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When someone loses a loved one, those close to them – family, friends, colleagues – want to support them as best they can.

Yet it can be challenging to know what to do – or say – in this situation. This is especially true when the person is experiencing a grief that is particularly hard to fathom: the loss of a child.

Whether the death of a child was sudden or due to a long-term illness, it is completely normal for family, friends and colleagues to be at a loss for words and look for guidance from professionals on the right way to comfort the bereaved.

Here are some ways professionals in the death-care industry can help family, friends, colleagues, and others close to those grieving, comfort and support bereaved parents.

Saying the Right Things

There are a few platitudes that those comforting the bereaved should try to avoid. For instance, sentences beginning with “at least,” such as “at least you went on that big vacation as a family last year” or “at least their brother and sister are healthy,” can minimize the pain of those grieving.

It is also recommended to avoid statements about faith, unless friends and colleagues know that they share the same faith as the bereaved. Common phrases about heaven and angels may be confusing, and many bereaved parents have expressed frustration in hearing statements such as “everything happens for a reason.”

Words that bring peace, hope, and comfort without minimizing a bereaved parent’s pain are healing and helpful. If a concerned friend or colleague plans to call or email the grieving parents, one may suggest that they begin their correspondence with a validating and compassionate statement. This could include, “I am deeply sorry over the loss of _____” or “I cannot imagine how you feel.” The correspondence can also include a favorite memory of the child or a special anecdote. Generally, parents appreciate when people trying to comfort them say their child’s name and are not afraid to speak of happier times.

Doing the Right Things

One of the best things those trying to comfort bereaved parents can do is just to be present. This means thinking about what the grieving parents need and giving it to them without asking permission first. It is always helpful when family, friends, and colleagues rally together to cover the expenses of a housekeeper or lawn service for the year, create a meal train, have groceries and cleaning products delivered and/or send gift cards for meal delivery services.

Normal everyday activities often slip people’s minds when they are living in a “new normal” that they never wanted to experience. Friends, family, and colleagues can show support by ensuring the parents’ daily needs are met and giving them one less thing to handle.

It is important to be patient with a bereaved parent – this is an incredibly compassionate way of providing care for them. If they are slower than usual to respond to emails or calls, or are irritable, sad, or in a daze, they are trying to make sense of life without their child. One of the best things those comforting grieving parents can do is show them patience.

Making Sense of It All

There is no right way to grieve. When people feel seen, heard, loved, safe to talk or cry, and cared for, then they can grieve as they need. There is such compassion and comfort in knowing that people from every part of a bereaved person’s life desire to have all the best tools to support them in their inexplicable grief.

Read the first article in this series: “How to Help Families Navigate a Loved One’s Terminal Illness.”

Read the second article in this series: Supporting Families After Suicide.

About The information and tools available on eCondolence seek to clarify the questions and offer reliable answers for those who are grieving or who want to help someone who is. provides guidance on appropriate items to send and words to express condolences in a respectable and understanding way. Learn more.

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