The Advice I Wish I Got After My Son Died

when my son died

When my son died, I received a lot of advice. I found people do not know what to say. They default to the things they have been conditioned to say during these times. It came from many different sources, most of which had never lost a child. The advice came from good intentions, but it was hollow. Not at all what I needed in that moment.

When someone would tell me it would be OK, I was angry. They would say everything happens for a reason and I should trust God. More anger. Then there was, “Give it time. Time heals all wounds.” It doesn’t. Then there were the people that tried to facilitate a connection. Here, call Jane. She lost her son, too. I was not in a place talk to other bereaved mothers and hear all about their experience. Everything felt like pressure towards a direction someone else thought was best for me. Someone that had never stood where I was standing.

If you haven’t noticed, there is a lot of anger in grief. It is unavoidable so you should just learn to embrace it early. It made me feel like I was going crazy. Everything made me mad. I hated their advice yet I found myself starting to wonder if I should listen. It didn’t resonate, but I was desperate. So I started judging my grief. It made me question everything I was doing and feel as if I was doing it all wrong. That made me more angry.

Then I had a breakthrough. A grief breakthrough.

I don’t recall the cause or the source, but I suddenly understood what I needed to do. It all made sense.

My epiphany? My grief is only about me. The journey I walk is my own. No one can tell me how to do it. I simply have to do whatever I feel is right in the moment for me. It is not my job to help make others feel better. I cannot be concerned for how they are doing. I know it sounds harsh and unfeeling. However, there is an “I” in grief. As there should be! It is the only way because MY son died! This was about Cameron and I. No one else. The rest of the world has their own path  to follow and they must figure it out on their own.

It seemed so simple. Selfish, but simple.

Since my son died, I have changed the way I talk to someone that has experienced loss. I never tell them I am sorry, that is the worst thing to say when someone dies. I am no longer afraid to say, “That really sucks!” It does. Then I tell them I am thinking about them and sending love. I really am. Love is all that matters. If I feel the urge to share advice, I simply tell them their grief is unique to them. They have to do whatever is right for them and not compare themselves to anyone else. Don’t worry about what anyone else tells you. Just follow your gut.

This advice would have saved me so much agony.

What is your go to advice?

advice for bereaved mother

57 Comments on “The Advice I Wish I Got After My Son Died”

  1. We have lost a daughter age 21 and son age 50 our hearts are broken we don’t have any more family , we never got any help after we lost both our daughter passed away 33 years ago our son passed away year gone November on our wedding anniversary, we love and miss both so much our lives are empty we try and help each other get though each day , thinking of every one who have lost a loved one xxxx ??????

    1. That is a lot of heartbreak! It is a tough road to lose a child (let alone 2). Much love to you both.

  2. My son passed away February 8 of this year. I have spent all day reading your blog and it has really helped me. I have felt so alone and lost. This article really hit home. Thank you so much for sharing your story. Losing a child sucks! Much love to you, please keep doing what you’re doing and helping other bereaved mothers like myself get through this awful time.

    1. Sarah – I am so glad you found comfort in what you have read. You are definitely not alone. Losing a child does suck. Reclaiming your life after is a daily thing. Much love to you as you navigate your loss. There are so many of us out there ready to support each other through this journey. XO

  3. I have lost two children one at age 20 and then one who is handicapped my daughter 8 years after he got killed. I am very angry and I can’t get myself out of this depression I have lost two children and that is very hard

    1. That is an incredibly hard road. Anger makes sense. It’s such a big part of grief because the loss (both of your losses) go against nature. It’s not supposed to be this way. Life can be very unfair. Sending lots of love your way.

  4. I lost my son to SIDS when he was 10 weeks old, & I quickly learned who I could go to & who were just going to spout off worn out comfortless cliches. Luckily, I had 3 main people who were my whole support system when it happened. They knew they didn’t know the answers, but they allowed me space to talk about my son, my grief, & my fears of having failed as a mother. They gave me love, & even almost 8 years later, they assure me that grief isn’t something I “should be over by now,” that it’s a lifelong process that changes forms along the way. Because of them, those are the words I offer to other people who experience a loss.

    1. Loss definitely shows us who our people are. Like you, I had a few people that didn’t allow things to be uncomfortable. They kept inserting themselves, were willing to sit in the silence, and allowed me to talk (and also talked) normally about my son. Cherish those people! Your words of wisdom are so true and great advice for anyone new on this path. Hugs!

  5. My son has been gone for two years. I am either thinking about him, talking to him or avoiding looking at his picture and being in the moment with him because it is so fresh and still hurts so much. The more time that passes, the more unbelievable it is that he is gone. His 9 years of life were spent in and out of hospitals until he could fight no more. Anger was and still is a big part of what I feel. Anger at parents who take their children for granted. Anger at people who are well meaning and say that they are praying for me when all their prayers for healing my son were left unanswered. I miss him so much and it sucks that he isnt here and it just is not fair. I just want to be with him.

    1. I agree the more time that passes the more unbelievable it seems to be. I also realize that I’ve built this wall around the pain. If I sit with the reality of him being gone or think too long about the details I find myself slipping right back to how I felt early on. Anger was big for me too. It can be hard to manage how much you let yourself feel it. Sending lots of love.

  6. Losing a child sucks, parents are not supposed to bury their children. I turn to god for comfort, read the bible and listen to gospel. But I have come to the conclusion that we live in an imperfect world and that we have to keep breathing, that’s why it makes it to so hard to continue living with so much pain.

    1. You’re right, it does suck. We should never outlive our children. It is so important though to find what works for you to continue living after. Hugs.

  7. My daughter’s death in 2015 destroyed my family. My brother found it easier to pretend I didn’t exist than support me. This caused added pain and a broken relationship with my parents who were angry at me for not feeling sorry for him. We don’t even speak anymoreas they weren’t interested in talking through it. So I lost them as well as my daughter. I find comfort and support in my grief from a few good friends, without them I would be really struggling.

    1. Relationships can change so much after child loss. The people you think will be there in your lowest times aren’t always the ones that can support you. Just one more reality that slaps us in the face. I’m so glad you have a few people you can count on to offer what you need. It really is so important. Sending love.

  8. The loss of our 22 year old grandson has left our entire family struggling with his death. We all have our own way of dealing with it. I watch my daughter,her husband and their other grown son live each day with the recognition that their lives will never be the same. We hold tight to each other. Others who have never lost a young member of their family really can’t relate to this situation so they do the best they can to try to make you feel better when in reality there is nothing they can do. Much love to those who are going through this nightmare.

    1. Loss really does change your life in a way only others who have experienced it can relate. Sending lots of love your way!

  9. My son passed away Feb 26,2017 He was 47 years old. I am still so angry. He was a wonderful person. One person said time heals all wounds. They never buried their child. Time will never heal this open gaping wound. I miss him so much He was a bright light to all who knew him. The best words for me to hear were. I’m so sorry for your loss. One other person said they didn’t talk to us about him because they didn’t want to remind us that he died. Really???i wake up everyday knowing that. People need to talk about your loved one. It keeps the memory alive We need to talk about him. I have always been strong in my faith however this has taken a toll on that. We’re not supposed to bury our children. I am sorry for everyone who has gone through this.

    1. You’re right, we aren’t supposed to bury our children! Time does NOT heal this wound. We simply learn coping mechanisms to carry the weight of the grief. I also have people that ignore the topic of my son. It’s so hard. My focus has been on surrounding myself with the people that will. It’s what I need to continue on…I’m sure you feel the same. They existed. They lived and died. They are loved…even still. Hugs!

  10. We lost our son June 30, 2017. I have emotions that bounce all over the place. I am finally to the point I just want to stay away from people, except my family. We bought an RV to travel with our sons wife and grandchildren. Our son would be happy about that. I want to remove my name from our church roster. I don’t want anyone to expect anything out of me. Our church was so good to our son and us too, I hate to just say I quit. However, that is exactly what I feel like. My husband does not feel
    Like I do, and I do t want to let him down either. I am just sad to my very bones and so very tired of pretending all is well. What should I do. I want to just lie down somewhere and stay there until I see my sweet 43 year old son again. He battled cancer 6 1/2 Years. I don’t want him to come back to this earth to suffer. I want to go where he is!

    1. I hear you, Kathie! It’s so hard to be around others and feel that expectation. They think we are the same people we were when our sons were alive. Unless they’ve walked this path, they have no idea how much it changes a person. I am a firm believer that you must do what feels right to you. If that means taking a break from people, from church, from whatever it is that causes you additional stress…do it. Surviving loss is about simplifying your life. Letting go of the things that don’t matter. Learning to put yourself first. Down the road you may decide to change your mind again. It’s really whatever feels right to you. I continue to tell myself my son would want me to live the best life possible…what he remembered of our life here. I’m sure your son would say the same. Hugs!

  11. February 3, 2018 is the day that changed our lives forever. Life SUCKS!!
    Our son Curtis 22yrs was killed in a car accident, someone pulled out in front of him.
    I don’t understand, I have so much anger. I hate to be around people, especially when they talk about the “weather” I feel so depressed and I hate that he’s not here w us. We will never see him fall in love, get married, have kids, or dance w him at his wedding. It’s hard to think he’s “better” off cause he wasn’t sick. Everything was perfect. He was just getting his life started. He told me he was ready to buy a house, fall in love and start a new chapter in his life. I get so mad when people say “Time will heal, It’s God will, He’s in a better place” Before my son was killed we laid my mom to rest 3 weeks prior. Life sucks and I need off this roller coaster.

    1. Time most certainly does not heal. I believe loss like this will always have moments it feels like it happened forever ago and in the next breath it can feel like it happened yesterday. Sending you lots of love and strength. The two biggest losses (your mother & your child) within 3-weeks of each other is a LOT. Hugs!

    2. Esther, life really sucks. I buried my mother 11 months ago and on April 4th my firstborn son, 29 years old. He died after 12 days in the ICU after a traffic accident – someone pulled out in front of him, too….. He was on his motorbike, landed on his head, finally his body shut down and we lost him. He was laid to rest in the very same suit we bought only days earlier for his upcoming wedding. It’s beoynd cruel. I don’t know how I will survive. I hate myself for feeling this way as I have two more sons and a baby granddaughter. “One person is missing and the whole world is empty”. Oh yes. This blog, which I found only yesterday, states a lot of what I am experiencing and feeling. I’ve been offered professional support but I doubt that it can give me anything more that this. For now. I hope we both, and all other mothers dealing with this, find a way to breathe again.

      1. Hugs to you Catarina. I understand when you say one person is missing and the whole world is empty. That’s a hard feeling to overcome and get past. I think it will always be there for us.

  12. My 23 year old son died suddenly on Christmas Day last year. He was doing volunteer work in Cambodia with the poor. It was his 9th journey back to this country where he was at his best. He suffered from mental illness, but that did not matter there. They loved him for who he was and for his gift for teaching English. I cannot believe I will not see him again.

    1. Hugs! I understand what it is to lose a child on Christmas…how it changes not only your life, but the joy of that holiday. I’m not sure the reality of never seeing them again ever really sets in. XO Emily

  13. My son was murdered by his father because I was going to divorce him. I even went to court to get help and told them of his plan. The judge did not listen and told me nothing will happen to my son. I went to crisis center for help and no one helped me. I went to the police department for help and no one believed me. Two weeks later my son was murdered
    and my husband commit suicide on the same day. They died of carbon monoxide poisoning and all pre-meditated. This was how I told everyone my husband said he’d do it. And no one believed me. It took a 2 year old boy to die in his sleep for people to start believing. But they all pointed fingers at each other. And no one was reprimanded. But I live a life sentence of pain since February 6th, 2005. The pain is still strong. My only wish is to die young naturally so we can be together as Mother and son in God’s protective arms. No pain just love. I’m waiting.

  14. My 19 year old son died two and a half weeks ago after being in the hospital for 12 days because of a car accident. The driver of the car, was likely drunk, maybe high, and walked away, leaving my son lying in the road for an hour and a half before he was found by a delivery driver. My son never gained consciousness but he hung on for 12 days. It was the longest 12 days of our lives. We are struggling with grief and anger. Anger at the driver who left him there, maybe – just maybe, he would have had a chance if they had gotten to him sooner.
    Thank you for sharing this information. I know that there is no blueprint for grief but hearing some of what is likely to happen helps me to know, we’re not all crazy.

    1. We are not crazy! We are just trying to navigate the greatest loss imaginable. Sending so much love to you.

    2. I am sorry… no enough is it? Maybe even lame? I lost my only son today. I don’t know how to feel yet. I am grief stricken… I am angry… and I am lost. LOST.

  15. Hi
    I lost Luke x
    One day I will die – what a brilliant destination – I cannot wait and daydream about how to hurry it along – we were soul mates of the highest order – we will meet again

  16. We lost our son to a relapse 10 weeks back . He was in recovery but made one more final mistake so we were a little caught off guard.He had a many positive things going in his life like work, apartment, meditation and yoga and had recently met his soul mate .I was the one who found him .I cannot remove the image of what I saw ,its unimaginable ,but grateful my wife didn’t see him that way. She is so angry and I don’t know what I am supposed to do.

    1. Sending you so much love! Do whatever feels right in the moment. Grief has no rules so don’t have any expectations. We never get over the trauma of losing our children (and it sounds like yours was very difficult). One day at a time is all you can do as you learn to carry that pain.

  17. I lost my son on mother’s Day may 13th 2001,from brain cancer he was 14,its a struggle everyday, but I do it, I go to work and live my life but it hurts some days it feels like I’m suffocating, he was my only child so it’s very hard I really miss him I know he’s in a better place he has a room with a view, he’s my angel

  18. My only child died January 2018 we were going to hang out he got foul mood which wasn’t him I left called him two blocks away his cell phone only was working on wifi he died alone at hospital heart or on way no neighbor call me they knew my number he said he felt little sick so he call ambulance 36 just him and me because he was ADHD and dyslexic we were constantly together I have no one and nothing over 65 I can’t ..

  19. I lost my son on March 3,2018 due to a car accident he was 24 years old. My son and his best friend both died. The bodies were so damaged because the car ignited that when the fireman arrived, and put out the fire they could tell if it was a man or woman. They identify the boys with dental records. I miss him so much. This pain I am feeling is over whelming. I cry everyday. I don’t have the energy or will to keep on living. I am trying so hard to move from me crying and feeling depressed

    1. It’s a difficult thing to live after your child is gone. Take care of yourself. I always tell myself my son would want to see us the way we were when he was here, as hard as that may be. My goal is to try and get as close as I can…for him. Hugs!

  20. I lost my middle child, boy, couple weeks ago. He used heroin for over a year, developed endocarditis in February, survived heart valve replacement and recovered nicely. He came home in May and died 8 days later in his bed! Shock!! I don’t know how to go on!! People say you have your other kids to live for… but I miss HIM!! Life is not complete without him. He was only 20 years old , funny, sweet, handsome, smart. I don’t buy this whole GOD bs, and “he’s in a better place now”.. it frustrates me to hear these comments! No! He was supposed to be here with his family, see his sisters get married, be the best man at his brothers wedding and argue with me about all the little things we argued! How do I move on when all I want is to stop living

    1. I understand! He is the missing puzzle piece. Life will never feel complete again without him here. Loss like this is so unfair and cruel. Sending lots of love your way!

  21. My son, Andy, died two days before his birthday on Feb 3, 2013. He was 36. My husband and I had cooked him a birthday dinner and cake but on that day, instead of he and his wife and two year old daughter showing up to celebrate, the phone rang with the bad news just as we finished cooking. We clung to each other to get through February and three weeks after his death, I came home from work and found my husband in a chair, dead, blood clot, heart attack. We were married 37 years. My life has gone on but my broken heart remains broken. My granddaughter is 7 now and she talks about her dad, she wants to have a dad, she wants to know him, and she talks about her pappy. She used to remember them both but the memories fade for a small child. Watching my younger son, now 29, grieve over the loss of his brother and dad just added to my pain. I miss Andy’s beautiful smile and chuckle, his good nature, and his big heart. I miss how we used to have deep conversations about life. I’m sad that he isn’t in his daughter’s life. There is no rhyme or reason or understanding for why these things happen. There is no peace because a mother can spend eons of time wondering about the truth of religious beliefs, the resting place of souls, does the soul exist in another realm, will you see them again, do they know their life meant something, that they are missed and loved. There is no one to talk to about it because those who haven’t experienced losing a child can’t fathom it and they are uncomfortable trying to do so, they can’t go there, of course. Those that have experienced it, well, sometimes it hurts to share our pain.

    1. I understand the spending eons of time questioning everything!! It was my son’s death that solidified my beliefs. I visited a medium shortly after my son died. Things came through that reading that no one could have possibly known. She told me about things I was seeing and hadn’t told anyone… super specific and only Cameron could have known. Things they told me about that didn’t really make sense that day have since come true. There was just so much validation there. I know he is still here with us, just in a different form. It helped me tune into his signs. You’re right though, only another bereaved parent seems comfortable enough to have some of these conversations. I swear I could talk for hours on this topic alone! Hang in there. Life should not have to be this hard, but it is. Sending lots of love.

  22. I lost my 22 year old son three months ago to suicide. He was my only, the result of five years of infertility. He has been my whole world for so long that I don’t know how to move on. I am currently not working – have been out of work for 18 months and have essentially been estranged from my husband for the last 15 years. Now I am faced with losing my home and everything that represents my son and me. I am so broken hearted that I don’t sleep, don’t eat and just cry, cry and cry. I finally this morning got out of bed for the first time in a week. I don’t know what to do anymore. Next week is his birthday, he would have been 23. 23! So young and had so much to look forward to and now my life is nothing. I see me homeless and wandering the streets in six months. How can someone get over something like this?

    1. Julie, just keep putting one foot in front of the other. It totally sucks, but you can do this. Your son would want you to keep going. There is absolutely no getting over it. Put that thought out of your mind and focus more on finding ways to live your life in your son’s memory. Do things for him. Eventually those things will become more routine and slowly you will realize you’re doing it. You don’t have to like it… but you have to do it. If there is anything I can do to support you, I’m here.

  23. Hi my name is Chris and I lost my son 23yrs old my mum and my dad and my 3mth old granddaughter all in 34 month period life is poo but we all somehow struggle on you are all brave people even if you think your not x

  24. I too have lost my son dec 10 2018. His girlfriend called me in the am and said he would not wake up to go to work. My world has fell apart. He was not only my son but my best friend. 28 yrs old. I held his hand for 3 hrs at his funeral. I wish so much it was me instead. I agree with Emily, I still want to tell people to shut up! NOBODY will ever understand unless it happens to them. I never thought a person could cry so much. I dont think I will ever get over it. Everything I look at reminds me of him. I can say that I DO know what its like. It happened to me.

    1. So true that no one will fully understand until it happens to them. We will never get over the loss of our children. Hugs!

  25. Emily, thank you for all these courages words & advice. My son mykel died of an overdose on November 19,2014. Emily for me it feel like yesterday. The pain in my heart is unbearable at times but when it stops hurting I get upset. I feel like that pain will keep me and my son together. I’ve always been a single mother with no help. I love all you advice and I will try hard to get better but right now I feel like I probably will die from a broken heart. I still have my daughter and now she’s 26, she passed her brother in age now and that was hard for the both of us. I just don’t know what to do anymore and I can’t tell the difference between grieving & depression. I can’t get out of bed. Every year I say I will try a lilttle harder but it’s the worse. Idk thank you for this article. LOve Susan Broken hearted mommy.

    1. Sending you so much love and strength Susan! This is not easy at all. Every day is a new chance. I look at it as I am living my life for both of us. I know he is right beside me and so I want to make him proud (for whatever that is worth). Take it one day at a time. Find something you can do in his honor that helps. Grief and depression can go hand-in-hand, that’s for sure. Take care of yourself. I created a Facebook group to connect bereaved parents to share/connect and support each other. You are welcome to join (assuming you are on Facebook). Hugs!

  26. I found my beautiful 21 year old son Eric face down on his bed on March 3 at 2:00. We were getting ready for his brothers 13th birthday party. I had just spoken with him a half an hour prior. I gave him narcan and did cpr. 9-1-1 called and it took a half hour for them to get a small pulse. He was on life support for 5 days before they declared him brain dead. For the past month I have struggled with what I could have done differently…we have learned from the medical examiner that it was fentanyl. Now I feel angry and feel he was murdered. He was a beautiful soul with much to offer this world. When he was in the hospital hundreds of people came to see him. Hospital staff said they had never seen anything like it. The amount of lives he touched was amazing, he truly cared about and wanted to help people. I have 5 other children and he had a very close relationship with all of them, even in the midst of his pain and struggle with addiction. Even in his death he helped people and saved 6 lives through organ donation. If it weren’t for my husband and other children I would not want to go on living. There is a huge hole in my life that can never be filled. He was my best friend. This is an absolutely inexplicable pain…I am praying for strength

    1. Please know you did everything you could with the information you had. Addiction is powerful and is 100% to blame here. It sounds like your son was an amazing man. Hold onto those memories. This is not an easy road (as you know). There will always be a huge hole. If you are on Facebook, I have a privatae group for bereaved parents to connect and support each other. It definitely helps to know you aren’t alone (or crazy as I so often felt). If/when you are ready, the link is below. Sending lots of love!

  27. My son, (the youngest of three), who is 20 was recently taken away suddenly in a horrible accident on 5/26.
    He was struck by a train and killed.
    He had earbuds in. As a music lover, he had them in regularly.
    The investigation video showed by the time he felt or heard the train, it was directly behind him and he had no time to react.
    I will never forget when the police came with this news. It is shocking and something you never expect or want to hear.
    He was at the medical examiner’s office and I wasn’t allowed to see him. He was identified by his dental records.
    His young, strong body was broken and battered beyond repair or revival. It killed me to think of what his body suffered or the shock and then fear as he turned his head to look behind him at the last moment of his life.
    I never got to say goodbye or hold his hand or tell him it would be ok or that I loved him.
    He leaves behind his little boy who he fought so hard to see for the last 18 months. He was finally getting the recognition he so rightfully deserved. He fought for his son right from his birth to be involved. Despite his young age, he was ready for this role.
    This past father’s day was excruciating.
    He will never see his son again. This breaks me. I will now have to continue the fight to see him. I mourn the father he was going to be. I mourn the bright and promising future he will never get or that he won’t see 21.
    I am angry and hurt.
    He was a loyal friend. He was charismatic and funny. He was positive and happy.
    I look at his memorial card of his vibrant, smiling face with his bright, shining eyes and at his cremated remains and I cannot believe it is him now. I would do anything to change this. I have never experienced such sadness, it is deep and it is truly grips you.
    He got ripped off. The dynamic has changed, forever. I know my life will always have a void and the sadness will always be there in the background, clenching my heart and throat.
    I worry about him and wonder if he’s ok. Why wasn’t there any divine intervention in his case? It feels so unfair and unjust.
    I don’t know what to believe in anymore, I just have to believe that he is somewhere good. He truly deserves that.
    Nothing could ever prepare a person or family for this.
    As long as I am alive, he will continue to be loved, cherished and always remembered.

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