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What Should I Say?
Written by Clara Hinton   |  Aug 25, 2002
When a child dies, there are a number of details that must be taken care of immediately. Funeral arrangements must be made. People who are going to participate in the memorial service must be contacted. Legal documents must be signed. And, most importantly, family members and friends must be told about the child’s death.

Because a parent is generally in a state of shock the first few days following the death of a child, telling others of the tragic news is often a near impossible task, so this becomes something that a special friend, pastor, or the funeral director will help the parents to do.

The question will be asked, “What should I say?” There is an extreme awkwardness, uneasiness about telling of someone’s death. It becomes a very sensitive issue to know how to tell others of a child’s death. Often, a parent will be asked exactly what the message should be to others. What words should be used? How should the announcement of death be told?

Telling of a child’s death is one of the most difficult tasks of grief work that a parent will have to do. Should the word “died” be used? Should it be said that the child “passed on”? Or, is it better to say that the child is “now in heaven”? Choosing just the right words to say when a child has died is extremely important. Many parents take offense when hearing the wrong word. Parents should have the final say as to what words are chosen and used.

Some parents get upset saying that their child has “died” or is “deceased”. Those words seem too final. They seem almost cold. It is important to sit down with a caring friend or family member to help you choose the words that will be the most comfort to you when telling others of the sad news about your child.

Often, the funeral director will help with this most important grief task. The words you choose to tell your family and friends of your child’s death will most likely be the same words used in the newspaper obituary. It is most important that the words chosen are ones the parents truly want to describe their child leaving this earth.

Many parents use the words “passed on” or “went to be with the Lord” rather than the words “died” or “departed”. It is helpful for parents to explain to the funeral director or pastor their spiritual feelings so that the most healing words can be used when telling of the child’s death.

To many, this does not seem like an important issue. But, to the parents, these final words are words that will be etched in their minds forever. Parents should never feel rushed or pushed into choosing words that are not right for them. Take your time and really think how you want the news of your child’s death to be worded. Express your desires and have someone see to it that your wishes are honored. Don’t ever feel apologetic for saying you want to choose the words of the announcement of your child’s death. This was your child!

By choosing the most healing words of comfort for you, you will be moving one more step forward in your journey of grief from child loss. As one mother said, “I didn’t want to read a paper that said date of death. Instead, I insisted it said the day my child joined hearts with God. Those words became my comfort in the days ahead!”
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