What to Say Wednesday: Ask Open Ended Questions

What to say Wednesday 1Welcome to What to Say Wednesday – a weekly tip on how to support grieving parents.

To find out more, click HERE!

Here is today’s tip:

When talking with parents who have experienced loss, ask open ended questions.

For example: How are you doing? What is it like? How is the rest of your family? What can I do to help during this time?

These are much more effective at communicating care than closed ended questions such as: Are you better now? Are you okay? Can I help? Are you doing good now? That was hard to go through, huh?

Here are the two main differences between these types of questions:

1. One looks for a “yes” or “no” answer, while the other invites the bereaved parents to talk

2. One implies that the someone really should be feeling better, while the other gives room for the reality of grief

When you choose open ended questions, you are giving permission for the mom or dad to tell you what they are really feeling. They may or may not want to give details, but either way, they will know you are offering a listening ear. They will also know you don’t expect them to somehow be “over it.”

Sometimes, just a simple adjustment in word choice can make all the difference in showing concern and support.

What to Say Wednesday: How to Support Grieving Parents

What to say Wednesday 1When we lost Esther, we were thrown into a world we knew little about. We found out many other people didn’t know much about it either. Every interaction between us and someone else seemed awkward. They didn’t know what to say. We didn’t know what to tell them.

While I am confident that everyone around us meant well, some of the things people said were helpful and some were hurtful, simply because they were so misunderstanding. What do you say to someone who has just experienced the death of a baby? We all know that really, no words can fix it. But there are some things that are certainly BETTER to say, and some common things that should NEVER be said to bereaved parents.

Before this happened to us, I would have made some of the same mistakes that I mention here. I didn’t understand because I hadn’t been there. Now that I am here, I want to offer some reflections to help outsiders see into the world of loss and understand how they can best offer support.

If, upon further reading, you discover you have said something that was probably not best, please don’t feel bad. It’s hard to know what to say or do in situations like these. Here you will find tips for next time.

What to Say Wednesday will be a weekly post giving a simple suggestion of something to say or something to avoid saying to parents who have lost a child. It will also give examples of other helpful ways to support a family going through a loss.


Here is the first edition of What to Say Wednesday…

Hearing someone say, “Esther Kate” is one of the sweetest sounds I can hear. It is so hard that she is not here. But when someone says her name, it tells me she is not forgotten, and it touches my mommy heart in a special way.

Many parents choose to give a name to their baby that died, especially if the loss was later in the pregnancy.  If you know that someone has named the baby they have lost, say the baby’s name. Names are always special, but even more so when a loss has occurred. A name validates a baby’s existence, demonstrates their value as a real person, and is given in love by the parents. Many people seem afraid to speak the name of a baby that has died, for fear doing so will bring more pain. In reality, the opposite is true. The more you refer to the baby by name, the more healing and honor it brings to the parents.


Be watching for another tip next Wednesday!