People grieving is one of the hardest things to witness and when it is the loss of a child it is particularly devastating. It is a loss like no other and a pain that can be all-consuming for a time. What are the best ways to help someone through this process? Below are six things that parents grieving the loss of a child want you to know.
Love never dies and neither does grief.
It does not matter how many days, weeks, months, or years have passed since the death of a child. The love that a parent has for them extends beyond the grave. They will spend the rest of their days loving their child that passed way too soon. In this way, their grief will never fully be gone either and it is important to recognize and honour this. Love and grief are the same. A parent who grieves their child is also a parent who loves them.
Never, ever tell a grieving parent to “Move on”.
Grieving a child is a lifetime process. A parent who loses their child will never get over it. It is not up to anyone around them to decide when their grief needs to end. Saying things like ‘It’s time to let go’ or ‘you need to move on now, it’s been long enough’ only causes more pain and are just downright hurtful. Those phrases are not for their benefit, they are said to make the person witnessing the parent’s grief bearable. Grieving someone’s death is natural and the loss of a child is no different. Sit with them in your discomfort, offer them a simple ‘I’m sorry’. Let them grieve and have the courage to sit with them.
Remember their child with them.
A parent who grieves for their child does not want the world to forget them. Even if it is painful in the beginning, they need to remember the child they lost. They need you to remember too. If you heard a song that their child used to sing, tell them. If you found an old picture of them, show it to the parent. Call them or help the parent celebrate their child’s birthday if they choose to make that a ritual. Pretending the child never existed to avoid grieving causes more problems and makes it that much worse in the long run. There is no shame in remembering a child that was taken too soon.
The holidays are hard.
No matter how many years have passed after the loss of a child, the holidays still feel empty and weird without them. Grieving parents will retreat to a corner in their mind and imagine what their child would be doing at this very moment and what they would look like now. A parent who grieves the loss of the child may need to retreat from the festivities to have a cry or some solitude to remember their missing child. Please understand that this is a necessary thing and make space for it in your holiday plans.
Bereaved parents share a bond like no other.
No matter how close you and your best friend are, parents who lose a child are even more tightly bound. When a parent loses a child, their grieving is a mostly solitary process, and no matter how different the story and the people involved another parent grieving or a roomful of them understands that process better than anyone else. It links them together in a way that people who do not experience this trauma do not fully comprehend.
Grieving parents are forever changed.
When a child dies, so does a part of that parent. They will forever and always be changed by their loss. They will heal eventually and pick up the pieces. They will eventually find a new normal. Please understand that they will be different though. Grief forever changes someone.
Grieving the loss of a child is one of the hardest things to bear. These six tips hopefully give a little insight into how bereaved parent is feeling. Remember, grieving is healthy. Let them take as long as they need.