Many families like to keep notes, cards or letters received from their friends and family as keepsakes to remember their child.
When someone close to us suffers the loss of a child, it can be hard to find the right words to write in a card or letter to offer your condolences. Finding the right words and expressing them with love, care and compassion can help someone heal from the emotional pain the loss of a child brings. Losing a child is different than losing a parent or grandparent.
Everyone grieves differently and finding the right words to say can be difficult. You don’t want to say something that will cause any extra distress to the family. To avoid unintentionally hurting someone’s feelings, don’t minimize the loss of their child by using cliches such as; “everything happens for a reason”, “God needed another angel”, “[child’s name] won’t suffer anymore” or “time heals all wounds”. It is important not to offer advice as to how a family should grieve, especially if you have never personally experienced the loss of a child. In other words, never say “you should do this”, “you shouldn’t do that”, “you can have another baby”. Sometimes the simplest sentiment “I’m sorry” or “I don’t know what to say” may be enough to show you care.
Send the family a card or letter as soon as you find out about the loss of their child. If you are close to the family it is nice to share and express how much you will miss their child and what they meant to you. If you weren’t close to the family, simply acknowledge their loss.
Finding a card specifically for the loss of a child can be difficult. Most newsagents and department stores have a ‘sympathy card’ range. You can also purchase cards online specific to bereavement online through Zazzle or Carly Marie and Franchesca Cox have a wonderful card range designed specifically for pregnancy, infant loss and infertility. This beautiful and unique collection of cards is named “Lost for words” All cards in the standard 6 x 4 size are $2.98 each.
Below we have shared some words to help you express your feelings with grace and compassion.
‘The right words can be so hard to find. Simply know that I’m thinking of you every moment’
‘We send you our love and heartfelt prayers that you may find the strength you need to get through each day’
‘Please accept my sympathy for the terrible loss of your child.’
‘Our Deepest Sympathy’
‘Our Heartfelt Condolences’
‘Our thoughts and prayers are with you’
‘So small, so sweet, so soon’
‘[Child’s name] will never be forgotten’
‘Always in our hearts’
‘May you find peace and comfort’
‘Sending you our love and deepest sympathy’
‘Please be patient with yourself and take all the time you need’
‘I would love to know more about your child and Im here any time you want to talk’
‘I’m so sorry for your loss, please know that you are in our thoughts and prayers’
‘Even on your darkest days there’s an angel beside you to guide you along the way’
‘If you need a friend to talk to or just someone to sit with in silence, I am here for you’
If you prefer to write the family a letter, below is an example. This is more specific for a family who have experienced a stillbirth, neonatal loss or infant loss, but can easily be adapted for any bereavement.
1. Recognize the loss and mention their child’s name
I am so sorry to hear about the loss of your precious child__________________.
2. Convey your sympathy
I was heartbroken to hear the news, and I want you to know that my thoughts and prayers are with you during this difficult time.
3. Recount any special qualities of the child or pregnancy that you can recall
I still remember when you announced your pregnancy and the very first time I felt ________________ kick inside your belly.
4. Point out the strengths of the bereaved
I know that the depth of love that you and your family share for each other and for _____________ will pull you through.
5. Offer specific help
I’d like to help by cooking you a meal on Thursday evening.
6. Conclude your words of condolences letter with an encouraging hope or wish
I wish there was something more I could say or do to take away your suffering, but instead please know that I care for you and I’m here for you. Wishing you hope, light, love and happiness
This is merely an example, of what to write in a words of condolences letter. Use it as a guide, but feel free to insert your own thoughts and feelings into your letter. Speak from the heart and you can be sure that your words of condolences will bring comfort to your grieving loved ones.
Alternative ways to offer condolences
- Listen, hold the parents’ hands and allow them to cry or talk about their child.
- Give them a hug.
- Have a tree, flower or bush planted in memory of their child.
- Cook a few meals in freezable containers and leave them at their house or arrange a home delivery service from Aussie Farmers Direct or Coles Online.
- Help the family with household chores like shopping, cleaning, washing, lawn mowing, garden maintenance etc
- If the deceased child had siblings, offer to take them out to a movie or to the park. They’re grieving too and need attention.
- Offer to help look after siblings whilst the parents can receive some rest, or time away for a coffee or movie together.
- Arrange a family holiday so the family can escape for a few days and privately grieve their loss.
Some Last thoughts
Even though the parents may not recognize it immediately, they will be very thankful for your words of condolence. Remember to always speak of the child by his or her name because it puts a value on the child’s life, no matter how long or short it was. Condolences can also be sent or given on the child’s birthday and anniversary of death often referred to as ‘angelversary’. The parents will be humbled that someone remembered their child and thought of their family on these dates. If the parents have gone on to have more children, that doesn’t mean they don’t want to talk about or have forgotten about the child who died. Their deceased child will always remain a very important part of their family.