For July, bereaved parents month
This starts with a pledge from a grieving parent. Then some information about how friends and family might perceive your well being. They don’t know what’s healthy grieving or unhealthy grieving and often mistake perfectly healthy grieving practices as warning signs or even grief shame you.
While I, the grieving parent/guardian/grandparent, know that friends don’t know what to say, I will give them credit for talking to me because saying anything takes courage.
Friends are afraid of saying the wrong thing but my pledge is that I’m going to understand that what others say, no matter what it is, comes from a place of love. And if the situation were reversed, I might not know the right thing to say either. I am going to understand that friends who have not lost a child can’t fully understand my pain and their capacity to sit with my pain will vary because their fear of being with me in that pain might overwhelm them.
I understand that after the agonizing part, talking about loss of a child for the first time is awkward for the griever, awkward for friends and family.
Furthermore, friends will often say, “Call me if you need anything.” However, friends and family can be more intentional and supportive, and to do that, they need my help understanding. I need to have a conversation with a close friend or co-worker so they know how to better support me. Because they don’t know what I want which may be different from what others might want.
Signed, ________________ (grieving parent)
How can Family and Best Support Parents After Loss of a Child
In early grief after the loss of a child, it’s hard for a grieving parent brain to sort out what they need or don’t need, and having a friend who has a working brain is an asset in figuring out how to support you and your bereaved family and communicate that to others.
You are not meant to grieve alone. So allowing people to help and offer support helps you, them, and the rest of your family. There is no badge of honor in grieving alone. Do find support in groups or in a grief counselor, too.
Healthy signs of coping and managing grief that friends and family often criticize
Don’t let anyone shame you from any of these activities.
- A shrine of sorts or collection of pictures in your home
- Visits to the gravesite or other memorial sites
- Photo albums specifically made to commemorate the death
- Jewelry or clothing made with ashes and memorial ash container with the ashes in your home
- Pictures of the deceased when they are deceased that you may not share but they may know you have taken.
- Frequent posts on social media with pictures.
All healthy ways to manage your pain.
Friends and family need to know
- They are enough. Their problems are not ‘less’ than yours although you may not be capable of seeing or understanding that if your loss is new and raw. Most everything feels unimportant at first when you have lost a child.
- That you will always talk about your child. You did not erase him/her/them from the family tree
- That they need to listen with empathy. Try not to fix.
- It’s hard to sit with someone in their pain. Sometimes a movie and the company of a friend while you binge-watch old movies is enough
- Your grief will make others uncomfortable. Get used to that and hope that your close friends understand and are willing to be uncomfortable.
- Share any cultural practices of grief. (Some cultures wash the dead body, some must have a funeral within 24 hours and so on.)
First, the grieving parent should decide which friend would be good to talk or confide in to relay your wishes to others. That’s because most good, close friends want to help but have no idea what to do. The friend to tell is one who knows you well, is open-minded, empathetic, a good communicator, and not gossipy or judgmental.
Who are the possible choices? Write down 1-3 friends you could have this conversation with using this a a guideline only.
Know that your friends and family can’t read your mind. And while some want a house full after death of a child, others want more alone time. So you need to let your loved ones and co-workers know what you need.
Sometimes a husband wants something different than a wife so be sure to say which of these are also shared by a spouse. Keep in mind that fathers get less support from their friends and have friends less willing to talk about their deceased child. Men need this, too.
This should help you figure out how someone can support you.
The idea is to meet with one friend and discuss some of these topics. This part is to simply trigger an effective conversation.
I need practical help with:
- Getting the news out to friends about _______________ (death, funeral, fundraisers etc)
- How do I want it communicated? (text, social media, calls…)_____________?
- Carpooling children, babysitting?
- Phone calls instead of texts? Texts instead of phone calls?
- Planning a service?
- Planning a fundraiser?
- Mowing the lawn or walking the dog?
- Other practical things I need help with _____________________________
I want family and friends to know:
Check all that apply.
- I want to talk about my child
- I would love donations made to ___________________________ in my child’s name ___________________________
- I want to be invited to parties even though I might cancel at the last minute if I’m having a hard day
- I do want others to say my child’s name
- Ask me if I’m ready to discuss ______________ (fill in the blank with sensitive topic)
- Other things I want family and friends to know: __________________________
Things I don’t want to talk about right now (know that this can change over time):
Things I do want to talk about right now (know that this can change over time):
I don’t want to talk about my loss in these places: (this may change over time)
- Meetings with co-workers
- Client meetings
- Large gatherings
- Other _____________________________________________________
I do want to talk in these places (list places)
- Over coffee
- At Lunch
- Sometimes when I just need to talk in private
- Other _____________________________________________________
Things that mean a lot to bereaved parents
- Stories about the child who died, especially those which are written down
- Pictures of the deceased child
- Funds donated to causes in memory of the deceased
- Letters instead of standard-issue cards
Parents who have lost a child often suffer thoughts of suicide. In fact, as many as thirty percent struggle with those thoughts. It’s important to tell someone. Here are some crisis lines if you are struggling with thoughts of suicide.
USA Crisis Text 741-741
US Crisis line for LGBTQ Youth 1-866-488-7386
US Crisis Text for LGBTQ Youth 678-678
United Kingdom 116 123
Australia 13 11 14
International suicide hotlines