Comforting parents after the death of a child can be challenging, but the skills necessary to help a bereaved parent can be within our abilities to care and reach out. The skills include:
- Acknowledging the family’s loss, their pain and your sadness about the loss
- Allowing parents to express themselves without judging them or giving unsolicited advice or suggestions
- Allowing the parents to cry
- Allowing yourself to cry
- Not feeling awkward and speaking when a silence occurs
- Just being present
- Saying the name of the child in conversation
- Avoid using clichés such as “I know how you feel.” “At least you know they are in a better place.” Or “You’re young. You can always have other children.”
- Being interested in their stories about the child and their loss
- Avoiding trying to explain why the loss took place
- Sharing your fond memories of the child
- Asking to see pictures of the child
- Extending gestures of concern
- Remembering anniversaries and special days by contacting the parents
- Including the surviving children in your conversations and in your care for the family
- Donating a memorial in honor of the child
- Doing something special for the family without asking or without being asked
- Respecting the grieving styles and needs of the parents
- Keep in mind that the parents may not be able to ask for help or be able to tell you just what they need.
- Giving them time and emotional space to heal. Be patient.
Written by Larry M. Barber, LPC-S, CT author of the grief survival guide “Love Never Dies: Embracing Grief with Hope and Promise” available online at Amazon (http://www.amazon.com/Love-Never-LPC-S-Larry-Barber/dp/1613796005 ), Barnes & Noble (http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/love-never-dies-lpc-s-ct-larry-m-barber-ct-larry-m/1104364890?ean=9781613796016).
The grief survival guide is also available in Spanish as “El Amor Nunca Muere: Aceptando el Dolor con Esperanza y Promesa”
Both English and Spanish versions are available for Kindle and Nook. Larry is the director of GriefWorks, a free grief support program for children and their families in Dallas TX http://grief-works.org.