The best thing that friends and relatives can do is to accompany grieving parents in their sadness.
Laura Grimes “What not to say to a Grieving Parent”
It is a difficult task to accompany someone in their grief and sadness, especially after the death of their child. We feel overwhelmed and helpless when we hear of a friend’s or relative’s loss. Often we worry will we say or do the wrong thing and make their sadness worse. For that reason we will avoid the bereaved person rather than have those awkward moments where words fail us or we feel so inadequate witnessing their raw grief.
However as bereaved parents we need your support and friendship to get through the grieving process. The most valuable thing you have to give is your presence, not just over the funeral and early days but for the weeks, months and years to come.
A friend’s presence is the greatest source of support and solace and is more important than your knowledge or advice. You can help us by sitting near, holding our hand, giving us a hug, passing the tissues, crying together, listening, sharing memories, offering practical help to do tasks that we find too difficult to do, like going to the local shops or collecting a child from school.
- Please don’t avoid us, have the courage to accept us and our grief
- Please be aware that each death is unique and comparisons to other losses are not appropriate
- By Asking “how are you feeling” indicates recognition of our feelings rather than just “How are you”?
- Please speak the name our son or daughter and share your special memories
- Understand that crying and being emotional when talking about our children is because they are dead and not because you mentioned them.
- Tolerate our emotional state some days we will be angry, some days lethargic, some days we will want to talk and you to listen, other days we will want you to talk and for us to listen.
- Don’t put a time frame on our grief, everyone grieves in their own way and time, there is no formula!
Unintentionally, hurtful things are sometimes said to a bereaved parents.
Some of these comments would include:
- “I know how you feel…” (not unless lost a son or daughter)
- “They are better off now”
- “It was meant to be”
- “You have an angel in heaven”
- “It makes me sad to hear you talk about it”
- “You are so strong, if it happened to me I would die”
- “I don’t know how you are getting through this”
- “Thankfully you have other children”
- “You can have other children”
- “She / he won’t suffer or be in pain now”
- “Cheer up”
- “Don’t cry it will upset others”
- “Time will heal”
- “Think about your surviving children”
- “You need to get out more, back to work, into a routine”
What can help us in the early days after our child’s death are:
- Acknowledging the tragedy that has befallen the family
- Letting us know it is ok to cry
- Asking “What can I do for you”
- Bringing us for a walk or a drive to give us some respite from the house
- Remembering special occasions, our son’s or daughter’s brithday, anniversary understanding how difficult they are for us
- Offering to help us with some of the more difficult tasks
- By listening even though we may be repeating ourselves again and again
To all our friends and extended families… We know at times we are not easy to be friends to. The deep sadness that frequently overwhelms us is hard for you to witness and comprehend and no matter how you try to comfort us nothing seems to be getting through.
It is tempting when you feel uncomfortable to shut us off, not visit, to encourage us to stop crying or to try and rush us though our painful grieving process. Please be patient with us, waiting for us to get back to our old selves could be a long wait, grief changes people, we now have to find a new normal without our son or daughter in our lives… that will take time.
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