Supporters help parents survive this most horrendous time in their lives, if they really know how to be supportive. There is nothing more difficult than to know how and when to support grieving parents.
I have heard comments like “Time will heal all wounds” or “Maybe it was for the best”. These comments are uttered when supporters, as well as the parents, experience great distress and are overwhelmed by the situation. Still, these comments cut like a shard of glass.
I heard and read so many parents’ unbelievable stories that it is time to educate society on the best things to say and give ideas and suggestions on what to do.
If you want to help anyone, be able to deal with parental bereavement in a better way.
People were well meaning but for some reason said the most stupid things. One thing that sticks in my mind: One lady told us: “I know exactly how you feel, the same thing happen to us when our dog died.” ~ Gavin Blue
Our blog post, A Complete List of Do’s and Don’ts When Supporting Bereaved Parents, offers additional suggestion that will help you acknowledge the grieving parents’ pain, journey, and responses.
Support Resources for you
- Read Chapter 12 in the book Grieving Parents: Surviving Loss as a Couple
- Click here to receive the ‘5 Star Support Guide’ for the bereaved parent. You are welcome to share this with your friends and family.
- Watch ‘Grief Reflections: Discussions on Parental Bereavement’ to understand different aspects and topics. Find the discussions archive here.
- Follow Grieving Parents on Facebook
Self-care is important for the bereaved and also for you as a supporter. Make sure you look after yourself so you can be a better support to them.
Comfort IN, dump OUT
In terms of ‘saying the right thing’ there is a simple rule to follow: Comfort IN, dump OUT. What doest this mean?
Imagine the bereaved couple in the centre of concentric circles, their closest family, siblings, grandparents in the next circle, close friends in the next, other friends and colleagues in the next, acquaintances in the next circle etc.
The rule states that where ever you are, you offer support to the people closer in the circles and you ONLY dump (=complain, cry, protest, say things like “it’s so unfair” or, if at all, use clichés like “it’s for the better”) to the people in the circles to the outside.
[Click on the image for larger picture]
Anything you do or say towards the people closer to the centre of the circle needs to be supportive or offer comfort, otherwise don’t say or do it.
Being supportive to the parents or the close family is the best you can do for all of them.
Three simplest things to say:
- I am sorry for your loss.
- I am here for you.
- I don’t know what to say, I’m at a loss for words.
Whatever you do or say, remember these things:
- Acknowledge the parents
- Listen but do not try to fix
- Encourage and give them hope
- Practice the Art of Presence.
Dumping is anything you do or say that makes it more difficult for the parents or the people in a closer circle to the parents than you:
- excessive crying in front of them
- whine, moan, complain, compare with other losses
- make statements like “It’s unfair”, “why you?”
- use any clichés like “God has plan”, “it’s all for the better”, “at least he didn’t have to suffer”
Also, do NOT give advice. Even if you feel you have been were the parents’ have been.
Remember that it’s ok to cry or feel “it’s unfair”. You might even talk to someone about the losses you’ve experienced, just say it to someone in your circle or further out.
(Here is where the idea is from)