Losing a child is the worst thing a parent can experience. There is a quote that speaks volumes and tells exactly of what the loss means to parents. It says:
“A wife who loses is her husband is called a widow. A husband who loses his wife is called a widower. A child who loses his parents is called an orphan. There is no word for when a parent loses a child. That is how awful the loss is.”
If we have not lost a child ourselves, it can be hard to know what to say to someone who is experiencing so much pain. We cannot imagine what they are experiencing, and since everyone grieves in different ways it is hard to figure out what exactly this person needs.
Most people’s instinct is to want to make the grieving parent “feel better.” We try to do things to take away their pain. We think that making them happy and smiling again will be all that it takes to wipe away the sadness weighing down their hearts and souls. But the truth is that the pain never goes away, and trying to make someone “feel better” during periods of intense grief are not always the best way to help them cope.
Allowing a person the time and space to heal is very important, but for someone who has lost a child there will always be intense feelings of sadness and heartbreak no matter how long it has been. But there are some things you can do to help.
5 Things to Do for a Grieving Parent
- Allow them to cry– Again, our instinct is to take away that pain and maybe to tell them, “Don’t cry.” But crying is cathartic and their grief is real- allow them to take time to be in pain.
- Check in even months after- There is always an outpouring of love and support immediately following the death of a child. But after some time the support wavers and the help falls flat. Be sure to check in every few months to ask how the parent is doing with the loss.
- Say their name- Don’t be afraid to mention the name of the child, or to talk about them. One thing that scares many parents the most is that people will forget about their child and pretend they never existed. If the person doesn’t want to speak about them or its too difficult at the time, let it go.
- Don’t push them- Grief is different for every person. Some people might want to continue to keep busy to keep the loss at bay. Some people may want to soak it in and feel the heartbreak for what it is. Offer help, offer a listening ear, and offer to keep them company but if they refuse, don’t push them.
- Make note of important dates- After a few months or the first year following a death, people often forget about important landmark dates like birthdays and holidays. Keep a note in your calendar so you can be sure to check on your friend on those days.
Grief is hard, even for the people trying to support the ones experiencing the loss. We often don’t know what to say or what to do to help, and we fear saying or doing the wrong thing. But the one thing we can do is be there for the person, continuously, and help them to live their lives with a broken heart the best way that they can.
Looking for a gift for a grieving parent? The Stay Strong box is a wonderful way to tell someone that you are there for them. Sending it a few months after the initial loss is the perfect time.