Help & SUPPORT
HOW CAN YOU HELP SOMEONE YOU LOVE WHO IS GRIEVING THE LOSS OF THEIR CHILD
One of the most devastating things a parent can go through is a loss of a child, the grief is unbearable and the sadness begins to destroy who you are from the inside out. Your very sole feels like it has been ripped from your body as you question who you are.
Watching a friend or a loved one going through this turmoil, while yourself maybe struggling, it could feel impossible, just to stand beside them, the wondering what to say, what to do or helping them with what they need. You may love them dearly, but you don’t want to put your foot in your mouth and say the wrong thing. Let face it you don't really know what they are going through and you don’t know what to do.
Have you thought, you also maybe grieving, you feel helpless, you’re witness to their suffering as you suffer yourself, you just say the wrong things because you don’t know what else to say. You just wish to wrap them in cotton wool and show them how much you care and want to be there for them, but no one has taught you how to do that.
Most of us find it hard to deal with grief and more so, how to deal with someone else's grief. The social taboos and wall of silence prevents many people from human compassion and instead to shy away from facing bereavement.
Ideally your friend or loved one would have asked you for help, but we know that isn’t going to happen, they are not going to say, “Here is what I need. This is how you can help me,” but remember that they have been crushed by a devastating loss, their world has been shattered, broken in to a million shards of all their lost tomorrows, they see no future and they give everything just to get out of bed in the morning. For them just articulating what they really want is next to impossible.
Most of the time it just needs the seed of human compassion. You may ask yourself what can I do? How can I help? Do they need me around? The thing is, they do!
Being there is so important, just show up at their door, maybe clear a few pots, make them a meal and sit with them to ensure they eat it, (in the early stage of grief you lose your appetite and don’t eat regularly), maybe run a few errants and do the laundry but most of all sit with them and hold them while they cry.
This is not a short term commitment, this could last for months or years, their loss is a lifetime and being there maybe the cement that will hold them together. Don’t be scared, I’m not suggesting that you give up everything. Even the smallest of things can sometimes make such a difference, give them a text or call them out of the blue. Remember the birthday and the anniversary of the child’s life. Mark them on your calendar so you don’t forget, because they won’t, and they won’t forget those who was there for them.
One thing to remember is that grief is not short lived, nor is it linear, simple or logical. Grieving a child changes a parent and a part of them always will grieve. Society likes to tell us that after a period of time, “things will be better,” “we will find closure” and “you will move on.” To be quite honest, if you believe that, you will struggle to support your loved one. As a parent you only learn to live with the pain and will always grieve your child’s passing.
Being patient and understanding as they will grieve far longer than you will want to hear about it or be around for it. Those affected by child loss will eventually find ways to live with their grief and begin to live once again, but they will never stop missing their child or stop longing to hold them once more.
When you find yourself tiring of their grief, wishing for them to “get over it” just remember they are far, far more exhausted and tied of grieving then you could every imagine. They get engulfed in a sea of unbearable pain and suffering, drowning and barely surviving, so don’t give up and be as patient as you can and keep showing up.
Another important thing to do is just to sit and listen, your loved one might struggle to know what to say and how to be able to say what they are truly feeling inside, but knowing that they can talk to someone will help them come to terms with their feelings.
But really, truly listen...
While sitting there with a blank look on your face doesn't help either. It is important to engaged with them and not take over, remember it’s their time. Listen to their fears, their grief, their doubt and their regrets. They might have a million of impossible questions to ask, they maybe feeling like they failed their children, family and love ones. There anger and their rage at the injustice of their child leaving them. Their self hate and feeling that is driving them crazy and abandoned.
Let your love one simply talk to you, without judgement or false optimism. You can’t fix it, you haven’t a magic wand. Just listen and only say positive thoughts or even stay silent. Let them know you are their for them and that you love them.
At first, it will be quite hard to feel that you are helping as they probably will keep canceling arrangements. They won’t always turn up for family celebrations and let you know last minute that they are not coming to meet up with you later. They may not feel up to children’s birthday parties or even being around kids or babies, especially in the first year.
They will probably forget things you told them or arrangements you made, they may not answer your calls or texts for days or weeks, they may not even want to get out of bed....
Even when you are chatting, err complaining, about every day matters like the family, work or even being tired, they might not engage with the conversation, as they did in the past. It’s not that they don’t care about you and your life, it’s more about how they are feeling. Remember their life has changed, they have a new normal to build and feel that somethings are less important to them than before. Everyday matters can seem meaningless in comparison.
This isn’t going to last forever, and it will be a sharp learning curve for everyone involved, so this is more about the time to forgive your loved one, well more than normal.
As they build their new normal, they may not seem to quite be the same person they once was, they have changed in some irrevocable ways and will never be the person they once were. Don’t be surprised if things you thought was important to them, doesn't have the same impact anymore, people they once would passed conversation with will suddenly become annoying and someone to avoid. Even their believes may change as they are tested. It is just a part of the grieving process and how we learn to cope. They will more than likely change and change again until they find the best new norm for them.
If you do nothing else, remember them and remember their child through the years, the knowledge that someone else hasn’t forgot their child would give great comfort. Share memories and say their child’s name, don’t forget their child’ birthdays and donate in their child’s name. Read articles like this one and discuss it with your friends and family.
And above all, let them know you are their, not just for a moment but when they need, and mean in.