A Bereaved Mom’s Plea to the Nonbereaved: ‘I Wish You’d Say …’

NatBiancaBy Suzanne Leigh


• “You must be thinking of Natasha a lot today,” instead of, “Happy Halloween,” “Happy Birthday” (or “Happy” anything).

• “It’s so unfair that Natasha passed away,” rather than, “Are you getting over it yet” (or the more tactful version: “Are you feeling better yet”).

• “Tell me about your favorite Natasha memory,” after you’ve updated me on your child’s latest milestone. (I might hesitate and stumble; I might not come up with a very revelatory memory. I might even cry, but I will so appreciate you acknowledging my child’s life.)

• “It’s hard for me to see you suffer,” instead of changing the subject when my social mask slips and the tears fall.

• “It’s good to see you,” instead of, “How are you.”

• “You must miss Natasha a lot,” instead of complaining (again) about your own children.

• “Remember that time when Natasha …” My daughter loved many people. She may have loved you or your child. Share your memories with me, please. You are validating her life for me, not reminding me that I had a child that died.

• Instead of saying, “I hope you’re well,” in a letter or e-mail, I wish you’d say, “I was thinking of Natasha today.” (Yes, I am well, if “well” discounts the fact that I’m unable to sleep without meds, unable to lose myself in a book, to truly laugh or experience real joy, or to be in any place closely associated with Natasha without feeling crushing grief. And her name is Natasha. Say it for me, please. It’s a beautiful name.)

• Nothing at all when I start crying. I do it every day. It’s my normal and if you give me a minute or two, I’ll probably be able to put on my social mask again.

• Some kind words to accompany those pictures of a new family member that you’re sharing with me. To bereaved parents, seeing a newborn can be a cruel shove back to the time when our world was safe, when our late child was an infant, like the one in the pictures you’re showing me, destined for a future full of love and full of light. An infant that blossomed into a gorgeous girl. A girl that left this world about 70 years too early.

Thank you to the friend who sent me this e-mail after the birth of her child: “I am sending you pictures of [Baby X]. He has Natasha’s big eyes. I know Natasha would love to play with him and I wish that she was still here with us to enjoy him.”




About Suzanne Leigh

Suzanne Leigh is a freelance health reporter, a Huffington Post blogger and the mother of two gorgeous girls. She blogs about her family at: www.themourningafternatasha.wordpress.com


18 thoughts on “A Bereaved Mom’s Plea to the Nonbereaved: ‘I Wish You’d Say …’”

  1. What a lovely friend you are and what a sweet gesture to a grieving mom. I’ll bet that e-card with her late son’s name on it, lifted her heavy heart.

  2. It was actually a dad who was the friend of mine–a therapist who is gifted at helping others learn to lift their heavy hearts. So thank you. And I wish you many moments of sweet remembrance of Natasha as the years unspool.

  3. Thank you, Marcy, those “sweet remembrances” are terribly sad remembrances these days.
    And thank you for the compliment, Freckles!

  4. Thank you for this article. I am also a bereaved parent (17 years and counting) but I am also the grieving child of a parent who has passed on. I lost my mom a year ago July and the memories are very sad at times. Your words here are what I think everyone who is grieving wants to say to people but never do. Thank you for saying them.

  5. So true, Stephafriendly! We never need to be “reminded,” because we never forget those children we mothered — and lost. “How are you doing,” is very well intentioned but a difficult question to answer, because in spite of the social smiles that get easier over time, every day is pretty crappy … for a LONG time. I like it when people say, “Good to see you.”

  6. Natasha was beautiful. I’m sorry for your pain and loss. Thank you for writing and sharing to help those who could not fathom the daily pain of such a loss. Your other pieces are profoundly moving as well.

  7. Mrs. Donut (love this name!), Ultrafighter and BeautifulNM — Thank you. Your kind messages are making a tough day brighter!

  8. Can’t help being mesmerized by those beautiful intense eyes, and the warmth she had is so apparent in the kitty sleeping blissfully in her lap. I am so sorry for your loss and pain. You have written this so beautifully.

  9. Thank you, Sharon. Like a lot of gentle people, my Natasha had a special bond with kitties. I think her eyes are beautiful, too!

  10. Oh, this brings tears to my eyes! I can’t imagine the depth of your pain – it is rivaled only by the depth of your strength and love, apparent in what you have written here.

  11. Thank you for writing this. 11 months ago, our next door neighbors lost their 18 month old baby. It has been heartbreaking. While their sweet boy is always on our minds, we never quite know what to say. They are not as social as they used to be, which of course is understandable. And we worry about them. Additionally, we have a 14 month old baby. I can imagine it must be difficult for them to see her. And I almost feel guilty for having her outside where I know they can see her from their home. They are kind, but distant. And I want to acknowledge their pain, but I never know what to say. So sometimes we stay indoors. This article helps. We never want to seem insensitive, but I feel that we do. Any additional advice is welcome!

  12. And if I might add, your daughter is stunning. Those eyes! Thank you for sharing your story. Your experiences will help us all to love each other better.

  13. Thank you, Care1032. I think my Natasha has beautiful eyes, too! It is kind of you to think about your neighbors. Keeping their distance is a way of protecting themselves; you are right not to force it.
    What is really helpful to every bereaved parent I’ve talked to is to say the name of their late child and share your memories of them, even if they don’t seem significant ones (“I remember Matthew’s beautiful curly hair,” goes much further than, “sorry for your loss”). And remembering their child’s birthday and the date of their passing with a thoughtful note and perhaps a gift card to a restaurant that delivers — it is so hard to grocery shop when you’re racked with grief — are gestures that I think every bereaved parent

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