“He Wouldn’t Want You to be Sad” and Other Myths

If I got ten grieving parents in a room we could write down fifty things we wish people would stop saying in about five minutes.

Most of the time folks do it out of ignorance or in a desperate attempt to sound compassionate or to change the subject (death is very uncomfortable) or simply because they can’t just shut their mouths and offer silent companionship.

And most of the time, I and other bereaved parents just smile and nod and add one more encounter to a long list of unhelpful moments when we have to be the bigger person and take the blow without wincing.

But there is one common phrase that I think needs attention and here is why:  It simultaneously dismisses my current reality and assumes knowledge that you simply do not have.

“He wouldn’t want you to be sad.”

Really?  How do you know?  Did you live with my son for nearly 24 years? Were you his confidante?  His nursemaid in illness?  His champion in victory?

My tears are as much an expression of the love I STILL have for my son this side of death as the hugs and kisses I gave him since he was a baby were on the other side.

My heart holds him now as surely as my arms held him then.

This is what I have left-tears that bear witness to that love.

You can’t bury love.

Love is forever.

Dominic would totally understand.

grief only exists where love lived first

Author: Melanie

I am a shepherd, wife and mother of four amazing children, three that walk the earth with me and one who lives with Jesus. This is a record of my grief journey and a look into the life I didn't choose. If you are interested in joining a community of bereaved parents leaning on the promises of God in Christ, please like the public Facebook page, "Heartache and Hope: Life After Losing a Child" and join the conversation.

24 thoughts on ““He Wouldn’t Want You to be Sad” and Other Myths”

  1. Your words are exactly on point.
    My heart aches.
    Thank you for sharing your heart – it makes me, and I am sure a lot of other bereaved parents, feel someone truly understands our heartbreak. 💙🦋💔

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I am a bereaved mother of Ryan and Amanda.
    I HATE when non bereaved parents tell me…
    ” GOD needed another angel”.
    ” They would want you to be happy ” They are in a better place”.
    ” They are not suffering “.
    ” I know how you feel, I buried my mom, dad, dog….”
    None of these remarks help.
    I don’t need your advice.
    Just be with me and listen.
    And….say their names.
    Amanda and Ryan is music to my ears.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. My four year old daughter died unexpectedly in October, 2017. She would want me to live life with th same amount of zeal and joy that she did. So if someone said that to me, they are correct. She would tell me, “Mom, I am with Jesus. I will see you soon . Please don’t cry for me”. So no, I don’t think someone who tells me that my daughter wouldn’t want me to be sad is minimizing my grief, I think they are reminding me where I should put my focus- not on this temporary, painful life but on eternity. And honestly, I often need that reminder.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I always find it to be difficult not to think of what my attitude was like before. I don’t think that I ever had the courage to tell my friend that his son would not want him to be sad, that he would want him to be happy. But that is what I thought. Actually I still feel that way, and I know my daughter wants me to be happy. Now, in the “hereafter”, I also know that his son and my daughter, if they have consciousness of our situation from their side of the doorway, they understand why we are sad. We want our loved ones to be happy even if we know that is impossible or at least improbable. People who say to us that our child would want us to be happy – the key word is “would” which is the conditional form of the auxiliary verb “will” means that there are conditions to be met before the outcome can happen. I believe it is true. They would want us to be happy if it were possible for us to be happy. This may not make sense, but I do believe that part of the understanding between we who are bereaved and those who are not can only come when we accept the fact that we did not know anything either until it happened to us. Still these comments “they” make can sting. I won’t say that they don’t. Love, Levi’s Mom

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I love Melanie’s post, and I love your comments. Grief is as individual as finger prints. So where some take a comment as encouragement, others may just feel isolated and judged.

      The missing journeys we each face every day are different too. Accident, disease, and…choice.

      No mother who has been through her child’s death is ever the same. But somehow, for me, because Rachel chose to leave me, that specific comment riles me in a way others do not. And so I say to you…
      Rachel doesn’t get to tell me how to grieve, or how to do life without her. That comment does not encourage me, and you are insensitive to say it, much less think it. I am doing the best I am able, 31 months into this ugly, hard, awful journey. I still see beauty. I still feel the sun. Sometimes, I laugh. How I’m doing this is still one day, one breath, one step. But I am doing it. Focus on that. And be so grateful you are not having to do it.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Kristyn, I’m just now reading your comment. Need to sign up for email notification, I suppose. I agree that no one, including our kids, has the right to tell us how to grieve. I talked my daughter into moving back in with me after she had a severe case of mono. She was hesitant, but I convinced her. I told her that after I moved out from my parents’ the first time, the times that I returned to their house, it was different and would be for her and me. I would always be there for her as her mother, but it would be more like a roommate situation. Example: text me that you’ll see me in the morning but you are no longer required to tell me where you are or what you are doing. I had that advantage of knowing she was an adult (21) and was responsible for her own decisions. One of those decisions may have cost her life. Inconclusive, so I’ll never know, and at this point it no longer matters. I was the one who found her here. On the other hand, she will always be my baby, my little girl, my snarky teenager, and my best friend. At none of those stages of her life did she have the right to tell me how to do anything. She loved me though. Neither of us enjoyed seeing the other being hurt. But that was us and does not apply to everyone. Like you said, grief is as unique as are fingerprints. Peace.


  5. I so so agree with your post. I have had this said to me. I finally said, my Lydia would understand my pain. because she decided to leave this world because of the pain she was in.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you for saying this….Ryan chose to escape his lifelong painful life at age 39. I know he would expect me to grieve for him because I became his best friend over a lifetime of pain. Early evening begins my tears, missing his 6’2” hugs with “I love you, Mum” every night… EVERY night. Yes, I can tell myself he is at peace with Jesus, but when anyone tells me that I bristle… the pain is still fresh…I don’t go out much because Ry was usually by my side, and I cry in the shower each night because his younger sister hated him so much for needing ALL of me, ALL the time. She remains bitter and now I must focus on her….I just cannot lose another child! Does anyone else have this challenge? Sometimes I want to run away and just keep running. The very people that could help me through my grief have little to no emotion, including my husband who tells me I’ll “get over it”. I sometimes feel like the little girl in childhood who would find herself on the merry-go-round being spun out of control by the neighborhood bully…


  6. I am I right that this post was born out of an exchange on WWW? Loved what you had to say yesterday and thank you so much for speaking out today. My response to well intended people who offer this up has always been, “No…I think Sawyer would totally get me”.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I love this – especially the last line! We know our children like no one else ever does. We know, probably better than anyone else, what our sons would have wanted us to be or not be. Love your writing. Thank you for sharing your heart so beautifully.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m not sure we have a choice whether to be happy or sad, but I do think we have a choice where we fix our gaze. I am sad because I miss Dom, but I am also happy because I continue to experience blessings in my life. I feel them both.

      Liked by 1 person

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