Understanding the best ways to help grieving parents who suffered the loss of a child gives you the information you need if you have to support a loved one who is faced with this tragedy.
The Best Ways to Help Grieving Parents
There is no loss more devastating than that of a child, no matter the age. That's why even the smallest of gestures are most welcomed by the mourning parents. Listed are a few of the best ways to help grieving parents. Each of these instances may not be applicable for every situation, but overall, you will get an idea of what a parent in mourning may or may not need during his or her period of grief.
Don't Avoid the Family
While it is true that bereaved parents want to be alone in their grief, they don't want to be totally avoided. A simple phone call, note or e-mail with just a few kind and caring words is sufficient. Parents whose child already passed away feel apart from most of their friends and family for experiencing this type of loss. Don't make them feel even more isolated by giving them too much space. Use common sense when knowing when to visit or contact them and what to say.
Immediately after the funeral, the parents may want their privacy. Please respect that. If letters, phone calls or e-mails go unanswered, leave it as such. Try again in a few more days or a week. This is a very private time and the family needs to adjust their lives being without their child.
Talk About the Child
Just because a child died, never means he or she should be forgotten. Most bereaved parents want to talk about their deceased children. After all, he or she was and will always be a member of the family! However, the words you use when speaking to or writing the family should be carefully chosen:
- Avoid cliches such as "It's for the best" and "You're young, you can have more children." Parents want sincere sympathies, but not something that doesn't make them feel better about their situation.
- Offer hope for the future, but be discreet. The parents want the child they lost back, so they don't want to hear how they can have more children down the road. Many times, during the early stages of grief, bereaved parents can't even think that far into the future. Offer sentiments such as "Your days will get better" and "You will have more peaceful days."
- Don't diminish the loss. It doesn't matter if the child was a one-year-old or a 43-year-old, that mother and father lost their baby. Even if the mother was pregnant when her child died, she still had hopes and dreams for the baby. Treat the loss as such.
Support doesn't always mean something monetary. After the loss of a child, a parent may not have the energy to complete simple daily tasks such as housecleaning, cooking, grocery shopping or walking the family dog. Be kind and offer these services free of charge. You don't need to contact the family for a few of these either. Leave some home-cooked meals or snacks on the front porch or pick up a few groceries and leave them outside of the door as well. You can always knock on the door and leave or call and leave a short voicemail or answering machine message. As for the other types of support, contact the family's immediate kin and set up times when you can take the dog for a walk or even babysit surviving siblings. Go over at your convenience and mow the lawn, shovel the snow or weed the flower beds. Every small effort you make goes a long way.
One of the best ways to help grieving parents is to never forget their child existed. Many times, it may seem easier not to mention the events surrounding the child's death, but in reality, most parents want to remember, and they want those closest to them to remember as well. However, as time goes on, talk of the child who died may not be as prominent, but the memory will always be there. This is when it is most important to remember. Birthdays, death anniversaries and holidays are the most important times to memorialize the child. This can be done through:
- Cards or letters
- Phone calls
- Lighting candles
- Holding a prayer service
- Having a Mass said
- Sending flowers
- Giving the parents a special Christmas ornament
- Visiting and leaving flowers on the child's grave
- Dedicating a song
- Writing or sending a poem
Every person grieves differently. What one parent feels when dealing with the death of his or her child, may not be what another does. Sympathy and discretion should always be shown when dealing with this situation.