Sunday, February 10, 2008

Finding support

Bereaved parents find support from many sources during their grief journey.

The results of one survey conducted by Compassionate Friends showed that parents said the most helpful and providing the most information for bereaved parents are:
Friends (82.3%)
Family (80.3%)
Physicians (58%)
Coworkers (44.8%)
Clergy and hospitals (39.5% each)
Websites (20.5%)
Therapists/counselors (19%)
Online chats/message boards/forums (13.3%)
Support groups (12%)

Supporting someone whose child has just died is difficult. From this survey, friends and family seem to do the best job, but this loss is so enormous that we have few words of comfort to offer. Though we won’t be able to change the way a grieving parent feels by what is said or done, immeasurable comfort will be added to their lives by simply being there, even if only to hold their hand or offer to do helpful things for them such as notifying others who have not heard of the death, bringing over meals, shopping for them or even taking care of their other children.

Those not helpful in support by the greatest numbers were hospitals (29.5%), physicians (23%) funeral homes/directors (18%) and coworkers (12.3%). Support groups specifically for bereaved parents were rated lowest at 4.5%. This indicates that support groups specifically for bereaved parents were most likely of all to be perceived as helpful.

The source most helpful in providing ‘emotional’ support and information was families (44.9%) followed by friends at 21.7% and clergy at 6.9%. Least helpful in providing emotional support was hospitals at 1.9%.

Note how low hospitals rate as being helpful and providing 'emotional' support. One of the parents in my book who is a nurse, felt the medical community didn’t have a clue as to how we and all parents feel when our children die. Most don’t understand the parameters of grieving, how people grieve, how long it takes and how to help with anger a parent may feel. She felt she had to help educate these medical people. An after-care program was started in a trauma center many years ago by other nurses who recognized that this was not the way you treat people. She got involved also. The program worked so well, it has been picked up by trauma centers all over the country. They also put workshops together and give lectures to professionals (teachers, nurses, policemen) in addition to training the volunteers who in turn help families going through a child’s death or any death. Families can stay in this program for up to two years. She said, “If we help one person make their journey easier, then what I’m doing now has been worth all the time and effort.”

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