We’ve had several friends to say, I don’t know what to say or how I can help you. It would great if there was a list. In the resource manual we received from the Sudden Unexplained Death in Childhood program, a list of do’s and don’ts is included. I didn’t want to have to type the list so I went searching online. Here is a list I excerpted from www.babysteps.com and suggestions from The Compassionate Friends Network which offers some helpful hints on how to treat newly bereaved parents.
I hope this helps those that have asked and those that have wanted to ask but didn’t know how.
|DO allow them to express as much grief as they are able and are willing to share with you. DO allow them to express as much unhappiness as they are feeling and willing to share with you.
DO allow them to talk about their loss as much and as often as they want to.
DO be available to listen, to run errands, to help with the other children, or whatever else seems needed at the time.
DO treat the parents equally. Fathers need as much support as mothers.
DO accept their moods whatever they may be, you are not there to judge. Be sensitive to shifting moods.
DO encourage them to be patient with themselves and not to expect too much of themselves.
DO encourage them to not impose any “shoulds” or “I should be” on themselves.
DO give special attention to the surviving siblings in the months to come (they are often in need of attention which their parents may not be able to give).
DO offer to take surviving siblings to school, birthday parties, and extra-curricular programs.
DO let your genuine concern and caring show.
DO offer to be a friend.
DO recognize that grieving has no time limit and varies from individual to individual both in the way they express their grief and the time required to stabilize.
DO talk about your memories of the child and the special qualities that made the child endearing.
DO acknowledge the loss through visits, phone calls, sympathy cards, and donations to a charity meaningful to the family.
DO appreciate that your bereaved relative or friend doesn’t always return phone calls right away.
DO remember that when you phone, even if it is to only leave a message, the bereaved feel comforted by your efforts.
DO extend invitations to the family. But understand if they decline or change their minds at the last minute.
DO tell the bereaved family how much you care.
DO remember it is usually the simple little things you say or do that mean so much.
DO continue to support bereaved parents well beyond the acute mourning period, even if it means years.
DO be sensitive that being in the presence of other children of similar age to the child they lost may make the bereaved parent uncomfortable.
DO give the bereaved time to resume the activities they participated in before their loss.
DO learn how to give good hugs. The bereaved need every heartfelt hug they can get.
DO expect your relationship with the bereaved to change. When you are bereaved, every relationship is affected in one way or another.
DO talk to your children about the loss.
|DON’T avoid mentioning their loss or the child’s name out of fear of reminding them of their pain (they haven’t forgotten it!). DON’T change the subject when they mention their child.
DON’T tell the bereaved parents what they should feel or do.
DON’T have expectations for what bereaved parents should or should not be doing at different times in their grief.
DON’T avoid the bereaved parents because you are uncomfortable (being avoided by friends adds pain to an already painful experience.)
DON’T make any comments which in any way suggest that their loss was their fault.
DON’T say “you can always have another child.”
DON’T point out that at least they have their other children (children are not interchangeable; they can not replace each other).
DON’T say “Your loved one is waiting for you over there,” “God wanted him,” “It was God’s will,” or “God knows best.”
DON’T say “you should be coping or feeling better by now” or anything else which may seem judgmental about their progress in grieving.
DON’T say that you know how they feel (unless you’ve experienced their loss yourself you probably don’t know how they feel).
DON’T tell them not to cry. It hurts us to see them cry and makes us sad. But, by telling them not to cry, we are trying to take their grief away.
DON’T try to find something positive (e.g. a moral lesson, closer family ties, etc.) about the loss.
DON’T say, “If you need anything call me” because the bereaved don’t always know how to call and ask for your support.
DON’T force bereaved people to talk about their loss. They will engage you when the time is right.
DON’T expect grieving parents to be strong and don’t compliment them if they seem to be strong.
DON’T assume that when a grieving parent is laughing, they are over anything or grieving any less.
DON’T wait until you know the perfect thing to say. Just say whatever is in your heart or say nothing at all. Sometimes just being there is comfort enough.