What to say to someone who has lost a child

Posted in Family.

It can be difficult to know what to say to someone who has lost a child, but Jenny McGregor says acknowledging that it happened is important. 

Content note: This post discusses the loss of a child

“I am raising awareness that this is happening”

Jenny McGregor is a musician, clown doctor, mother and wife. Nine years ago her first son, Jamie, died suddenly and unexpectedly when he was 18 months old. Since then, she has worked to support bereaved parents.

“I am raising awareness that this is happening … I think that the statistics are like 3,200 children or infants are dying suddenly and unexpectedly every year,” said Jenny.

“A lot of people are going through it … you can’t hide from it. It is happening, it’s out there, and someone is going to know someone who has lost a child.”

Listen to Jenny McGregor on Feed Play Love:

“Just be honest”

Knowing what to say is hard, but Jenny says that’s normal and to be expected. 

“When I was going through it … I would have preferred for people not to cross the street and for people to come up and acknowledge what has happened. And if they didn’t know what to say, just to say that – just be honest.

“We don’t expect you to know what to say because you’re not a counsellor, you’re just a friend.

“I know people are worried that you might break down crying, but that’s also good … because you’re still going through that grief and as the parent, you need to get that out.”

Say their name

Although it might not be the same for every bereaved parent, Jenny says hearing other people talk about Jamie helps.

“For me, I felt like the best way that they could honour me and also honour Jamie was not brushing it away, and acknowledging that it happened,” Jenny says.

When you’ve had a child, and you’ve had them in your belly for nine months, they live until they’re 18 months old, as Jamie did … for it to be discredited, ever – it gets you in the guts every time.

“I love it when friends talk about memories that they have of Jamie. I’ve got a few friends who had kids that are now older, and they remember him.”

Helping other families

Through the support of Red Nose Australia, Jenny found that music and song helped her to deal with her grief – and she and her husband went on to have two more children.

Now she’s trying to get the album she made out to other bereaved parents. It’s called Love and Let Go and is a compilation of songs to help families cope with the grief of losing a child.

“When Jamie died, I felt there just really wasn’t a lot of music out there about the subject,” says Jenny. “Which seems like a strange thing that you’d want to have … but then given that there are so many parents going through this, who I felt were missing out on music where people listening could go, ‘Okay she gets it, yeah, she gets what I’m feeling right now.'”

To get in touch with Jenny or to purchase Love and Let Go, visit her website


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