Saturday, October 13, 2012
How to help someone whose child has died.
So many experiences in life don't come with "sets of instructions" as to what we should and shouldn't do - when a close friend or family member experiences the tragic loss of a child, it is more important than ever to do (or not do) certain things in a loving and caring manner. Paula Janowski from Queens, New York sent this to me hoping we could share these comments from other grieving parents. Paula's hope is that together we might be able to create a master do & don't list, which we could circulate to hospitals, clergy and funeral homes that might help family and friends learn how they can be more supportive - because we know the death of a child is unique and like no other... so if you have a tip you'd like to share, please send it to me...Cherie Houston
When someone we care about experiences the death of their child, no matter the age or circumstances of the death ~ whether the loss was due to a miscarriage, stillbirth, SIDS or other cause of sudden infant death ~ whether the child was a toddler, teenager or adult – it is their “child” and the heartache is overwhelming. As a loving family member or friend there are things that you can do to help them through the difficult and challenging time of grieving....
First and foremost – do not avoid the family – parents who have gone thru this experience always say when friends and family avoided them, even though they knew they were probably just unsure of what to say or do, it only added to their pain and the isolation they felt. We hope the following suggestions are offered to assist you:
· Do get in touch and let your genuine concern and caring show.
· Do be available to listen, to help with the other children, or whatever else seems needed at the time. Offer help with practical matters like house cleaning and meals.
· Do say you are sorry about what happened to their baby and about their pain.
· Do allow them to express as much grief as they are feeling at the moment and are willing to share. Accept silence; if the family doesn’t feel like talking, don’t force conversation. Follow their lead.
· Do encourage them to be patient with themselves, not to expect too much of themselves and not to impose any “shoulds” on themselves.
· Do allow them to talk about their child and share with them your own favorite memories of their child..
· Do give special attention to the siblings of the child that died, again no matter the age.
· Do reassure them that they did everything that they could, the medical care their child received was the best, or whatever else you know to be true and positive about them as parents.
· Do encourage them to seek outside help, either from a health professional, another bereaved parent, their clergy or a support group.
· Do – and this is so important - remember the family on their child’s birthday, anniversary of death, Mothers Day, Fathers Day and other occasions.
· Do be patient with them. Coping with the death of their child may take a long time, longer than the grieving process for other adults, including parents, siblings and friends, so it[s important that you stay in touch.
· Don’t let your own sense of helplessness keep you from reaching out to the bereaved family.
· Don’t avoid the family because you are uncomfortable.
· Don’t say you know how they feel (unless you’ve lost a child yourself, there is no way you can know how they feel.)
· Don’t pry, especially asking for details about the child’s death. If the family offers information, listen with understanding, but realize how difficult this is for them to relive those days and/or hours repeatedly.
· Don’t tell them what they should feel or do or impose your religious or spiritual views on them.
· Don’t change the subject when they mention their dead child - they want and need to talk about their child and not just today but in the months and years to come....
· Don’t point out that at least they have another child; or could have more children in the future.
· Don’t blame anyone for the death. Don’t make comments which suggest that the care they were getting, whether that was in the hospital, emergency room, at home, treatment program – whatever or wherever, was inadequate.
· Don’t try to find something positive about the child’s death. Avoid clichés and easy answers – there are none.
· Don’t avoid mentioning the child’s name out of fear of reminding them of their pain.
· Don’t say “you ought to be feeling better by now” or anything else which implies a judgment about their feelings, or sets time expectations or limits their healing process – the death of a child is unlike any other…