The death of a child is a devastating loss and a life-changing event. It’s hard to know what to say to comfort the bereaved parents. Friends and loved ones may think the parents know best what they need so they might ask the bereaved to call if they need anything. While the sentiment is sincere, when asking, “Please call me,” it places a burden on someone grieving a loss; someone who can barely muster the energy to get out of bed in the morning.

 

I recently asked bereaved parents to share what helps and what hurts. Here’s what they’d like you to know:

  • Don’t avoid us; we already feel different and your absence isolates us even more.
  • Understand that you’ll have to give more than you’ll get; we just don’t have the energy or strength right now to do much more than take care of ourselves.
  • Remind us of what was so special about our child; “I’ll never forget Melissa’s beautiful smile.”
  • Share with us how our child made a difference; “Timothy’s courage was so inspiring, I will never forget how bravely he faced the treatments.”
  • Accept that we’ve changed; we don’t like it either but our experience makes us see the world from a different perspective.
  • Stay in touch; even if we seem unresponsive, keep up the connection. Call, email, or write a note. And don’t stop including us. Your friendship and support means the world even if we don’t seem responsive.
  • Don’t forget our child. Say their name and tell us stories; it’s music to our ears. Let us know how much you loved them, will miss seeing them grow, and how you too feel the pain of their absence.
  • Be with us even if we’re not much fun. Accompany us on a walk, go to the movies, attend a support group, and invite us for coffee. Your friendship and support is the best therapy.

 

It can be very hard to stay in touch with friends and loved ones in so much pain. It might help to understand that each of us has the power to truly help in the healing process. And the most helpful way to do that is to be a continued presence.

 

Robbie Miller Kaplan is an author who writes from a unique perspective as a mother who has lost two children. She has written How to Say It When You Don't Know What to Say, a guide to help readers communicate effectively when those they care about experience loss, now available in three individual volumes: "Illness & Death," "Suicide" and "Miscarriage." Additional titles are available as e-books: "Death of a Child," "Death of a Stillborn or Newborn Baby," "Pet Loss," "Caregiver Responsibilities," "Divorce" and "Job Loss." All titles are in Amazon's Kindle StoreClick here to order.

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Comment by Robbie Miller Kaplan on October 1, 2011 at 10:53am

Lori Ann and Ann,

My heart goes out to both of you and my deepest condolences for your loss. A child is so precious and losing one is a devastating blow. Allowing yourself to fully grieve is important and the process is different for each one of us. It was helpful for me to be able to talk about my loss and feelings. That's where a family member, good friend, a support group, or a therapist can help. Be kind to yourself during the process.

Comment by Lori Ann Joseph on October 1, 2011 at 10:25am

I lost my 10 year old grandson on 7/12/2011.  I find myself thinking of him each day, looking at

his pictures crying and asking why and how did the accident happen. I ask God to strengthen me

and pray that the pain and hurt that I feel go away. I read the bible and I know that God does

not make any mistakes, it's just so hard for me and I wonder if I'll ever be able to smile and

not cry when I think of him or look at his pictures. Please tell me some things I can do that may

help me.

Comment by AnnA Cacchillo on September 26, 2011 at 4:19am
I have read alot if comments here, unfortunately nothing has help the hole in my heart or the burning loss of my son. Nothing ever will. He was life, the light of my living. The silence of his voice, singing, the beauty of his love, the presence of him is not with me and nothing can EVER substitute the beauty of his love he brought to me. Dealing with my baby (18) not with me is the most difficult thing life has ever brought to me and I have been through more trajedy than most. All of it is trivial, Jesse not here to hug, laugh with,talk with, hear his angelic voice sing to me in private concerts, jammining with other artists, spontainiously improving all kinds of situations, life is no longer life and no longer any reason to move forword. "Mama loves you baby, I'll see you in the morning" was and still is the last thing I said and still say each day since the Lord placed my miricle in my arms the day he was born.  "Mama Loves you"

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