Grief is uncomfortable. It is awkward when you do not know what to say in those situations when a parent has lost a child. I have been on both ends of the spectrum. I have been the one to say dumb unforgivable comments and I have been the one to have extremely hurt by those after I lost my son David.
Experience is the best teacher at times, but in the cases of a parent losing a child perhaps some teaching could prevent hurt feelings, where comfort should be in place instead.
If you are looking for ways to help a friend or family member who has lost a child, I have compiled a list of helpful tips.
14 Ways to Help Bereaved Parents:
- Offer to bring a meal.
- Call or send a card.
- Offer to babysit siblings so the parents can have alone time. This is vital.
- Respect their silence. They may not want to talk.
- Pray for them and with them.
- Talk if they want to talk. Leave if they seem to want to be alone.
- Don’t be offended if they are not smiley or all excited to see you. Those first days are difficult. This is their new normal. They cannot go back and change the hands of time. Each step is survival from this day on.
- Offer to do their cleaning, laundry, or errands like grocery shopping. I remember having the most difficult time walking into our local grocery store. I did not want to answer questions, but at times I wanted to tell everybody about our son.
- Try saying, “Hold on to me. I’ll walk with you every step of the way. ~ No matter how painful, I’ll be with you every breath you take apart from your child. ~ Tell me about your beautiful child. What was he like? What do you miss the most?”
- Know this, “Guess what? Grief is not indicative of a lack of faith. Ever. So stop playing the faith card in an attempt to comfort someone who is suffering the worst human pain IMAGINABLE. Having faith doesn’t make the fact that our child was robbed from us far before her time any easier or more bearable. And it certainly doesn’t make it hurt any less, or make us feel more supported. All it does is make it more probable that someone might feel like punching you in the face. Furthermore, it shames a bereaved parent into thinking– Wow, if only I had more faith I wouldn’t hurt so much. What am I doing wrong?— which I hope is the exact opposite message you’re intending to send. Bereaved parents already feel isolated and alone in a world that predominately doesn’t understand child loss, and judging a grieving person’s level of faith by their depth of grief is not only ludicrous, it’s downright cruel. Just don’t.” (Still Standing Magazine)
- Ask the bereaved parents about their child, relish a favorite memory or two, and ask questions remembering the sweeter times. It shows you care. A lot.
- Love, love, love them. Hug them. Pray for them.
- Don’t keep your distance assuming they want to be alone, ask them. Bereaved parents need to know they are being respected.
- The first few weeks after burying your child are the toughest and most support goes down the hill after that. Bereaved parents go back to work. Life goes on, at least on the surface. Send a card or flowers, or bake cookies for months to come. Write it on your calendar or put it in your phone to remind you. It can mean the world.