How to care for someone following the loss of a child
How to care for someone following the loss of a child
The loss of a child profoundly impacts the lives of parents and their loved ones. When someone you care about has lost a child, it can be hard to know how best to support them. Each person’s grief experience is unique, and finding the right words can be hard. Often, we worry about saying the wrong thing or upsetting the person which can lead to us not saying anything at all or becoming distant from them.
Below are some ideas on how best to support someone who has been through the devastating loss of a child.
- Ask the person if they’d like to talk and let them lead the conversation. They will know how whether they want to continue, or whether they need time away from the conversation.
- Use the child’s name and when they are ready, share your memories – keeping their memory alive and respecting their existence is important for many parents in this situation.
- Be accepting of all their feelings – it is quite normal for the parent to feel angry- at the situation, at the child for dying, at the system around them. In an attempt to provide comfort, people sometimes sharing well-meaning phrases like ‘everything happens for a reason’ or ‘time will heal’ etc. Instead of sharing your beliefs around death, focus on compassionate listening, and let them know its ok to experience a range of emotions, and there is no timeline for grief. Through acknowledging all their emotions, you can normalise these and make it a safe place for them to talk.
- Understand that something this traumatic will have a significant effect on them. They may act differently – such as seeming distant or detached. This can be common when the pain we feel is overwhelming as the mind protects itself by taking a step away.
- Consider inviting them to coffee or to meet with friends – sometimes we worry that we shouldn’t invite a bereaved parent to socialise, however this can sometimes be a welcome distraction depending on how they feel that day. Don’t be disheartened if they do not accept the offer, they might feel differently next time, or may still appreciate the invitation.
- Remember that grieving can take different lengths of time for different people, and don’t give up after a few weeks. After the funeral, support and offers of help often drop away, keeping contacting and offering help and support where you can is often well received.
- During this challenging time, it can become hard to perform everyday tasks, this can be particularly challenging if the parent has other children to care for. Offering practical assistance such as dropping off a meal, offering to run errands, offering to pick up their other children from clubs etc. can be a way to show your support.
- Hold the space and the silence – sometimes people just want to be around other people for comfort, but do not want to talk or don’t know the right words. Don’t feel the need to fill the silence or “make them feel happy”, instead, be there for whatever it is they need in that moment. That may be that they want to cry, shout or simply just ‘be’.
- When the person is ready, they might want to reach out to specialist organisations for support. We have listed a range of links for various support organisations below; nobody is ever alone in their grief.
Here at The Retreat Clinics, we offer specialist support for bereavement, and for those who are supporting someone who is bereaved and want a space to talk and process their emotions. We offer open-ended, non-judgemental support at our clinics in Manchester, York and Online.
Sunday 19th March, we express our gratitude and love for our mother and motherly figures today. We normally find ourselves buying flowers or self-care gifts to suggest today is a day for relaxation. The love of a mother for their child is unconditional, we are nurtured by our mothers as an expression of this unconditional love.
We spend today returning that unconditional love by nurturing our mothers to express our admiration. Although mother’s day is not a joyous day for mothers who have experienced the loss of their child.
The mass of happy celebrations on mother’s day all over the country reminds bereaving mothers of this loss. Losing a child is never easy, when grief cycles back around on this day it gets messy. The connection between mother and child seems tethered although this is not the case as they are still bound by this unconditional love. Grief is complex and not black and white, mindful.
Grief on mother’s day also surfaces for those who have lost a parent, You may feel anger, sadness and isolation. It is normal for you to re-experience all of these emotions but there are ways to help manage this. Planning and taking action for mother’s day can help you keep a structure for when you are feeling low. Reflecting on your grief. As mother’s day is a yearly reoccurrence reflection becomes a significant part of your day.
Being compassionate and patient with yourself is important, as understanding that your emotions are valid. It can be helpful to talk about and share your feelings with a close friend, family member or counsellor. Tell them what you need, whether it is a shoulder to cry on, a listening ear, or just company around you.
Remember that every grieving process is unique, you cannot compare how you deal with your loss or how others might be coping. The experience of grief can manifest in a variety of emotions, feelings and reactions. Intense feelings may not always be there but can appear unexpectedly throughout the grieving process.