Sunday, May 3, 2009

What To Do To Help Bereaved Parents

There are many things that can be done to help bereaved parents cope. You may have a friend who is just starting out on his or her grief journey, and it is hard enough for them to just get out of bed in the morning. They don’t need any platitudes from you (see last blog). They need comfort; they need you to see that they make it through the day. With your help, they will. Here are some of the things you can do for them.

**Send a sympathy card or note to the parents, saying how sorry you are and including a happy anecdote you remember about the child. Remembering good times is what you want to stress with these parents.

**If in the same town as the parents, go over to their home and give the parents big hugs. Say nothing or just say, “I’m sorry.” There is nothing more soothing or meaningful to a bereaved parent when they don’t have to explain anything and know you understand what they are going through.

**Cry with the bereaved parent. Parents may have trouble letting go, so you can show them others feel as they do and want to relieve a buildup of emotions.

**Offer to help them with daily tasks when visiting. They may need you to shop for them or go to the cleaners or pick up their other children from school.

**Take the parents to lunch. Getting them out of the house into a different environment is healthy.

**Let the parents talk if they want to. Most parents don’t want their child to be forgotten and talking about them relieves that fear. Acknowledge the child yourself by remembering an event or moment you were involved in with the child or you have heard the parents speak of before
**Attend the child’s memorial service or encourage the parents to have one for the child. A service will allow friends and family to also speak of the child and relive good times.

**Respect a parent’s grieving time. For some bereaved parents a few months, a year or even longer is needed to reconnect with the world. Give them that time, but be there for them no matter how long it takes.

**Accept that the parents are different. When such a tragedy happens, it changes us. We become different people with different priorities and goals. What was once important to us may no longer have any meaning.

**Make sure the parents take care of themselves physically. See that they get exercise. Have them join you on a walk; invite them out to eat a good meal; encourage them to try to get enough sleep and stay healthy.

**Try to remember the child’s birthday with a call or card. The parents will never forget, and it will show the them their child was important to others also.

**Encourage the parents to seek a support group to help them get through this if you think they would be receptive to such an idea.

**When you feel enough time has passed, try to get the parents to start a scholarship in the child’s name, plant a tree at his/her school or give to charity in his/her name. Building memorials for the child will help others remember them also.

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