To provide caring support, I asked bereaved parents to share what helps and what hurts. Here’s what they’d like you to know:
- Don’t avoid us; we already feel different and your absence isolates us even more.
- Understand that you’ll have to give more than you’ll get; we just don’t have the energy or strength right now to do much more than take care of ourselves.
- Remind us of what was so special about our child; “I’ll never forget Melissa’s beautiful smile.”
- Share with us how our child made a difference; “Timothy’s courage was so inspiring, I will never forget how bravely he faced the treatments.”
- Accept that we’ve changed; we don’t like it either but our experience makes us see the world from a different perspective.
- Stay in touch; even if we seem unresponsive, keep up the connection. Call, email, or write a note. And don’t stop including us. Your friendship and support means the world even if we don’t seem responsive.
- Don’t forget our child. Say their name and tell us stories; it’s music to our ears. Let us know how much you loved them, will miss seeing them grow, and how you too feel the pain of their absence.
- Be with us even if we’re not much fun. Accompany us on a walk, go to the movies, attend a support group, and invite us for coffee. Your friendship and support is the best therapy.
- It can be very hard to stay in touch with friends and loved ones in so much pain. It might help to understand that each of us has the power to truly help in the healing process. And the most helpful way to do that is to be a continued presence.