Losing a child is devastating for the grieving parents. It can be hard to know what to do to help, but being there for the grieving parents will show them that they don’t have to go through it alone.
Here are some simple ways to let them know you are there for them.
The simplest comfort you can offer anyone who is grieving is to listen. Really listen. Don’t offer advice or condolences. You don’t need to have any answers. At a time like this there isn’t any. But letting someone say whatever they need to knowing that you are there listening without judging is one of the greatest gifts you can give. Simply sit with them, hug them or hold their hand.
2. Let them grieve.
However they need to, whenever they need to and for as long as they need to. There is no right way to grieve, and everyone expresses their grief differently. There will be many ups and downs. There is also no time limit on grief as the parents will never get over their loss. Being a caring ear lets them know they are not alone in their grief.
3. Let them know you are there for them.
For whatever the need, whenever they need it. You may feel this is assumed if you are close friends. But actually saying it makes it easier for them to ask for help, especially if it’s late at night or with a difficult task. Be around. Be available.
4. Give them space but check in often.
People often avoid those grieving because they are uncomfortable, don’t want to intrude or simply don’t know what to say. It can be incredibly isolating and hurtful to the parents to feel they have lost friends just when they need them the most. Give the parents space and time to themselves but check in often so they know you are never far away.
5. Talk about their child. Say their name.
No parent wants their child to be forgotten. Share your favourite memories. Listen to their stories. Look at favourite photos. Even if this brings on tears, know you haven’t hurt them but shared in remembering their child. Also pass on any photos you have of their child, as each is a much-treasured memory.
6. Offer to help in the first few days.
Making and taking calls can be more than grieving parents can cope with. Offer to make calls or answer the phone. Also offer to help with funeral arrangements. Some parents will want to organise the funeral details themselves, while for others it can be overwhelming. Help in whatever way they need, this might be finding photos, sending out details or driving them there.
7. Cook meals.
The old tradition of filling the freezer is a good one. There is something comforting about a home cooked meal made by someone who cares for us. It sends a message of love packaged as a ready-made meal. Bringing basic groceries regularly can also be helpful.
8. Clean. Wash. Mow the lawn.
Or any other domestic chore. Grief is all consuming. It can make the mundane parts of life seem meaningless and the simplest tasks overwhelming. Helping out with the day to day tasks can make it easier for grieving parents to cope until they are ready and able to take on these tasks again.
9. Offer to care for siblings.
If there are other children in the family, it is also a very difficult time for them. Offering to care for them gives the siblings support and the parents a break.
10. Be there for the long term.
For the parents of a lost child, the grief will always be there but often support dwindles as time goes on. Continue to call and visit. Send a card on the child’s birthday. Ask the parents how they want to mark the day of death. You can offer to take them out for a meal, a coffee or to the cemetery on significant days. Also remember the parents on Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and Christmas.
If you need more information about supporting those are grieving, contact Beyond Blue.