Often, we get asked what is helpful to say or do for a friend or family member whose child has died. Here is a list of things I think are helpful.
The parents are in total shock and just trying to figure out how to survive for the first year. Consider doing these things for the first few months.
1. For the first few weeks following their child's death - take ice chests full of drinks, toilet paper, plastic ware, and paper plates. With all the people visiting and the amount of food brought to us, these items were incredibly helpful.
2. Send them texts, write letters, and do short visits (unless they ask you to stay longer.)
3. When you visit them, listen and sit with them. Don't feel like you have to make them feel better with your words. Your presence is what counts. Sit with them in their pain and don't try to make yourself feel comfortable by saying something that sounds good. It may help to take something with you each time you visit to give you a purpose for being there. It also will allow you to leave quickly if it's not a good time.
4. Things helpful TO say: "I'm sorry." "I'll be here." One of the most helpful things said to Brea was from another parent whose child had died. She told her to "just take it one day at a time." Thinking about a future without your child is devastating. Thinking about getting through one day is painful but doable.
5. Things NOT helpful to say: "They are in a better place." "God needed another angel." "It was God's will." "I don't know why God took them." "You will be okay." "It must have happened for a reason."
6. If you know them well or are close to their family - ask if they have considered going to grief therapy. Therapy is incredibly helpful. Brea and I went as a couple and individually. Our daughters went to grief therapy as well.
8. Ask them to go for walks, runs or exercise together. Getting outside and moving is very helpful for their emotional and physical well being.
9. Go help with house cleaning, laundry, or yard work. Men, go mow their yard. No one will ever complain about someone mowing their yard for them.
10. If they have other children, take them treats or games. They need to have moments of joy while their parents can't provide it for them.
The shock starts to slowly fade and people move on with their lives. Many grieving parents feel like the world is leaving them behind and they don't know how they are going to live the rest of their lives without their child.
1. Go out of your way to talk to them and tell them you are still thinking about them or praying for them. Even though it will be awkward for you, it will be comforting to them to know you haven't forgotten about their pain.
2. Keep praying for them. And, send them a text or letter letting them know you did so.
3. Send them a text or letter on the anniversary of their child's birthday, the child's date of death, and any holiday. All of those days are difficult.
4. In conversation, bring up their child's name if you genuinely feel compelled to talk about them. Don't be afraid to say their child's name. Ever.
I didn't know this until I went through it, but the deep grief, depression, and sadness is unimaginable. And, it last for years. For some, the second year is worse than the first because the shock wears off and they realize their child isn't coming back. The rest of the world has moved on with their life and they are stuck living every parent's worst nightmare. Here's what you can do for them as the years go by:
1. Continue to text, write, or call on birthdays, anniversary's, and holidays.
2. Share memories you have of their child with them. Parents fear that their child will be forgotten. Hearing that you still think about their child and remember them is comforting and brings them joy.
Hope this helps!