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How you can help grieving parents



handshake"There is a need to talk without trying to give reasons. No reason is going to be acceptable when you hurt so much. A hug, the touch of a hand, expressions of concern, a willing listener were and still are the things that have helped me most......The people who were the greatest help.......were not judgemental. It is most helpful when people understand that what is needed is to talk about it and that is part of the grief process." - Defrain et al 1991.

Grieving Parents need to find ways to keep the memories of their child alive, they don't want to be avoided through other peoples own fear. They may be hesitant to let other's know they are needed, but they are grateful for the offers of support. They need to know that others will continue their love and support in the coming months and years, as the grief of losing a child will last a lifetime. Please find listed some pointers of how to help families during the difficult days ahead.

Be Practical

Help by washing/cleaning up, to make a meal or tidy the garden, take round some groceries or offer to run errands.

Listen

Let them talk, let them share their memories, their feelings, their pain. Let them express as much as they are willing to share with you.

Call

Keep in touch. Call them regularly, send a letter, a card or give a donation to their designated charity. Let them know that you are thinking of them.

Talk

Talk to them about their child - the hearts of a bereaved parent will always be empty, having to accept that they will not share this live with their child; so they have to hold onto memories. If you didn't know the child ask what they were like, ask them to share their happy memories with you.


Remember

Birthdays, anniversaries, special events. In years to come each anniversary will be as hard as the first, send a card to remind them you still care and that they have your support, this will mean so much to the family. You could also help by donating money to the families designated charity in their childs memory, plant a tree of rememberance, or release balloons or lanterns. You can do so many thoughtful things for the family in memory of their child and it need not cost a lot of money.

Comfort

Give them a hug, hold their hand, offer emotional support, tell them that you care and that you are there for them.

Support

Give any other children your attention too. Sometimes the parents cannot offer as much support during their own grief. Be honest with the children, talk to them, tell them it is ok to talk and to cry. Don't forget the Grandparents, Aunties, Uncles, Siblings, they need your support too. And don't allow your own fears to get in the way of supporting the family, they need you more than anything right now.

Be Sensitive

Please don't sympathise, don't tell them how they should feel or that you know what they are going through unless you have also lost a child yourself as you will never know what pain they feel. Don't avoid them; for this is hurtful and insulting, they have done nothing wrong and need to feel wanted and acknowledged; just a hug and to say "i'm sorry" will help them to feel less isolated. And please don't take it personally if they don't call as often as they used to, or cancel your plans, they may be anxious, bad tempered and cry at any time. But, it is nothing to do with you; they still need and want your friendship, love and support.

What to say or not to say

Don't say "it will all be ok", "you will get over it", "he's in a better place" or "you're brave". Parents who have lost a child will never get over it and they are certainly not brave, just to get out of bed will sometimes be a mission. They will grieve for the rest of their lives as this is a life time change. Do not say they are lucky to have other children, or that they are young enough to have more; nothing will ever replace the child they have lost and you will only upset them more. And don't say "call me if you need anything" because they won't call and they will not know what they need.


"I have three children; two that walk and one that flies" - unknown

"The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing....not healing, not curing....that is a friend who cares". - Henri Nouwen