This one has been a long time coming. It was hard to write because people I love have said these things and I don’t want them to feel attacked. While my heart knows that you were well-meaning, there are several things that we just can’t bear to hear any longer. If you said one of these things, do not think that I am specifically calling you out. These are statements that we have heard dozens of times. Please don’t feel guilty and do not feel judged; life has been such a blur that we honestly do not remember who said most of them.

Ok, with the disclaimer out-of-the-way, here comes the hard stuff.

1. Do not ask when we are going to “try again.”

Please understand what you are saying; you are implying that we tried something and failed. That is not what happened. We loved and cherished London Joy, our only daughter, and she died. This was a tragedy, not a mistake. We are not going to try again. That phrase needs to be completely removed from any conversation about our family.

What to say instead: You may ask when/if we are going to have another child. Honestly, it doesn’t roll off the tongue as well and it is still a painful question, but it acknowledges the life of our child who is no longer with us.

2. Do not say that God needed another angel in heaven.

If God has need of something, God doesn’t have to take it like some sort of thief. To say that God needed her is saying that God gave us this gift and then took it from us. If that were true, it would be cruel. God is not a sadist; God comforts those mourn.

I almost didn’t talk about the next part of the statement. I know for many calling someone angel is a term of endearment. I also know many people find comfort in this concept; we do not.

Yes, we believe our daughter is in heaven. We do not believe that God needed her there as an angel; we believe she is there as a saint and as part of the great cloud of witnesses. We believe that she is there with so many believers who have gone before. We often talk about the people she is meeting. When she was in the womb and we knew that she would likely not live long after birth, I would jokingly tell her not to let my Uncle Tim or Jon get her into trouble before we got to heaven.

What to say instead: You can talk to us about your loved ones. (Not your pets. I don’t have thoughts on animals and heaven, but please don’t compare the loss of my daughter to the loss of your pet.) Share your grief with us and be comforted with us that we will be reunited one day.

3. Do not say that God has a plan.

This is absolute worst. It is trite. It is a poor picture of God. It is likely that I will curse you out while giving you a theological dissertation.

I could write a whole book on why this statement should never be used again. In fact, I just tried to write the simple version, but I couldn’t. There is no simple way to explain why we lost our daughter. When we try to produce a simplified answer to pain and suffering by ascribing it to God’s mystery, it is because we are unwilling to say that we don’t understand. We cannot find a sufficient answer so we place the blame on God. We don’t come right out and say that we are blaming God; we aren’t supposed to blame God, but the implication is there. Good old-fashioned Christian guilt and fear tells us that we aren’t allowed be mad at God, instead we chalk it up to a supposed plan.

Our daughter died due to a randomly occurring chromosomal condition. Her condition was not caused by God; it happened because we live in a broken world. God has a plan. God’s plan is the restoration of this world and to bring us into loving union with God.

Honestly, I think our Christian penchant of attributing pain and suffering to God’s will is one of the great lies that Christians believe. This misrepresentation of God often leads to the crumbling of believer’s faith and turns off the seekers.

Ok, I am going to stop ranting, but imagine what that would have looked like if you had said that to me in person and I did not have access to a delete key and undo command.

What to say instead: I am sorry for your loss. I hate that this happened to you. It sucks…basically, be an empathetic human being.

Please don’t feel like you cannot talk to us about London. Most days (some days are just too hard) we love to talk about and share photos of our daughter.

This isn’t every hurtful statement that people make. I have one other big “what not to say” statement, but it needs its own blog post.

Again if you have said one of these statements, it’s ok we know you meant well. I get it; it is hard to know what to say to someone who is hurting. I know many times we repeat these platitudes because we want to acknowledge the other person’s pain. We are trying to offer comfort and avoid the awkwardness. However, silent solidarity, a pat on the shoulder or a warm embrace bring more healing than these hurtful clichés.


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