If you know someone who has just experienced the death of a child, here are some suggestions as to what you can do to help them through this trying time.
You may find all the suggestions useful however your specific relationship with the family will have an impact on the support you can offer.
We hardly know what to say or do. Feelings of inadequacy, powerlessness and discomfort are common and often cause us to make conversation which is not very comforting. Bereaved parents and siblings find it important to talk about their child who has died. Listening and being there for them may give greater comfort than anything you could say.
- Be available. Listen, run errands, help with other children, provide meals or whatever you perceive as needed at the time.
- Tell the family how sorry you are about the child’s death and about the pain they must be feeling.
- Allow them to express as much grief as they are able and are willing to share with you
- Let them talk about the child and how they feel about death, as often a they want. Talk about your memories of the child.
- Give special attention to surviving brothers and sisters. Parents may not be able to give them proper attention during the early phases of grief.
- Reassure them that the death was not their fault if you know this to be true.
- Don’t avoid them because of your own discomfort with death.
- Don’t say “I know how you feel”, unless you do.
- Don’t say “You should be coping better by now”.
- Don’t avoid mentioning the child’s name. The parents have not forgotten so your mentioning the child will not bring up bad memories.
- Don’t try to suggest some moral lesson or positive twist from the situation.
- Don’t say they can always have more children or that they should be grateful for their other children.
Deal with the grieving individual gently and positively. Recognize that grieving has no time limit and varies from person to person. Don’t let your friend grieve alone. There is a tremendous sense of isolation during the grief process. You can help by being there… being the best friend you can.