIS was amazing. These 16-year-olds who had the courage to face it, to join it, to feel it with us blew me away. I have had adults that have completely pulled away from me, as if its too painful for them."

She added that people have equated her loss with their own loss of a pet, or with their not being able to see their child on a holiday because they were sick. Yeesh. Yeah, don't do that.

"Also, I have had a large number of people that either A) have never mentioned it to me and just carry on as if nothing happened, which is so weird, or B ) have literally avoided eye contact with me from the first time I saw them post-accident," she said. "They turned away from me and didn't even acknowledge I was standing there, as if it were contagious. These have been the most hurtful, as if he didn't exist."

She added, "The most helpful thing, though, has been people who let me be whatever I am on any given day. If it's happy, or broken, they see me where I am, and they join me where I am. Still, to this day, the people who just allow me to be without judgment."

It's okay to let grief happen. It's okay to say you don't know what to say. Nothing will make it all better, nothing will take it away, and it's okay—even preferable—to support a heartbroken parent without trying to find just the right words.

Update: The words of Susi Costello were originally published on the website A Bed for My Heart. This article has been updated to include credit to the original publisher. You can read the original post here and see it shared on A Bed for My Heart's Facebook page here.

Courtesy of Creative Commons
True

After years of service as a military nurse in the naval Marine Corps, Los Angeles, California-resident Rhonda Jackson became one of the 37,000 retired veterans in the U.S. who are currently experiencing homelessness — roughly eight percent of the entire homeless population.

"I was living in a one-bedroom apartment with no heat for two years," Jackson said. "The Department of Veterans Affairs was doing everything they could to help but I was not in a good situation."

One day in 2019, Jackson felt a sudden sense of hope for a better living arrangement when she caught wind of the ongoing construction of Veteran's Village in Carson, California — a 51-unit affordable housing development with one, two and three-bedroom apartments and supportive services to residents through a partnership with U.S.VETS.

Her feelings of hope quickly blossomed into a vision for her future when she learned that Veteran's Village was taking applications for residents to move in later that year after construction was complete.

"I was entered into a lottery and I just said to myself, 'Okay, this is going to work out,'" Jackson said. "The next thing I knew, I had won the lottery — in more ways than one."

Keep Reading Show less
via Pexels

A new Gallup poll found a significant increase in the number of Americans who identify as LGBT since the last time it conducted a similar poll in 2017.

The poll found that 5.6% of U.S. adults identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. That's a large increase from the 2017 poll that had the number at 4.5%.

"More than half of LGBT adults (54.6%) identify as bisexual. About a quarter (24.5%) say they are gay, with 11.7% identifying as lesbian and 11.3% as transgender. An additional 3.3% volunteer another non-heterosexual preference or term to describe their sexual orientation, such as queer or same-gender-loving," the poll says.

Keep Reading Show less
Courtesy of Creative Commons
True

After years of service as a military nurse in the naval Marine Corps, Los Angeles, California-resident Rhonda Jackson became one of the 37,000 retired veterans in the U.S. who are currently experiencing homelessness — roughly eight percent of the entire homeless population.

"I was living in a one-bedroom apartment with no heat for two years," Jackson said. "The Department of Veterans Affairs was doing everything they could to help but I was not in a good situation."

One day in 2019, Jackson felt a sudden sense of hope for a better living arrangement when she caught wind of the ongoing construction of Veteran's Village in Carson, California — a 51-unit affordable housing development with one, two and three-bedroom apartments and supportive services to residents through a partnership with U.S.VETS.

Her feelings of hope quickly blossomed into a vision for her future when she learned that Veteran's Village was taking applications for residents to move in later that year after construction was complete.

"I was entered into a lottery and I just said to myself, 'Okay, this is going to work out,'" Jackson said. "The next thing I knew, I had won the lottery — in more ways than one."

Keep Reading Show less

As the nation helplessly watches our highest halls of government toss justice to the wind, a 2nd grader has given us someplace to channel our frustrations. In a hilarious video rant, a youngster named Taylor shared a story that has folks ready to go to the mat for her and her beloved, pink, perfect attendance pencil.

Keep Reading Show less
via wakaflockafloccar / TikTok

It's amazing to consider just how quickly the world has changed over the past 11 months. If you were to have told someone in February 2020 that the entire country would be on some form of lockdown, nearly everyone would be wearing a mask, and half a million people were going to die due to a virus, no one would have believed you.

Yet, here we are.

PPE masks were the last thing on Leah Holland of Georgetown, Kentucky's mind on March 4, 2020, when she got a tattoo inspired by the words of a close friend.

Keep Reading Show less