Imagine this: you are being given an opportunity. When a woman tells you her child died, now is your chance to make a difference. A lot of the time, a woman whose child has died is ignored, sometimes shamed, sometimes punished for her loss but now you have a chance to make a difference. All you need to say is, “I am sorry for your loss.”. You don’t need to ask how, why, where her child died, you just need to express the sorrow you can imagine you’d feel if your child died, or a child close to you died, or someone else you love died and you missed them a lot.
She understands you find it confronting that she said her child died. She finds it confronting that her child died too and a lot more so than you who have only to look from the outside in this brief moment. But in this brief moment you can make a difference to that woman’s life by being kind and by acknowledging her loss. You don’t need to say, “Good thing you have other children!” if you think she does because children like snowflakes are unique unto themselves and like your partner wouldn’t be replaced or your loss healed by simply meeting another partner, neither is this woman’s loss healed by the existence now, or in the future, of other children. She lost that child, that irreplaceable being, that drop of water in the ocean of humanity who is never to be seen again.
You don’t need to offer a comparison. No, it is not the same as your experience of loss and that’s ok. It’s a moment about this woman and her dead child, at this time and all you need to do is be present in it with her. For a moment.
You don’t need to say silent because you are scared of saying the “wrong” thing. Authenticity and kindness are never wrong. But if you need a prompt, remember this from me and simply say: I am sorry for your loss. Because it might be the one time she hears that in a day, a week, a month or a year and you will be offering something kind like a little beacon in a world where we offer lip service to grief instead of acknowledging the howling gale of it in our lives and bodies.