Losing a child is one of the most unimaginable losses someone can experience. Not only are the parents grieving but so are the family members and loved ones. As a loved one it can be so difficult to know how to provide support and love. Below are some suggestions on how to be their for your loved ones and help support them through the loss of their child.
Acknowledge what has happened.
Don’t let fear of saying the wrong thing lead to the isolation of the grieving person.
Grieving people generally appreciate the acknowledgement of their loss.
Call, send a card or letter, visit, or any other acts that communicate that you care and are thinking about the person.
Listen. Listen. Listen.
Grieving people need to make sense out of what has happened.
They may need an invitation to talk. For example “Tell me about what happened. I’d like to know.”
They may repeat the same thing over and over again or make little sense, but be assured that they are doing what they need to be doing.
Respond in your own authentic way.
Validate their feelings.
It is okay to say “I don’t know what to say, but I want you to know that I care and that I am thinking about you.”
Don’t be afraid to ask questions.
Avoid cliches! For example: “I know exactly how you feel.” Or, “You must be strong right now.” Or, “It was God’s will.”
Not all responses need to be in the form of words – silence can be very powerful.
Accept the other as he/she is.
Suspend judgment about how someone is expressing his/her grief.
Remember, the grieving person is the expert on her/his grief – only she/he knows what their experience has been
The experience of grief may change from moment to moment, especially right after the death.
Offer to help and make your offers specific.
Be sure you do what you have said you will do.
“I would like to bring a meal for you and your family on Tuesday night.” “I would like to mow your grass, take your kids to the movies, etc.”
Note that offers to help are more frequent soon after the death. Consider making a specific offer months or even years after the death.
Allow the other his/her privacy.
Affirm spoken desire for solitude because people often get the message to “keep busy.” Business may not be what they need.
Trust the other to lead you.
Listen attentively. The grieving person knows her experience better than anyone else does.
Carry the other in you heart and your soul.
If you are a spiritual person – pray.
If you keep a journal – write about it.
Open yourself up for what this experience holds for you.
Pay attention to how the other’s loss is affecting you.
When someone dies, it is a reminder that death does not discriminate and can happen to anyone at any time.
The experience may cause your own unresolved grief or even resolved grief to come bubbling up.
Will pick up on your fears and behaviors.
Will need to be given honest information.
Will sometimes ask insensitive questions. Maintain your balance and give answers as simply and honestly as you can.
Journey with the person in the search for meaning.
What have you learned about yourself in going through this experience?
What have you learned about relationships with others?
What have become your priorities in life?
What doubts do you now carry and what do you believe in more strongly?
Provided by KinderMourn, Inc. Developed from How Can I Help? By James E. Miller (1994). Fort Wayne, Indiana: Willowgreen Publishing
There was a 5-year-old boy in the park with his mother. They saw an old man sitting on a bench. The boy turned to his mother and said, “stay here. I need to go see that man.” The mother watched as her child went to the man and sat down beside him. He stayed with the old man for quite a while and then returned to his mother. His mother said, “You were sitting on the bench with that old man for a long time. What did you say to him?” “Oh, nothing,” the boy answered… “I just helped him cry.”